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Book Recommendations

The books on this list have (mostly) been screened by CLAWS members for good quality of writing and relevance to our goals and mission. Although lots of these are out of print, copies of some of these books can be found through many independent bookstores (check out a few we recommend) and public libraries. See also CLAWS book reviews and review snippets, on this site.


Re-thinking the Work Ethic
Leisure Theory
Schooling & Education
Corporate Hegemony & "Business Culture"
Simple & Sustainable Living
Social Activism, Media & Politics
Economics & Practical Financial Guides
Self-Employment
Personal Stories, Interviews, Fiction, & Other Misc.


Re-thinking the work ethic

Beating The System: The Next American Revolution
by Larry Roth
Straightforward and practical treatise on life without a job, filled with encouraging personal anecdotes and humor. Roth asks us to re-evaluate our lives and gives us tools to live a happy, fulfilling life outside the realm of wage slavery. As a bonus, he includes several essays, for example, by Edith Flowers Kilgo ("Can You Afford Your Job?") and Ed Haugland ("Ditching the Nine to Five Routine").

"If you want to quit your job and never have to formally work again, here is a complete lifestyle planner for it." - Workaholics Anonymous

"...the story of his own exit from corporate America and a map for others who want to find their way out of the madness of the modern American workplace as well." - www.mind-like-water.com
CLAWS rating: 5

The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force
by Jeremy Rifkin (critique of the book, by Bob Black)
* Also see a summary of Rifkin's ideas

Why Work? Arguments for the Leisure Society

Ed. by Vernon Richards (including essay by Bertrand Russell)

Reclaiming Work: Beyond The Wage-Based Society
by Andre Gorz
We are very encouraged that people are writing books like this. We sorely need them. Don't miss this one! It's written in accessible language, and uncluttered with dry academic jargon or stale ideas. Also see his book Paths To Paradise: On The Liberation From Work.
CLAWS Rating: An enthusiastic 5!!

The Right to Useful Unemployment
by Ivan Illich
We love the title! It's what CLAWS is all about. Here's a blurb on the book from the AK Press catalog:
"Forget a guaranteed job; how about a guaranteed income? If more mechanization is putting more & more people out of work and generating super profits, why do we need to work longer hours?"

The Jobless Future: Sci-Tech and the Dogma of Work

by Stanley Aronowitz & William DiFazio
Deconstructs the widespread idea that a high-tech economy will lead to more leisure and high-paying jobs for anyone who wants them. Very heavy on theory, light on practical guidance, and full of academic jargon, but the ideas are still worth checking out. "Contrary to the ideologically conditioned theory ..... recipients of guaranteed annual income who are relieved of most obligations to engage in labor do not fall apart."
CLAWS rating: 2

Post-Work: The Wages of Cybernation
Ed. by Stanley Aronowitz and Jonathan Cutler
CLAWS rating: 5

The Overworked American
by Juliet Schor

Selling the Work Ethic: From Puritan Pulpit to Corporate PR
by Sharon Beder
From the back cover: "Few people today can imagine a society that does not revolve around work. How did paid work come to be so central to our lives? Why is it that so many people wouldn't know what to do with themselves or who they were if they did not have their jobs?" Good questions. Pick up her book and find out her answers!

The Processed World Anthology
Ed. by Chris Carlsson with Mark Leger
"The leading anti-work journal..."
--J. Hughes, co-editor, Eco-Socialist Review
We at CLAWS just LOVE Processed World magazine, and the Processed World anthology is a whole book of highlights from years of great, subversive, humorous stuff. 'Nuff said. Highly recommended!
CLAWS rating: 5

Zerowork: The Anti-Work Anthology
Ed. by Bob Black and Tad Kepley
Includes "The Original Affluent Society" by Marshall Sahlins

Why Work? A Case For Fundamental Change

by Peter Merry
"Why are we working - for whom and to what ends?"
This UK-based brief publication, available online and also from the Center for Human Ecology in Scotland, analyzes present employment structures and patterns across Europe in its call for more balanced, human-needs-centered patterns of livelihood. Merry's thesis on the future of work was published as a book under the same title.

Seven Myths About Work

by Molly Scott Cato
Says the author, "There is so much to say about work. What inspired me to pull together this short book was my belief that much of the unhappiness in modern society is caused by work, or more precisely by work as it has been arranged in the present industrial system." This book was published by GreenAudit in 1996 and sold out. A newer edition has been issued. Check out the publisher's web site for a brief excerpt from the book.

Wages & The Working Day
by John Keracher

The Joy of Not Working: A Book for the Retired, Unemployed, and Overworked
by Ernie J. Zelinski
An excellent, best-selling, well-written and savvy book on a subject that's near and dear to our hearts, and very much in the spirit of CLAWS. The margins are chock full of thought-provoking quotes, Calvin & Hobbes cartoons, and amusing illustrations. We can hardly recommend it highly enough!
CLAWS rating: 5

Un-Jobbing: The Adult Liberation Handbook
by Michael Fogler
At 45, Michael Fogler considers himself semi-retired. He's a husband, stay-at-home dad, workshop presenter, peace activist, and freelance musician. At the end of 1990, he and his wife left jobs for home-based lives of greater personal fulfilment. Fogler was so liberated by this change, that he decided to share his experiences and revelations in this book. Reviewed by Sarah Nelson & D.J. Swanson. Highly recommended!
CLAWS rating: 5

When Work Doesn't Work Anymore: Women, Work, and Identity

by Elizabeth Perle McKenna
CLAWS rating: 4.5

The System Made Me Do It! A Life Changing Approach to Office Politics

by Susan M. Osborn, Ph.D.
CLAWS rating: 5

The Liberation of Work
by Folkert Wilken

Work Without End: Abandoning Shorter Hours for the Right to Work
by Benjamin Hunnicutt
Hunnicutt is a professor at the University of Iowa. Here's a sample quote from his critical article The Left and the Future of Work: "Instead of viewing progress as transcending work, necessity and economic concerns, and far from believing that increased freedom from toil is a constituent of human progress, much of the industrial world shares the belief that work is an end in itself, the ultimate measure of progress and the definition of prosperity."

The Future of Work (set of audiocassettes)
by Robert Theobald

Reworking Success
by Robert Theobald
CLAWS rating: 5

Sleepers, Wake! Technology & the Future of Work
By Barry Jones

The Future of Work
Ed. by Fred Best

The Protestant Work Ethic: The Psychology of Work Related Beliefs and Behaviors
by Adrian Furnham

Future Work: Jobs, Self-Employment and Leisure After the Industrial Age
by James Robertson

Working Harder Isn't Working
Put Work In Its Place
both by Bruce O'Hara

The Hacker Ethic
by Pekka Himanen

The Ideology of Work
by Peter D. Anthony

Neither Work Nor Leisure
A Culture Where We Don't Stop Playing When We Leave School
by Merrick Godhaven

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Leisure theory

The Idler's Companion
Ed. by Tom Hodgkinson
An Anthology of Lazy Literature, which traces the noble art of loafing from its roots in 3rd century Taoist teachings to the present day. Includes writings from Bertrand Russell, Robert Louis Stevenson, Keats and Aristotle.

The Right to be Lazy

by Paul Lafargue
Written in a french prison, by Karl Marx's son-in-law , to address the puritanical work ethic of the socialist party.
CLAWS rating: 4

Work Less & Play More
by Steven Catlin
A whimsical and fun book about a subject we should all take more seriously!
CLAWS rating: 3

Leisure Theory and Policy
by Max Kaplan

Leisure: The Basis of Culture
by Josef Pieper (1952)
"...cites Greek classics and Catholic theologians in his passionate argument against the cult of work."
--J. Hughes, co-editor, Eco-Socialist Review
You can also see a review of Pieper's book by Brian Gonsalves (scroll down the page to section II for the review).

Of Time, Work and Leisure
by Sebastian DeGrazia

Losing Your Job, Reclaiming Your Soul
by Mary Lynn Pulley

The Sofa Surfing Handbook: A Guide for Modern Nomads
Ed. by Juliette Torrez
From the back cover of this book:
"Sofa surfing is not only a lifestyle but an art form. Find out how to avoid cheap travel's typical problems, and how to guarantee a place on the couch in perpetuity. Savvy tips on dealing with cops, hostile roommates, customs agents, and other potential hassles are included. Handy advice on extended stays, "Top Ten Jobs: Easy to Get, Easy to Quit"...illustrated with comix!"

Life Was Never Meant to be a Struggle
by Stuart Wilde
A handy booklet devoted to identifying and giving up struggle in all areas of life.

Life on the Leisure Track: The Possibility of Society Accepting Joblessness as a Way of Life
by Scott Sullivan
This is a magazine article from the June 14, 1993 issue of Newsweek, vol. 121, p. 48. We include it here since it's not often the mainstream media tackles such ideas.

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Schooling & Education

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
by John Taylor Gatto
CLAWS rating: 4

The Power of Mindful Learning

by Ellen J. Langer
CLAWS rating: 5

Deschooling our Lives: Education That Matters

by Matt Hern
A wonderful and thought-provoking book of essays.
Here's a sample quote:
"The sanctity of public schools has become so reified in our bizarre North American public political consciousness that people reflexively mouth support for 'education spending' or 'school dollars' without carefully considering what they are talking about. Behind the liberal-conservative debate about how much cash to allocate to public schools is a system that nurtures the worst in humanity and simultaneously suppresses individuality and real community. The reality is that there are much better answers out there--answers that don't require professionals or large amounts of money to make them work."
CLAWS rating: 5

Rituals of Failure: What Schools Really Teach

by Sandro Contenta

School Free: The Home Schooling Handbook
by Wendy Priesnitz

* No Contest: The Case Against Competition

* Punished by Rewards: The Trouble With Gold Stars,
* Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and Other Bribes
* Education, Inc.: Turning Learning Into a Business
* The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and "Tougher Standards"
* What To Look for in a Classroom and Other Essays

all by Alfie Kohn

The Teenage Liberation Handbook

by Grace Llewellyn
CLAWS rating: 5

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Corporate Hegemony, Advertising, and
"Business Culture"


When Corporations Rule The World
by David Korten

The Post-Corporate World: Life After Capitalism
by David Korten
CLAWS rating: 5

Corporations Are Gonna Get Your Mama: Globalization and the Downsizing of the American Dream

by Kevin Danaher
CLAWS rating: 4

Globalizing Civil Society: Reclaiming our Right to Power

by David Korten (Open Media Pamphlet Series)

The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism
by Richard Sennett

Corporate Predators: The Hunt for Mega-Profits and the Attack on Democracy
by Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

Corporate Cults: The Organizational Trap and How to Escape it
by Dave Arnott

Under the Influence: The Destructive Effects of Group Dynamics
by John Goldhammer
A look at what John Andersen refers to as "teamplayermania".

Merchants of Misery: How Corporate America Profits From Poverty

Ed. by Michael Hudson

The Culture of Professionalism
by Burton Bledstein

American Education and Corporations: The Free Market Goes to School
by Devon Boyles

Commodify Your Dissent: Salvos from The Baffler
by Thomas Frank and Matt Weiland
Sarcastic, cynical, and totally hilarious. Subtitled "The Business of Culture in the New Gilded Age". This collection of opinion pieces from a great leftist journal takes on trendy management gurus like Tom Peters, advertising, urban hip consumer-happy magazines like Wired and Details, and "alternative" music culture, painting a picture of how we've "consolidated our deviance". Makes a good case for doing something about our discontent with our culture besides wearing the latest "rebel" fashions or becoming isolated and nihilistic consumers. Here's a tidbit from the introduction: "The cultural crisis of our time cannot be understood without reference to the fact that certain modes of cultural dissidence that arose in the sixties are today indistinguishable from management theory."

One Market Under God
by Thomas Frank

Captains of Consciousness: Advertising and the Social Roots of the Consumer Culture
by Stuart Ewen
A 25th anniversary edition of this excellent social history of the role of advertising in human life is now available.

Making a Killing: HMOs and the Threat to Your Health
by Jamie Court and Francis Smith

In the Name of Profit
Ed. by Robert Heilbroner
An economist documents offenses by business executives that have taken place in the service of "the bottom line"--faking lab reports, bribing city officials, etc. Exposes the corruption made rampant by a competitive system.

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Simple & Sustainable Living

Living Well on Practically Nothing
by Edward H. Romney
CLAWS rating: 3

Living Cheaply With Style: Live Better and Spend Less

by Ernest Callenbach
CLAWS rating: 4

Consuming Desires: Consumption, Culture and the Pursuit of Happiness
Ed. By Roger Rosenblatt

How Much Is Enough? The Consumer Society and the Future of the Earth
by Alan Durning

Stepping Lightly: Simplicity for People and the Planet
Simplicity: Notes, Stories and Exercises for Developing Unimaginable Wealth

both by Mark A. Burch
CLAWS rating: 5
These two books are highly recommended and loaded with food for thought as well as practical stuff. The work and livelihood chapter alone in "Stepping Lightly" is worth the price of the book. Here are two quotes from that chapter that we like:

"What distinguishes a work from a job is that a work contains its own charge of passion. It is intrinsically worth doing. If it is ignored, we feel a sense of self-betrayal, of inner loss, of sadness of soul for not pursuing it and bringing it to life to the best of our ability." (p. 142, bold emphasis ours)

"The consumer economy offers jobs. It can never offer works because a work, by definition, is something that spontaneously springs from within a growing person. The consumer economy violates people when it demands that they abandon their works and conform their lives wholly to what is needed for jobs." (p. 143, bold emphasis ours)

Yes indeed. Our feelings exactly, Mark!

The Good Life: Helen and Scott Nearing's Sixty Years of Self-Sufficient Living
by Helen and Scott Nearing
A newer volume containing all the contents of both Living the Good Life and Continuing the Good Life.
The Nearings, homesteaders extraordinaire, abandoned the city life for a self-reliant rural life as free of the cash economy as possible. This book is a delightful mix of philosophy and practical advice.

Simple Living: One Couple's Search for a Better Life
by Frank Levering and Wanda Urbanska

Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World
by Linda Breen Pierce
This book details the findings of a three-year study of 211 people who simplified their lives. The author gave up a successful career as a lawyer, and traded it for the quiet life of a writer. Special CLAWS connection bonus: see pp. 115-121, where John O. Anderson, our discussion list administrator, tells the story of his path from the fast-track, teamplayer world (he was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" in high school) to choosing a life of self-employment.

A Reasonable Life: Toward a Simpler, Secure, More Humane Existence
by Ferenc Mate
"This book will look insane to any normal American. Which shows how crazy we have become. Read it--you might get a life." --Charles Bowden

The Simple Life: Thoughts on Simplicity, Frugality, and Living Well

Ed. by Larry Roth
CLAWS rating: 4

The Simple Living Guide
by Janet Luhrs
CLAWS rating: 5

The Circle of Simplicity

by Cecile Andrews
CLAWS rating: 4

Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Life that is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich

by Duane Elgin
CLAWS rating: 4

Luxury Fever: Why Money Fails To Satisfy in an Era of Excess
by Robert H. Frank

The One-Straw Revolution
by Masanobu Fukuoka
This is a unique book, which must be savored slowly to be fully appreciated. It's a combination of practical gardening advice, spiritual musings on simple living, and philosophical wisdom. It's from 1973, so the library might be the best place to find it. Fukuoka's perspective on work is one we like. To wit:
"I do not particularly like the word "work." Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think this is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive...it would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. [...] For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his [sic] daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done." (p. 115)

Walden and Civil Disobedience
by Henry David Thoreau, 1854
Disdainful of America's growing commercialism and industrialism, Henry David Thoreau left Concord, Massachusetts, in 1845 to live in solitude in the woods by Walden Pond. Walden, the classic account of his stay there, conveys at once a naturalist's wonder at the commonplace and a Transcendentalist's yearning for spiritual truth and self-reliance.

Critical Path
by Buckminster Fuller
A truly inspired man, Richard Buckminster Fuller is the inventor of the geodesic dome, built on the principle of synergy, a union which creates a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. He applied this principle to people, society and economics.

The Treasures of Simple Living
by Tyra Arraj with James Arraj
Subtitled "A family's search for a simpler and more meaningful life in the middle of a forest." The book was published in 1987, and the resource section in the back is hopelessly out of date. The book is poorly edited and sophomoric-sounding, but the author is sincere. Her enthusiasm comes through despite the stylistic problems and clunky prose of the book. Full of practical ideas, too. Worth a look.


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Economics & Practical Financial Guides

How To Survive Without a Salary
by Charles Long
CLAWS rating: 4

The Seven Cultures of Capitalism
by Charles Hampden-Turner and Alfons Trompenaars
CLAWS rating: 4.5

The Economic Horror

by Viviane Forrester
"...a scathing critique of the idea that employment is, can be, or should be, the respectable norm in society."
- Brian Dean, Anxiety Culture
CLAWS rating: 4

The Poverty of Affluence
by Paul L. Wachtel
CLAWS rating: An enthusiastic 5

The Overspent American

by Juliet Schor
Is keeping up with the Joneses killing us? This is the phenomenon Juliet Schor explores in The Overspent American. Schor, a Harvard University economist, has delivered what amounts to a sequel to her breakthrough 1992 study The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure. You can also read a review of The Overspent American from the Center for a New American Dream.

Earning Money Without a Job

by Jay Conrad Levinson
CLAWS rating: 4

Wealth on Minimal Wage

by James Steamer
CLAWS rating: 4

Thinking Forward: Learning to Conceptualize Economic Vision

by Michael Albert

The Guaranteed Income: Next Step in Economic Evolution?
by Robert Theobald

Turning the Century: Personal and Organizational Changes for your Changed World
by Robert Theobald
From the back cover:
" WANTED: Courageous realists who admit our culture is not working and want to do something about it." Despite the business-speak sound of the title, this book is about economics and the perils of maximum economic growth.

Stop Working, Start Living: How I Retired at 36 Without Winning the Lottery

by Dianne Nahirny
Part of this author's strategy was to purchase houses, fix them up, and sell them.

Possum Living: How to Live Well Without a Job and With (Almost) No Money

by Dolly Freed
This is out of print, and most definitely NOT politically correct. However, the spirit of super-frugality and living outside the system make for good, entertaining reading. (NOTE: The link above will take you to the "Homesteading" section of Steve Solomon's online library. From there, you can obtain the text of the book simply by sending an e-mail.)

Money Freedom: Finding Your Inner Source of Wealth
by Patricia Remele
This one is likely to appeal to those with a spiritual focus.
CLAWS rating: 5

Real Wealth: A Spiritual Approach to Money and Work

by Jonathan Robinson
CLAWS rating: 5

Your Money or Your Life

by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin
This book is very highly rated, for good reason.
CLAWS rating: 5

Our Money, Ourselves: Redesigning Your Relationship With Money

by Dr. C. Diane Ealy and Dr. Kay Lesh
CLAWS rating: 3

Everything You Know About Money Is Wrong

by Karen Ramsey
CLAWS rating: 3.5

Creating Money

by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer
This one might be a bit much for those who are weary of new-age inspirational platitudes, but there's a lot worth thinking about here, at least.
CLAWS rating: 3

The Energy of Money

by Maria Nemeth, Ph.D.
CLAWS rating: 4.5


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Social Activism, Media & Politics

Food, Shelter and the American Dream
by Stanley Aronowitz
CLAWS rating: 3

False Promises: The Shaping of American Working Class Consciousness
by Stanley Aronowitz

Can Working Families Ever Win?
Ed. by Jody Heymann, Joshua Cohen, & Joel Rogers

Longer Hours, Fewer Jobs: Employment & Unemployment in the United States
by Michael D. Yates
See also:
Why Unions Matter
Naming the System: Inequality and Work in the Global Economy
also by Michael D. Yates

Rising From the Ashes: Labor in the Age of "Global" Capitalism
Ed. by Ellen Meiskins Wood, Peter Meiskins, & Michael Yates

The Media Monopoly
by Ben Bagdikian

The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media
by Norman Solomon

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Self-employment

Wage Slave No More: Law and Taxes for the Self-Employed
by Stephen Fishman

Kiss Off Corporate America: A Young Professional's Guide to Independence
by Lisa Kivirist
A young entrepreneur, sick of climbing the corporate ladder in an advertising agency, starts her own bed and breakfast and tells us all about it, encouraging us to trash the word "job" and prepare ourselves for self-employment. The book jacket says "What Color is Your Parachute" meets "The Road Less Traveled", packaged for the MTV generation.
CLAWS rating: 3

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Personal Stories, Interviews, Fiction, and Other Misc.

Time Without Work
by Walli F. Leff
A superb book, reviewed by CLAWS (with extensive quotations from the text). Our only complaint is that the authors seem to implicitly assume that "working" only means "doing tasks (usually outside the home) for pay", thus a homemaker is, according to them, "not working". Familiarity with feminist thinking on domestic labor would have benefited their analysis.
CLAWS rating: 5

Working
by Studs Terkel
This one is highly rated, especially by those who enjoy stories about people's working lives told in the first person. It's out of print (like many of the best books), but it's well worth it to scour used bookstores for a copy.

Working for the Man: Stories from Behind the Cubicle Wall, Vol. I
by Jeffrey Yamaguchi
Self-published volume which "humorously explores the horrors and absurdities of the workplace, and provides a much-needed antidote to the doldrums of dealing with a bad boss and a dead-end job."

Disgruntled: The Darker Side of the World of Work
by Daniel Levine
The web magazine is no longer publishing, due to the author's work disputes. Check out his book instead.

Sister Circle: Black Women and Work
edited by Sharon Harley and The Black Women and Work Collective
From a review of the book by Judith Rollins (The Women's Review of Books, Sept. 2002): "...[the] description of the lives of two poor women...powerfully illustrates two false assumptions behind today's welfare reform: that welfare recipients chose not to work because they were "lazy" and that putting people into the workforce would make them economically independent."

A Working Stiff's Manifesto
by Iain Levison
This book has been suggested enthusiastically by several folks who've enjoyed the CLAWS site, since it contains some hilarious anecdotes and a general anti-wage-slavery tone. However, although we're including it here because the subject matter is so on-topic, we can't recommend it without strong reservations. Levison's sense of humor is certainly not for everyone. See D. JoAnne Swanson's review of the book for a much more in-depth explanation.

The Workers

by Kenneth Lasson
These are stories told in the workers' own words.
From the cover:
"Nine unusual portraits that expose the growing discontent of the American blue-collar worker with the quality of his life and work."

The Continuum Concept
by Jean Liedloff
Read about the refreshing and inspiring attitudes of South American Stone Age Indians and how, by re-awakening our own innate wisdom, we can remember how to be happy.

I was Robot
and Free I Got
by Ernest Free Mann
Eclectic books written in plain language by a warm-hearted man who saw through many of the illusions created by living in a world ruled by profit. Recommended.

Bartleby the Scrivener
by Herman Melville
A strange, haunting, yet inspiring short story of an office worker who refuses to be told what to do. A man of few words, Bartleby's one response is, "I would prefer not to."

Siddhartha
by Herman Hesse

Ishmael
by Daniel Quinn
"Get a job, work, retire and die. There must be more to life than this!" (p. 5 of Ishmael)
This book is here by popular request! So many CLAWS sympathizers have read and recommended this book. See for yourself what all the hype is about...

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