Book Diary Special – The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Saturday 19th April – Tuesday 27th May

As a bit of a holiday treat, after finishing the latest section of ‘The Embarrassment of Riches’ and with a week in Amsterdam looming, I decided it was time to treat myself, and so returned to possibly my favourite book of all time – The Lord Of The Rings.

As a teenager, I read this book every summer holidays from the age of eleven onwards. However, it is probably the best part of a decade since I last read it, possibly more. As a result I was more familiar with the films than the books even though I didn’t realise it until I was deep into the books.

The book itself is just as wonderful as I remembered, though I will admit that I found the very end a bit of a drag. I’d also forgotten how hierarchical the society was (Sam is much more of a servant to Frodo in the book than he is in the films), but I can only assume this is an (un)conscious reflection of the society at the time Tolkien was writing. I also found that the style of the prose changed from chapter to chapter, which made me wonder if it was written at vastly different times and then stitched together later.

The greatest thing about the story is how it could still entrance me even though I am probably more familiar with the story and the book itself than any other.I still find the Black Riders creepy and the book retains its tension despite repeated reading.

I was also suprised how much it makes me want to live in Middle Earth. Even though the times are dark and the events of the book change many things irrevocably, I can’t help but think that there is something appealing about the whole place.


Book Diary Special – ‘The Hobbit’ by J.R.R. Tolkein

Sunday 24th November – Friday 29th November

In reading The Hobbit, I broke two of the unwritten rules of my Book Diary:
1. To only read one book at once
2. To read new books (i.e. no re-reading old favourites).

The second isn’t so much of a rule, more a challenge to see how long I could go without re-reading a book. The answer, it turns out, is just short of two years. I think that just before Christmas 2011 I re-read both The Damned United and White Jazz in quick succession, but since I started the book diary I haven’t re-read anything.

My main motivation for picking up The Hobbit again was the impending second installment of Peter Jackson’s films. Having rewatched the first film with Emma, we weren’t sure how big a part the likes of Radagast, the Necromancer and Azog the white orc played in the book. As it turns out, both are mentioned, but only in passing.

As for the book itself, I enjoyed it more than probably any previous reading. I’ve always held The Hobbit to be the poor relation of The Lord Of The Rings due to its more child-oriented writing. This time I didn’t mind the style and found more to enjoy in the story. Having enjoyed The Children Of Hurin recently too, I’m increasingly impressed with J.R.R. Tolkein’s stories even though I would have described myself as a big fan to start with.

Book Diary – October 2012

‘The American Future: A History’ by Simon Schama

Friday 28th September -Tuesday 23rd October

I picked this up for mere pence in The Works some time ago, having seen the TV series and enjoyed it. The problem I anticipated was that as this was written around the 2008 American presidential elections, it would be dated despite only being four years old. However, I was completely wrong. Only the introduction dates the book, and even then not in an ‘oh-that’s-so-2008’ way, more a contextual anchor for the rest of the text.

Despite taking quite a while to read the book, I found it fascinating. I tended to read in bursts of dozens of pages at a time than gradually working my way through the text.

I learned an enormous amount about American history (despite having seen – and clearly forgotten – the series when it was on television) and it was interesting to read the contrast between intention and realisation. The book painted a very attractive picture of the American ideal and a depressing one of the way in which this was twisted and exploited by immoral and misguided people over the last three or four centuries.

Having read Simon Schama’s ‘Power of Art’ last year, and enjoyed the television series which accompanied both books, I can honestly say I would willingly read anything he has written.

‘The Children of Húrin’ by J.R.R. Tolkien (edited by Christopher Tolkien)

Wednesday 24th October – Thursday 1st November

I bought this several years ago at a bargain price in HMV, but had repeatedly put off reading it, having been rather daunted by The Silmarillion’s dense text and foolishly assumed that The Children of Húrin would be the same.

I couldn’t have been more wrong, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book despite its very dark and tragic plot. The lack of hope, and the despair which permeates the entire story make more grown up than many of his other stories, and puts the tone in stark contrast to the (I feel) rather childish style of The Hobbit. In some ways it is probably right up there with The Lord Of The Rings as my favourite Tolkien story. At 250-odd pages, it’s a much quicker read!

With the film of The Hobbit imminent, I was struck by how easy it would be to turn this into a fantastic Middle Earth tragedy, though it’s debatable what sort of audience such a hope-free film could attract.