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I started this post weeks ago and attempted writing it about half a dozen times. I got no where so I decided to scrap it and start over. So here we are with take two! This time will be better.
I loved to read as a child. You could usually find me in a corner with my nose in a book. Books were my escape. They gave me the chance to live in a world that I could only imagine. I was my own hero, I controlled my own fate.
A big draw of reading was the chance to create my own stories based on the books I read, more on that later.
As such, even though I was almost always reading, I had the habit of rereading books instead of looking for new ones. I wasn’t a very adventurous child; I tended to stick to things I knew and loved. It was safer that way. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve been playing catch up.
It also doesn’t help that I’ve discovered a whole world of literature I was denied as a child.
So what do I do?
I collect books!
What do I do with all those books you ask? Certainly not read them! *cries*
As of this moment, I think I’ve probably got more than a dozen books started and I still haven’t finished reading them. It would seem that I really do just collect books not to read them, but because they make me happy.
On a rare day though, I will sit down with a book and it will keep my attention long enough for me to actually get somewhere with it. A current example is The Witcher. I just started rereading The Last Wish. Initially, I was having trouble trying to make myself read it or even be interested. Somehow it managed to capture my interest though and I’m about
100 50 pages from being done with it.
Really though, I think I like having the option of being able to pick up a book when I want to instead of trying to find it down the road when I’m ready to read it. Saves me time and frustration. Just don’t let me into a bookstore on my own. I have been known to spend a small fortune on books. . . Multiple times.
Most of my reading interests have been shaped by three things. Movies, Classics, and Tolkien.
Growing up, my family watched A LOT of movies. It was one of the few things my parents had in common; a shared love of movies. Many of the books I’ve read came from movies I’ve seen. If you’ve ever sat and watched a movie and wished there was more to the story, then you will understand why I read books that movies are based on.
Being homeschooled, there was a huge push for classical education. And while I was never forced to read any of the classics as a kid, I was familiar with them. I’ve grown an appreciation of Dickens, Austen, and all the rest. Chances are, if it’s a classic, it’s on my to read list.
If I’m gonna be honest with myself, the biggest influence I’ve had in my life has probably come from Tolkien. I saw the Lord of the Rings trilogy in its entirety by the time I was six. Around that time, I also discovered my love of creating stories. I had my own little culture and story wrapped up in Middle Earth.
I started reading the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit when I was ten and the Silmarillion when I was twelve. Tolkien’s fantasy would shape my interest in literature for the next ten years. And not only my interest in literature, but also my own writing. Tolkien gave me a fascination of fantasy and breaking the rules of world building.
While I consider myself to be more of a writer in the style of George Martin, I wouldn’t have discovered Game of Thrones if I didn’t have a prior interest in reading fantasy. I haven’t dug into the fantasy genre fully, but I am familiar with the greats; Tolkien, Lewis, Martin, and Sapkowski.
So now that you have an idea of my background in literature. Let me introduce my three favorite books to you!
No surprise there!
I adore this book. Ever since the first time I read it, I loved it. Unlike the Lord of the Rings, the Silmarillion is written more as a comprehensive history of creation and the subsequent downfall of the world. It’s the perfect example of Tokien’s favored term; ‘eucatastrophe’ (I think I spelled that right?). Essentially, everything has to go wrong before it can go right. And boy did everything go wrong.
The book starts with Eru, the one, creating the Ainur. Eru is more or less the figure of God in Tolkien’s world. Eru bids the Ainur to sing. One of the Ainur, Melkor, decides he wants to sing his own theme and creates discord. Eru eventually stops the music and shows the Ainur that the melody they’ve been singing is basically the history of a world that has yet to be created.
Eru sends some of the Ainur to create this world. Melkor rebels though and tries to destroy much of it. Then the elves awake. Some of them come to Valinor, the home of the Ainur or the Valar, others remain in Beleriand.
What happens next is difficult to explain. Essentially, this elf, Feanor, creates these jewels that contain the light of two magical trees the Valar (Ainur) create. Melkor destroys the trees and steals the jewels. So Feanor vows to retrieve the jewels from Melkor’s stronghold in Beleriand. Many of the elves follow him into exile from Valinor.
What happens once they get to Beleriand can only be described as mass chaos and destruction. The great houses of the elves gradually diminish and die out. There are five great battles with Melkor who is now called Morgoth; each ending in a stalemate or defeat. Great cities are laid to waste and betrayals happen left and right.
Man makes his entrance into Beleriand and becomes acquainted with the elves through the great king Finrod (My favorite literary character. He’s amazing, I wish Tolkien had written more about him). Some of the houses of men have been turned by Morgoth already, but others still hold true and ally themselves to the elves.
Regardless of their alliance, there is a sundering between the two houses due to the mortality of men. They do not inter marry, although many great and renowned friendships exist between the two peoples.
Enter the story of Beren and Luthien.
Beren, a mortal, meets Luthien, a half elf, half Maia (Lesser Ainur) princess. They fall in love, but Luthien’s father, Thingol, will not allow Beren to marry his daughter unless he can bring back a Silmaril (The jewels Morgoth stole from Feanor) from Morgoth’s crown. This is considered an impossible task, but still Beren persists.
With Luthien’s help and a slew of other characters, Beren and Luthien manage to steal a Silmaril and escape. Beren loses a hand for it though and meets his death. Luthien fades from the world and intercedes with the Valar to bring Beren back. By doing so, she accepts mortality.
And it’s through their line and descendant, Earendil, that Morgoth is finally defeated at the cost of Beleriand being flooded and lost.
There is much more to the story than what I’ve just written, with lots of side stories and characters that have their own mark to make on the world of Middle Earth. You’ll find little Easter eggs that relate to the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. There is endless history to be discovered.
I think what I enjoy most about this book is the scope and the fact it’s written in the style of a history book. There is also something ancient in the pages. You feel like you’ve been transported back thousands of years to a world you’ve only imagined. It’s very real.
The characters are extremely realistic as well. They have to make tough decisions, oftentimes the wrong ones. No one is perfect. My favorite character, Finrod, is involved in a kinslaying. Yet, he still gives aid and ultimately his life to Beren and his quest for the Silmaril. He keeps the oath he made to Beren’s father after Barahir saved his life. He made the ultimate sacrifice and because of his sacrifice, Beren completed his quest and Morgoth was defeated.
The ideas and ideals Tolkien brings to life in this epic tale are far reaching and relevant to our own daily lives. Such as the ideas of honor, promises, heroism, immortality and the gift of death, love, and many other virtues.
I would highly recommend the Silmarillion. It isn’t for everyone and it is a difficult read; you’ll be checking the map, genealogy, and index about every third word, but it’s well worth the trouble.
“Love not too well the work of thy hands and the devices of thy heart; and remember that the true hope of the Noldor lieth in the West, and cometh from the Sea.”– The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien
Toward the Gleam
If you’ve heard of this book, then you made my day. I love the hell out of this one. I can’t remember when I first read it, I wanna say when I was around 15. I first saw it in a Catholic catalogue and was immediately intrigued. Why you ask? Take a guess.
If you guessed because it had something to do with Tolkien, then you’re absolutely right.
The plot revolves around the main character finding the Red Book. The Red Book was the book that Bilbo, Frodo, and later Samwise filled out in the Lord of the Rings. It remained in Middle Earth after the three ring bearers left it’s shores and passed down the generations through Sam’s children.
So how did the main character get a hold of it? There in lies the intrigue. The author creates a compelling argument in the story for Middle Earth actually existing. And the main character spends his life searching for proof of this and translating the book. He meets many famous characters along the way. Some may be familiar to you, but I won’t spoil the surprise. It’s more fun if you figure it out while you’re reading. 😉
The climax will throw your mind a bit. It builds up really fast and then you sit there looking at the page not fully comprehending what happened. Then you reread it a dozen times to make sure you have it right.
I love T. M. Doran’s style of writing. He reminds me a bit of Arthur Conan Doyle, especially with the aspects of mystery. The presentation of philosophical ideas is masterful as well. You can tell he spent a lot of time representing and researching these philosophies. It can be a difficult read, but the story takes you along with a vengeance and won’t let you stop. I’ve never seen such well done pacing.
Would I suggest this book even if you didn’t like Tolkien? Yes. Yes, I would. If you liked Sherlock, then I would suggest it. If you liked philosophy, I would suggest it. If you just wanted to get pulled into a good read for a few hours, then I would suggest it. Point in fact, it’s a beautiful read with some really good lessons.
“Efficiency for the sake of efficiency, progress for the sake of progress, and advancement for the sake of advancement is a path to deification for these men. The stoic, the hedonist, and the anarchist have more in common than what separates them.”– Toward the Gleam by T. M. Doran
I had a hard time choosing my third favorite book. Nothing really stood out in my mind. Yeah, I’ve read a lot of books, but nothing that catches my attention enough to put it on my list of top three favorites. So I chose something that caught my attention recently.
My boyfriend bought me a copy of The Outsider for my birthday. I haven’t read much in the horror genre and while I’m familiar with Stephen King, I don’t know much about his writing. All I can say is that my boyfriend knows me better than I know myself. While I was skeptical of the book at first, I started reading. And boy did he score a home run.
After I got to about the 50 or 100 page mark, it was downhill from there. I couldn’t stop reading it. I was taking every spare minute I could find to read further into it. I could barely put it down. I was getting sucked into it for hours at a time. I don’t remember the last time a book had done that to me.
While I did have a few spots of criticism for his writing mechanics and word usage – if I remember correctly – Stephen King really did weave a masterful story.
The story starts off with a gruesome murder. King then proceeds to write in a sort of journalistic style about various police interviews with eyewitnesses. After the main character, Detective Ralph Anderson, makes his arrest, he proceeds to discover his main suspect had a rock solid alibi. A man can’t be in two places at once, right?
Turns out he can according to the evidence.
What starts out as a simple open and close murder turns into a massive chase for a man that shouldn’t exist; an outsider.
King weaves a brilliant plot with complex characters. Some of them you may dislike strongly, others you may be inexplicably drawn to. Like Holly Gibney.
Holly is an enigma. She’s extremely intelligent and a little anxious. She doesn’t fit in, and maybe that’s why I was drawn to her. Maybe also for what she symbolizes and fights for.
Holly right away has to demand almost a blind faith to believe the unbelievable. She has her work cut out for her in the sceptic Ralph. Ralph doesn’t believe in the unexplainable. He believes if he digs deep enough, he can find the answer for even the most inexplicable questions. He and Holly clash in their differing viewpoints, but ultimately, they build a bond of mutual comradery.
For an introduction to the horror genre, I have to say, this was an excellent start. I loved the clash of murder mystery and horror. It was familiar but different. There was a chilling aspect in the face of its reality. You could believe it, and that may be the most terrifying part.
Would I suggest it? Heck yeah! I will give the general warning though, it is rather graphic, so be aware before opening it up to the first page, things are gonna get rough. King doesn’t seem to be going for the level of sensationalism most writers seem do though, his graphic descriptions fit with the genre and further the story along.
“Reality is thin ice, but most people skate on it their whole lives and never fall through until the very end. We did fall through, but we helped each other out. We’re still helping each other.”The Outsider by Stephen King
That’s all I’ve got for now! Thanks for tuning in and listening to me share my passion of reading with you.
Comment below on some of your favorite books. What genres shaped your childhood and your subsequent adulthood? Did you have a book that changed your viewpoint?