Wednesday's Inspiring Book ... if I'd actually read it.

Good morning / afternoon to you all. A fire alarm in our building had me up at 6 a.m. this morning - but since I'd set my alarm for 6.30 anyway, it's hardly a bother. Every now and then I like to get up earlier than usual - especially in the summer, when the light is good, the bird song is fine company, and there's enough of a breeze to move the curtains. Perfect.

Today's post is inspired by m'wife - and not inspired by Tolkien. More specifically, it might be, but I wouldn't know. Why? Well ...  I haven't read Lord of the Rings.

File:Jrrt lotr cover design.jpg
Beautiful, beautiful art, and a rare example of an author designing their own cover.

Wednesday's Inspiring Book? A book that made me a writer which I haven't read? Well, yes. Let me explain ...

There are books we haven't read. This is a universal truth. For some, the list is big. For others, small. Some avoid classics. Some avoid contemporary works. Some avoid whole genres (I can't get into sci-fi, for all its genius). Some individual books are just a slog. War and Peace, perhaps? Bronte's Villette gets me every time. I've never got more than halfway. Murakami's The Windup Bird Chronicle sits half-finished on my shelf, and has for two years. Even Tolkien fans must admit that The Silmarillion is a challenge.

Ah. Tolkien.

I love Old English. I elected to study it at university, which put me in a vast minority, and Tolkien's essays on that language, and on Middle English poetry, are some of my most prized possessions. I can still hold my own in any discussion on Anglo-Saxon poetry, its meter, its allusion and influence, etc. Dream of the Rood? I can recognize the Ruthwell Cross from across the room, and recite the lines of the runic inscription by heart.

In fact, I did that, just last month. Many geek points with the wife there, I think.

But Lord of the Rings? I don't know. I'm not opposed, at all. I'm sure I'll love it when I get round to reading it. Love the movies. Love Tolkien. Love fantasy and children's books and adults book. I just ... haven't read it yet.

Does it seem like a big oversight? It's a strange confession to make, as an author.

But we all have books we haven't read, and that's OK. Know why? 'Cause it means you can read them in the future.

So I will, in time, correct this oversight. And I'll power through Villette. Ulysses? One day. War and Peace? Anna Karenina? Stranger things happen at sea.

Tolkien inspired so many of the writers and readers who inspire me today. His influence on the entire sphere of fantasy and children's writing might be unmatched. He matters to my wife - the single most important person in the world to me - and so he's influenced and inspired me there, too. I will read him. And then I'll let you know what I think. For now, though ...

What's on your long-term to-read list? And have you read LotR?


  1. Hey, I named my blogs and my Twitter account after a pun on Jane Eyre, and I've never read Jane Eyre. (I have read Wide Sargasso Sea, though, if it helps that make more sense.)

    LoTR is way more readable than it seems from the outside, though. It'll be worth it when you get there.

  2. Ha, Jane Eyre I actually have read! And Wuthering Heights is a favourite book. I'm sure that LotR is very readable indeed, and I will enjoy it - I just, well, haven't yet. That's exciting, though.

  3. I have such a long to-read list. I feel like I can't read contemporary stuff because there are so many classics to catch up on. I try to mix it up a bit though. in 2003 the BBC did a vote on the top 100 books - there's some ridiculous ones in there, but mostly they're good. I've been working through that and therefore been forced tor ead some that I wouldn't have. Struggling through Ulysses at the mo. Still got War and Peace to go, but only a few more after that!

    For me, it's more authors that I haven't read that I am ashamed of. Jeanette Winterson and Margaret Atwood for example. I did a post on Dickens a while ago on my blog and several writers said they'd never read him. I was shocked!

  4. A strange thing happened with me and Lord of the Rings. I read it at least twice over growing up; I absolutely loved it. It has been hugely influential on me as a writer.

    Then, a couple of years ago, my girlfriend admitted that she'd never even attempted to give it a read (though she's seen the movies, as most have). So we decided to read it together, her for the experience and me for old time's sake. And you know what? I couldn't get through the first chapter.

    I don't know what happened, really. Maybe it's because I already know the story front and back, so navigating Tolkien's lyrical prose suddenly feels more like a chore since there's no mystery of what happens next. Or maybe I've just outgrown some of my childhood favorites. I still hold Tolkien on a high pedestal, and it will always have a place in my heart, but it made me a little sad that I couldn't squeeze that same joy I remember getting out of that massive tome.

  5. I read LotR such a long time ago that I barely remember it and any memory left was replaced by the movies. I know I should read it again not only because of the forgetting, but also because, when I read it, I wasn't reading it as a writer. So, I'm sure many things will have changed.

  6. I have the LOTR series on CD and listen to it in the car every so often. GREAT series for inspiration...completely agree with you!!

  7. Let's face it guys, they're just so LONG ;)