Into peril in the depths of Mordor… #ReturnOfTheKing #Tolkien


If you happened to see my end of April round-up picture, you would have noticed that I did indeed go on to read the final part of the Lord of the Rings, “The Return of the King”; really, having adored my revisit to the first two books in the sequence, there was no way I was not going on to finish off the story!

The second book, “The Two Towers” ended on a massive cliffhanger, with Frodo and Sam in dire straits whilst attempting to get into Morder; however, the first book in this volume focuses on the various peoples who will take on Sauron in battle. Rohan, Gondor and their allies will join together to form a force for good. There are sieges and battles, madness and death, and the returning king will dispense healing. It’s in this part of the tale Aragorn comes into his own, taking command as the king he is and leading his party through the Paths of the Dead, one of my favourite sequences of the whole trilogy. Merry and Pippin play an important part in the narrative too, attaching themselves to two great leaders and proving to be brave hobbits. The Nazgul will meet opposition from an unexpected combatant, Gandalf will continue to rally the troops and this section ends with the armies of the good poised for battle, hoping that their combined forces will distract Sauron and his troops enough to allow the two hobbits to complete their mission.

Meanwhile, all is not going easily for Sam and Frodo. At the end of “Two” Sam had to make some very difficult choices, which seemed to be the wrong ones but actually were probably not; and as events move on in Mordor, with Orcs at every turn, he takes centre stage in the final part of the journey to destroy the One Ring. It’s a difficult and painful trek, which will take every ounce of strength and cunning they have; and needless to say Gollum/Smeagol still has a part to play in the story. More than this I shall not say, except to note that matters build to a dramatic climax which is the perfect resolution.

The book ends with Middle Earth settling itself down into a new era; the King has returned, some elements will fade and leave the world, the survivors of the conflict will need to move on and make themselves new lives – and there is plenty of mopping up to do… This latter element is again one of my best-loved parts of the story, with the “Scouring of the Shire” chapter being a long-term favourite – it’s just so satisfying seeing things being put to right on a small scale, as well as on a large one! The ending of the book brings many farewells and is really poignant in places; and the story comes to end surprisingly quickly, partly, I suppose, because over 100 pages of this volume are appendices, which *are* quite interesting but into which I only dipped this time round.

As with the other two volumes of “The Lord of the Ring”, I was completely absorbed into “Return”; Tolkien’s narrative never flags, his writing is so beautiful and evocative, bringing Middle Earth alive, and the battles, conflicts and race to get to Mount Doom are completely engrossing. Once again, I was living the adventure alongside the characters, who by this point have become dear friends again, and I really didn’t want the book to end. When there is closure for many at the Grey Havens, I experienced the same massive sense of loss I always had when reading these books, having become totally absorbed into a world and characters I’d come to love; and I understand why I went through a phase of going straight back to the start to enjoy the quest from the beginning all over again! I shan’t be doing that at the moment, but I’m certain I *will* read “The Lord of the Rings” again.

I arrived at the end of “The Lord of the Rings” convinced more than ever that it’s Tolkien’s work of genius; I’ve tried reading some of his other works but they never gelled in the same way, and I suspect that that’s because of the hobbits; those little creatures, so very human in many ways, give the reader a way into Middle Earth that isn’t there is the grander tales of his mythologies. I do accept that he had a much bigger world and mythology he was constructing around, and in the background to, this story; but LOTR will always be the star for me. Needless to say, I ended my re-read knocked out and in an emotional state, as well as with a massive book hangover – it took me a while to pull my thoughts about the whole experience together. All I can say is that I’m *so* glad that we chose 1954 for the last club as it finally nudged me into this re-read; and revisiting “The Lord of the Rings” was pure joy from start to finish. If you’ve not read the series, I recommend you have a go – you may well end up as hooked as I am! 😀

#1954Club – what a bumper year it was! But where next??? 😊


Well, that was a bit of a wonderful week, wasn’t it? I suspected from the start that 1954 would be a great year, and it really was! So many marvellous books have been read and discussed, and I imagine that all of your tbrs are now bulging – I’ve certainly added quite a few titles to the wishlist.

Anyway, below are the books I read for 1954 (the Maigret isn’t pictured because it was an e-book) and they turned out to be a marvellous selection. Classic crime is always likely to make an appearance, and both the Simenon and the Mitchell were wonderful reads. “The Horse and His Boy” was a much more enjoyable experience than I anticipated; and the double-header of two parts of the “Lord of the Rings” was just perfect.

However, the week was not without its glitches! I stumbled across a couple of issues with dates; somehow, I got it into my head that Mervyn Peake’s “The Craft of the Lead Pencil” was published in 1954 when in face it came out in 1946! As I had read this before I realised, I’ll post some thoughts about it at a later date! Then I had included Mishima’s “Sound of the Waves” as a possible read but my copy said 1956 in the front. I discarded it as an option and then realised that it came out in Japanese in 1954 but the translation was 1956 – doh!!! I was going to say that I need to always check the actual book rather than an online list, but that’s obvs not the case. I guess for the next club I shall just have to look more closely.

More seriously, I encountered a DNF! I had actually bought a book specifically to read for 1954, and it was one I’d been keen on tracking down for a while – “Pictures from an Institution” by Randall Jarrell. I picked up a lovely old orange Penguin copy and started it enthustically; however, I soon faltered and found that what I’d seen described as a humorous novel was not only leaving me cold but actually starting to irritate. It may just be that the timing was wrong for this book, but I really struggled – not only to find it funny, but also to regard it as a coherent work! I love a satirical book when done well, but with this I felt that a sequence of aphorisms, one-liners and metaphors does not make a novel and it quickly became tiresome. I haven’t ruled out giving it another try, and it may be that in a different frame of mind I might enjoy. But for this week I didn’t…

At the end of the day, though, that doesn’t matter because I did love what I read, and would happily keep on reading more from 1954 – here are just a few of the options which got away and which I’d like to keep on my radar:

Yes – I won’t give up on the Jarrell just yet!

But the #1954Club was a wonderful week of reading for me where I reconnected with authors and books I love, and which were a part of making me the person and reader I am. I hope you had a good week too, and please keep leaving details of your posts if I’ve missed them – I will catch up with linking as soon as possible.

As for our next Club week, Simon and I have put our heads together and come up with the year for October – which will be (drum roll….) – the #1929Club which will run from 24th-30th October 2022!!! Simon suggested it and it looks to have the potential to be as good as 1954. So you have had plenty of warning and we look forward to joining you all for our next club in six months’ time! Thanks so much to Simon for creating this event and co-hosting – it’s been a blast!

#1954Club – following the fellowship into perilous landscapes… #TheTwoTowers #Tolkien


Well, as you can see, when it came to choosing my last read for the #1954Club, I followed my heart…

I was so immersed in the word of Middle Earth that despite all the other lovely options for 1954, the fact that “The Two Towers” was also from that year and that I longed to continue following the tale of the Ring made it impossible for me to read anything else. So I picked up “The Two Towers” and continued to lose myself in Tolkien‘s wonderful land. I’ll try to involve spoilers when sharing my thoughts, but inevitably plot elements will be discussed so please look away if you haven’t read these books yet!

“The Two Towers” takes up where “Fellowship…” finished, with the group becoming fragmented and under attack from the enemy. The first volume in the sequence, although split into two Books, was pretty much chronological, following the fellowship as they travelled on their quest. “Towers…” is again split into two Books, but each follows a different strand of the tale; the first goes with the scattered companions, following their various battles, encounters and adventures; the second follows Frodo and Sam as they try to carry out the missions they’ve taken on. Neither group will find their journey particularly easy.

Book 1 subdivides the adventures even more; Aragorn, Legolas and Gimly make one party, trying to track Merry and Pippin who have been swept off by the enemy. Encounters with the fierce Riders of Rohan, an unexpected and joyful reappearance and the gaining of new allies are one element; but the adventure of the two Hobbits is one of the most memorable parts of the book, where they gain in strength and bravery as well as meeting some very unusual beings who will turn out to help the forces of good. This is the book where Saruman is dealt with, to a certain extent, and there is hope that the tide will turn in favour of the allies. However, Saruman is only a small foe, compared with others…

Meanwhile, Book 2 finds Frodo and Sam travelling through bleak and horrible landscapes in an attempt to reach Mordor; and they have an unexpected guide with them, one who cannot be trusted. The Hobbits, too, encounter unexpected allies who offer welcome respite; but their road is a hard one, their guide is slippery and their are unknown perils to come. “Towers…” ends again on a cliffhanger moment, with the forces of evil gathering for a final battle, and the quest of Frodo and Sam in danger of failure. Once again, Tolkien leaves the reader breathless and desperate to carry on with the next book!!

It was now past midnight. The sky was utterly dark, and the stillness of the heavy air foreboded storm. Suddenly the clouds were seared by a blinding flash. Branched lightning smote down upon the eastward hills. For a staring moment the watchers on the walls saw all the space between them and the Dike lit with white light: it was boiling and crawling with black shapes, some squat and broad, some tall and grim, with high helms and stable shields. Hundreds and hundreds more pouring over the Dike and through the breach. The dark tide flowed up to the walls from cliff to cliff. Thunder rolled in the valley. Rain came lashing down.

When I read “Fellowship…” I must admit to going through rather like a hot knife through butter; I was loving it so much I raced on. Here, I tried to pace myself a little (though I still find the book a remarkably quick and easy read – perhaps a legacy from having read it so many times!) When it comes to LOTR, the words “sweeping” and “epic” are often applied, and it certainly is a tale which encompasses huge events and a long quest. Despite this, however, it’s a very human story and you never lose touch with the characters, their personalities and destinies. This is perhaps best exemplified in the Helm’s Deep chapter where Tolkien’s narrative is quite masterly; he covers the ebbs and flows of a huge battle which never loses you in rhetoric and always is compelling – he really was a brilliant writer and I was impressed once again by his expert handling of his material. Some parts the reader experiences “live”; some parts are told in retrospect; and Tolkien is always completely in control.

… songs like trees bear fruit only in their own time and their own way: and sometimes they are withered untimely.

What is also quite marvellous is his inventive imagination; more erudite commentators than I will probably be able to provide further info about the sources of much of Tolkien’s creations, but the world he creates, and the living beings he peoples it with, are so original and unforgettable. I also noticed this time round how his tone gradually changes; LOTR starts off in relatively light-hearted fashion, with songs and adventure and only an underlying darkness. However, as the tale develops, characters grow in stature and the peril facing them becomes darker and seemingly more invincible; there are still moments of light-hearted Hobbit humour to lift the mood, but it’s clear by the end of “Towers…” that the world will be changed forever by the events taking place and that some peoples and ways of life will pass from sight forever. Even the songs and lyrics lose their light-heartedness, drawing on ancient myths and legends, or relating dark stories, and I found many of these very affecting.

I have lived to see strange days. Long we have attended our beasts and our fields, built our houses, wrought our tools, written way to help in the wars of Minas Tirith. And that we called the life of Men, the way of the world. We cared little for what lay beyond the borders of our land. Songs we have that tell of these things, but we are forgetting them, teaching them only to children, as a careless custom. And now the songs have come down among us out of strange places, and walk visible under the Sun.

As you can probably gather, I was perhaps even more immersed in this book than the first! The whole reading experience was just a marvellous one and I was once again transported into the narrative, living the events alongside the characters. There’s not a dull moment, the setting is vividly conjured (and helped along by the beautiful map in the back of my edition) and Middle Earth and its denizens are as real to me as they ever were. Tolkien’s prose is really beautiful and evocative in places, in a way I hadn’t perhaps appreciated before, and that lyrical quality runs through the book. I definitely did the right thing in revisiting these stories in the original edition I first read them (although I *do* remember them as being physically bigger – but then, I was a child!!); and thank goodness for the #1954Club giving me that nudge to re-read. It’s quite clear that these books are as precious to me as the ring is to Gollum!!! The only issue now is – do I simply continue to ignore the screaming TBR and carry on with my re-read to journey’s end??


#1954Club – embarking on an epic quest with a group of old friends… #fellowshipofthering


Back in 2017, I shared how I’d tracked down a set of books with great sentimental weight; a battered but just about intact second edition set of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”sequence, which my dad and I had read from the library when I was in my early teens. Although I own my own paperback set, I wanted to revisit them as I’d actually originally encountered them; and at the time I optimistically predicted re-reading them over that summer.

Well, fast forward to 2022 and of course they hadn’t come off the shelf… However, when Simon and I settled on 1954 for our next club it was soon obvious that the first volume in the set, “The Fellowship of The Ring” was published in that year and therefore qualified! Despite the many, many wonderful books jostling for my attention, it just felt that the time was right for me to get reacquainted with Middle Earth; and so finally the sentimental purchase has seen the light of day!

Even if you haven’t read LOTR you possibly know the plot (and this post does discuss certain plot devices, though I don’t know if they can be called spoilers). Anyway, in an earlier story “The Hobbit”, a small furry-footed creature also sometimes called a Halfling stumbled into the world of dragons, dwarves, elves, wizards and treasure. The adventures he had were exciting and sometimes dangerous; but importantly for LOTR, he came into the possession of a magic ring which made the wearer invisible and brought that back to his homeland of The Shire. “The Fellowship of the Ring” opens with a short summary of this story, before going on to return us to The Shire for the start of our quest. Here Bilbo Baggins, the original titular hobbit, has lived in relative peace since his adventures; but he longs to go off on adventures again, despite his increasing age, and plans to leave secretly after celebrating a big birthday along with his nephew, young Frodo. His friend, the wizard Gandalf, turns up to see him off as well as ensuring he passes on the magic ring to Frodo; for Gandalf has learned much about the history of the ring, and has concerns.

The ring, it seems, is not just a magic trinket; in fact it’s a great ring of power and once Bilbo is safely away, Gandalf unburdens himself to Frodo, revealing the very great danger the ring could bring to not only The Shire but also the whole of Middle Earth. Created by an evil power but previously thought lost, that evil eye is now searching for the ring and the world is in peril. Frodo and his good friends Sam, Merry and Pippin are urged to set off on a quest for advice, help and perhaps to even consider destroying the ring. It’s a perilous task which will take him far from The Shire, encountering strange Rangers, Elves, Dwarves, powerful men from the south and all manner of strange creatures. A small peaceable creature is perhaps not the most obvious protagonist for a story this epic, but Hobbits turn out to be stronger and braver than you might imagine…

With a story of this length and complexity I can only really touch on the plot here; but I will say that Tolkien could really come up with, and write, a wonderfully compelling narrative! The rural and countrified Shire, with its tidy and peaceful Hobbit residents, is beautifully realised, and the characters come alive from the start. Yet almost straight away there is darkness; the second chapter, “The Shadows of the Past”, where Gandalf relates the story of the ring, is a marvellous piece of writing which sets out quite clearly the scale of the evil up against which the good characters will come. As the four Hobbits travel on their way, in the first of two books which make up this volume, heading for the House of Elrond, an Elvish haven, they are dogged by chilling foes and there are encounters which make your spine tingle.

The end of the first book ends on a point of high drama – Tolkien was very good at leaving you with a cliffhanger! – and the second book sees the setting up of the titular Fellowship. At this point, we’ve encountered one of my favourite characters, Strider the Ranger, and his development over the books is wonderful to watch. The Elf Legolas and Dwarf Gimli now join the cast and as the group sets off to make its way east they will be beset by danger, not only from Orcs but also from the temptations of the ring. A stop at Lothlorien refreshes them but there are more perils ahead and the Fellowship will be shattered, leaving us on another cliffhanger…

To be honest, I’m not going to be able to give a very rational response to my re-reading of this because it *was* a really emotional experience. I was intensely obssessed by LOTR in my very early twenties, re-reading it over and over, and so many of the events were familiar here; and indeed I felt as if I was encountering long lost friends. However, re-reading is always a time to notice things you haven’t before, and I was struck (as I am with the re-reads of the Narnia books) at just how brilliant a storyteller Tolkien was. His narrative is beautifully paced, his settings magnificiently conjured, and as always I felt as if I was travelling alongside the Hobbits and their friends. It’s the kind of storytelling that completely absorbs you into what’s happening; and I found myself racing through the 400-odd pages in sheer delight.

As the story develops, so do the characters; the peaceful, perhaps slightly funny, little Hobbits soon grow in moral stature, developing bravery and resilience, yet always being realistic – no cardboard cut-out heroes here, Tolkien’s characters can be flawed and full of self-doubt. His world-building was incredibly skilful, and often based on linguistics with whole Elvish languages invented by the authors. He *does* perhaps occasionally overdo it with the lyrics in the volume – I did at one point want to slap Tom Bombadil when he launched into yet another song – but I daresay that’s just me. As I mentioned, Strider makes his debut as a weathered traveller, but as the book progresses he becomes a more powerful figure who is revealed as a warrior of great heritage. The camaraderie which develops between the members of the Fellowship is wonderful to see, and will lead in many cases to unexpected yet firm friendships.

You may not have read the LOTR books, thinking that you don’t like fantasy (and bizarrely I’ve seen the books described as science fiction!!!) But this is world-building at its finest; Tolkien relates this story as if it’s just a section of a greater narrative, and because of his knowledge of myth and legend his story is pitch-perfect, wonderfully rich and completely convincing. I would certainly urge you to have a go and give yourself up to this epic and unforgettable tale; the story is a wonderful read.

So needless to say, I ended the book breathless and was left with a massive book hangover. My brain is telling me that I need to go and read some other books from the TBR, whereas my heart just wants to dive into the next book and follow Frodo, Sam and their friends on the next stage of the adventure. What shall I do?????

Three Things #7… documentaries, REM, and #1954Club!!


Back in the Land of Pre-Pandemic, I posted several times using a lovely meme thought up by Paula at BookJotter. She called it “Three Things…” and in it we looked at what we’d been reading, looking at/listening to and thinking. It’s ages since I did one of these posts but I thought it might be nice to revisit it, just to catch up with where I am at the moment!


With the #1954Club coming up this month I have, of course, been exploring and reading books from that year! I am hoping to do some re-reading for this club, including a pair of very emotive books from my youth…

I am, of course, currently taking part in the #Narniathon, and this month’s book is “The Horse and his Boy”, which coincidentally was published in 1954! It’s been a real trip back to the past for me, re-reading these books, as I was quite obsessed with them when I was young. And as I’ve mentioned before, once I’d finished reading these, a family friend gave me a copy of “The Hobbit” which both my dad and I devoured, and we then went on to read “The Lord of the Rings” in lovely hardback editions from the library.

I’ve shared a picture of the set I eventually found to reflect that reading experience, and as “The Fellowship of the Ring” was published in 1954 I’m hoping this will kickstart the re-read of the trilogy – looking forward to what could be an emotional experience!!

Looking at/Listening to

‘Looking at’ could be interpreted a couple of ways: for example, what I’ve been watching either in the form of films, TV or online viewing material. TBH, I’m not much of a modern TV or film fancier, though I do love a classic or a good documentary!

1917 – not good…. / Mythologies – brilliant!

I’ve written about all manner of these in the past, from one which covered the 1917 Russian Revolution (a disappointment), through a thought-provoking look at Britain’s nuclear past (interesting, but scary at the moment) to Professor Richard Clay‘s programmes on Utopias, memes, the French Revolution and Roland Barthes (Clay is always a fascinating and thought-provoking commentator.) I also went back to an old favourite series from 2006, Peter Ackroyd’s The Romantics which sent me off down a rabbit hole exploring my collection of Romantic books! Sadly, BBC4 (my usual source for documentary watching) seems to have ground to a halt with very little new being commissioned nowadays – such a shame.

Ahem. Some of my Romantic books…

However, I have managed the odd interesting prog; current favourite is Grayson Perry’s Art Club, which I love; he and wife Philippa are a joy! Apart from that, I’m reduced to the guilty pleasure of watching Susan Calman being silly at various points round the country… Will no TV channel rescue me from this dreadful dearth of documentaries?????

I also continue to look at and love all kinds of art, and I desperately miss visiting galleries in real life; there has not been much travel in the last couple of years… A current favourite visual artist is Tom Gauld, who cartoons are marvellous; he regularly appears in The Guardian and other publications, and often shares his work on Twitter and Instagram – do give him a look! I’m also very keen on Lachlan Goudie’s work – he has a wonderful website here.

As for listening, a recent repeat on the Beeb reminded me of how much I loved, and still do love, the music of REM – so they’ve been on repeat play lately! The combined vocals of Michael Stipe and Mike Mills are just marvellous – love them!


Thinking has in many ways been difficult and painful over the last couple of years; we have had to deal with Brexit, the pandemic and now an awful conflict over in the east. I mostly stick to books on the Ramblings, trying to keep it cheery, because dwelling on the horrible side of life isn’t good for anyone’s mental health. But it’s really difficult to do this in the face of the relentless news broadcasts, the lies and appalling behaviour of those supposedly running the country, the ghastliness of the warmongers and the hysterical headlines in the mass media. I sometimes wonder if it appears that I have my head in the sand here on the Ramblings; I don’t, and my heart breaks for all of these awful situations we’re facing though I do feel powerless to have any effect on world events. So I will keep on sharing my love of books (and anything else which takes my fancy) as that at least I think is a positive thing. Books and reading have always been a consolation, and continue to be so – as long as I can read, I can cope!

So that’s my Three Things… marking where I am in April 2022. What about you? What have you been reading, watching/listening and thinking lately – and how are you coping with reality??

The best way to change a person’s life…. @RobGMacfarlane


When I had my little wobble in Waterstones recently and went a bit mad, buying three brand new books when I have so many unread ones at home already, I justified one of the purchases by the fact that it was very slim and about books – so it didn’t really count and I would be able to read it quickly. Well, yes – but for all its small size it certainly got me thinking!

The book in question is “The Gifts of Reading” by Robert Macfarlane; the latter is well-known for a number of chunky books loosely about landscape (although really about much more), as well for his championing of Nan Shepherd. This, however, is an essay by Macfarlane on the subject of books, specifically on the practice of gifting them, and it’s an absorbing little read.

I guess all of us booklovers have given and received any number of volumes over the years, and Macfarlane is no different. Here, he muses on the act of giving by relating it to his own very personal experiences, particularly with his friend Don (to whom the book is dedicated). The latter was the person who gave Macfarlane a copy of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s “A Time of Gifts”, which became a touchstone for Robert in his subsequent travels, perhaps even a catalyst for them. And he goes on to consider any number of other book gifts and their fates, the passing on of the libraries of departed friends, the effects those books can have and how in fact the right book at the right time can be life-changing.

I must be honest and say that my first read of Macfarlane’s work (“The Old Ways”) was not unproblematic; however, having read this eloquent and beautiful little book I’m inclined to think that possibly the issue was with me and not the book, and perhaps it was simply a case of bad timing. “The Gifts of Reading” set me off on all sorts of trains of thought, and if you’re a bookish person I can really recommend tracking it down to see if your experiences of book gifting are the same as this.

However, as I hinted above, the book nudged my brain into thinking a *lot* about books I’d been gifted during my life which had a really significant impact; and so in the spirit of Macfarlane’s book I thought I’d share them here. And I should say that these are all the original copies – I still have them after all those years…

The earliest is probably my copy of Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”, which was given to me by family friends Bill and Pamela back in the day (and this is *really* back in the day because I was very young!) They had been visiting us down south from Scotland and noticed I was reading the Narnia books. Bill was of the opinion that if I liked those I should also read “The Hobbit” and not long after sent me his copy. I read it, and my Dad also read it, and this led on to us reading “The Lord of the Rings” from the library in lovely big hardbacks (I’ve written about this before). Tolkien was indeed a life changer and I’ve gone through a number of LOTR obsessions in my time.

The inside of the book with Bill’s inscription – the book itself is a bit fragile nowadays…

The next most influential gift books I recalled were given to me the Christmas I turned 19 and were a set of the Mervyn Peake “Gormenghast” books. I was living in a cold-water flat in the Cotswolds at the time and went home for Christmas; the gift of the books came from one of my flatmates. I spent the whole of the Christmas period absolutely locked in the books, unable to stop reading. They really *were* life changers as I became so obsessed with Peake I later ended up helping to run the Peake Society for a while – but that’s another story…

My original Penguin Peakes – just beautiful…

Finally, of course, there has to be Italo Calvino. “If on a winter’s night a traveller…” (note the UK spelling on the cover of my version!) was gifted to me by Mr. Kaggsy in our early days together, and it really was a game changer. I’d never read anything like it; it did literary things I’d never came across and it took me places I’d never been and I had a major obsession with Calvino (still have, really). Yes, I get obsessed with my favourite writers, in case you hadn’t noticed – Georges Perec, anyone? 😀 Anyway, this was one of the most important gifts of my life, really, changing the way I saw everything. Truly books can be transformative.

My original Calvino, complete with UK spelling!

Those are the three obvious gifts of reading I’ve received during my life (although I could probably think of many more and make this post so long you’d all nod off); and I hadn’t thought of them in those terms before, but really they’re so important to me and did indeed change my life, making me the person I am – I would have been very different without experiencing them. So actually, Robert Macfarlane’s little book has been a bit of a gift in itself, making me consider some of the books of my life in a way I never have before. I can’t recommend “The Gifts of Reading” enough (in both senses!) and I’m off to rescue “The Old Ways” from *whispers* the donation pile as I think I’ll have to give it a bit of a reconsider! 😀

#1977club – some previous reads


Well, we’re halfway through our week of reading from 1977, and I thought I would take a look at some previous reads – both on the blog and off. Interestingly, I don’t seem to have covered many books from 1977 here on the Ramblings, but I don’t record the publication dates so I may have missed some. Anyways, as they say, here are a few I’ve written about before:

Interestingly, I guess you could possibly say that these are what might be called ‘difficult’ books; Clarice Lispector, who I wrote about here, definitely has a reputation as not being a straightforward read. The Strugatskys wrote some marvellous speculative and sci-fi books – this one is a wonderfully twisty tale and you can read my thoughts on it here. And the Lem was one of a series of re-issues by Penguin. Again writing under a Soviet regime, so lots of subtexts, I covered it for Shiny New Books here.

However, in pre-blog times I’ve read some substantial books from 1977, including these:

I went through a phase of reading Diana Wynne Jones in the 1980s (and was lucky enough to meet her once). She was a marvellous author (much better than a certain HP writer, in my view…) and this is one of her Chrestomanci books. She always twisted reality rather wonderfully. The Tolkien came out not long after I had discovered The Lord of the Rings , and I was keen to read anything by the author; although I’ve never found anything that matched up to the trilogy.

The very fat Agatha book was essential reading for any fan of the great Christie and I read it back in the day although if you asked me for specifics I would collapse in a heap of poor memory. As for the Woolf diaries – well, I came upon these in the early 1980s (which is when I think they first appeared in paperback). I had a daily train commute at the time and I immersed myself in Woolf’s diaries and letters and all the wonder and strangeness of Bloomsbury – developed a real obsession with the group, in fact. I would love to read them all again – maybe in retirement – but time isn’t going to permit that during this week.

I also recall that I once owned and read a copy of “In Patagonia” and I think I rather enjoyed it – but it, and my memories of it, have I’m afraid flown off in the wind…

So – some previous reads on and off the blog. I’m still planning a mix of new and old reads this week, and it’s actually nice that our club reads give me what I feel is an excuse to re-read. What are you enjoying from 1977 this week?

A sentimental purchase


I’ve written before about the pivotal effect on me of visiting the local library at a young age; it was a place that opened the door to books we could never afford at home, and I still have memories of my father taking me there to borrow another treasure. One early book that became a favourite was Dr. Seuss’s “I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew”, and that came from the library when it was in its old location in our town – down near the river in an old, dark building.

When I started earning I bought my own copy….

The library later moved to a new shiny building in the 1960s style modern precinct built in the middle of town. Inside was all bright and new, and I still made use of it all the time (and kept doing so until I finally moved away from home for good). And it was with books borrowed from this library that I was able to really expand the breadth of my reading and move onto more adult titles in my early teens.

The original Hobbit from 1971 – battered and bruised and just about holding together!

One set of books I read and loved was Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Some friends of the family had seen me reading the Narnia books and suggested I would like “The Hobbit”. They then sent us a copy and both my dad and I devoured it (he was quite a reader and a fan of sci-fi and fantasy). The natural progression was to “The Lord of the Rings” and so we borrowed this from the library – lovely hardback editions in blue-grey (laminated on) dust jackets with gorgeous big fold out maps in the back. We were both transfixed by the books, and I’ve returned to them many, many times over the years, owning my own paperback copies.

However, it’s a while since I read the trilogy, and I developed a hankering recently to revisit it. And I decided I’d like to re-read the books in the format I originally did – hardbacks with a fold out map. A little research online revealed that these were the second edition books from the 1960s and getting hold of a set in decent condition would be very, very pricey, so I put the idea on the back burner – until I recently stumbled upon these…

Yes, they’re very, very battered, and yes there are bits of the dust jackets missing – but this is a sound enough set of the second edition books in readable condition and so I’ll be able to read the books again as I did first time with my dad. And joy of joys, there are lovely intact maps in the back in super condition!

The set was ridiculously cheap and despite the rather bedraggled state of them, I’m happy to have them in the house ready for a summer revisit. OH has kindly covered the books with a mylar-type plastic to keep what’s left of the jackets together and make it easier for me to read. So summer will see a sentimental trip into my past – I’m looking forward to it! 🙂

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