Thursday, August 11, 2011

Book Review: J.R.R. Tolkien by Mark Horne

If you pressed me to think about it, I would probably say my all-time favorite fiction author is J.R.R. Tolkien.  Last year I read a biography in the Christian Encounters series about Winston Churchill.  In the last pages of the book were some "coming soon" advertisements.  One was for J.R.R. Tolkien, and I was SOOO excited.  I hoped I would have the chance to review it, but I didn't hold my breath.  Recently it popped up on booksneeze as an e-book.  It was the opportunity I had hoped for!

Mark Horne compiled many different sources to bring a fresh, new biography about Tolkien which explores his life events and how they shaped his writings. 

Tolkien is probably best known as the author of the Lord of the Rings.  He wrote that book later in his life, after writing The Hobbit, yet he laid a foundation for Middle Earth many years before either book came to be.  In Horne's biography about Tolkien I discovered many things that fascinated me.  Tolkien was a linguist.  He was fluent in several languages and preferred to read works of literature in their original languages.  (He developed his own fictional elven language.)  The passion he had for linguistics shaped his career path as well.  Horne avoids making many assumptions or conclusions about Tolkien.  Instead, he presents factual information in a chronological format.  He sometimes makes suggestions about possible correlation between the events of his life and his writings, but conclusions are left up to the reader.

I have read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  I have watched the animated movies as well as Peter Jackson's movies.  I have watched the biography of Tolkien that is an extra on the movie discs, but other than that I have read no other of Tolkien's original works nor any other biographies.  Reading Horne's biography helped me to get a bigger picture of who Tolkien is and increased my appreciation for my favorite book.  It also whetted my appetite for more of his works.  I think I'm quite ready for another adventure.

Now, I also want to say something about the e-book format.  I have played around with free e-books, but this was my first opportunity to do a serious read.  I have an iPod Touch that I read on.  It is small and fits in the palm of my hand.  I used Stanza because that was what was compatible with this book format from booksneeze.  I could change the font size, the background color, the text color, even the text type.  I could drop bookmarks wherever I needed and make annotations whenever I wanted.  If I wasn't sure about a word, I could click on the word and get a definition.  I can search through the text.  With a tap of my finger I could see how far I was through the book and through the chapter.  Sliding my finger up brightened the screen or down dimmed it.  Left to right scrolls through the pages.  All this technology sure did bring an element of "fun" to reading.  There is also something to say for the portability.  Think of how many books I can carry in the palm of my hand at one time!  I could read at my leisure--whenever and wherever I managed to find time.  This works very well for a busy mom.  On the other hand, I really missed the feel of a real book in my hands.  There is some aesthetic value to holding a book, being able to thumb through the pages.  Also there were several times that I just did not want to read from a screen.  The screens, with the light coming from behind, affect our brains in a different way than just staring at a book page does.  Some days I couldn't handle it.  Even though this book was short, and enjoyable, I think that it took me longer to read as an e-book than a paper book would have.  Also, I have nothing to share with my friends now.  I can't pass the book on.  If I want my kids to read the book, I have to give them my iPod (ick!).  I'd prefer to have a book, but I'm not totally opposed to the e-books.  It may be something that I have to get used to.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson publishers as part of their booksneeze program.  I was not required to write a positive review.  My thoughts and opinions are my own.

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