Nightstand Books #5
As I’ve mentioned before, I am a terribly slow reader. Even though I’ve always loved stories, I was a late bloomer when it came to actually reading books. On the flip side, while I may not break any records for speed reading I tend to have a pretty high retention rate for what I’ve read. So once again there are only two books on the nightstand and, to be honest I’m not sure when I’ll get to read them.
Not that they aren’t wonderful books. Anyone familiar with this site probably already knows of my fondness for J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and it’s safe to say I’ve never read anything by these authors that I didn’t love. They are far and away my favorite writers and I consider them my unofficial mentors in my own writing pursuits.
So I thought maybe this month and perhaps going forward I might try to feature a wonderful book I’ve read and a wonderful one I hope to read. Don’t hold me to that format, but it seems like a workable format so we’ll see how it goes.
In the category of the already read books is The Lord of the Rings. Again, this will come as no surprise perhaps, but it is my favorite series of all time. Despite its exalted status I’ve only read it twice and I really would love to read it something like once a year (which I’ve been told is the practice of Christopher Lee who played Saruman in the movies). The problem with that is that, as I said, I am such a slow reader it would probably take me six months to get through all three books.
A quick note about my edition. As you can see, it is a rather thick single volume. I bought this copy some time in the early 2000’s and it is one of the most prized books in my personal library. The edition features illustrations by Alan Lee, the famous artist who was also a consultant for the films. If you watch the movies you’ll find that these illustrations are almost verbatim of what made it onto the screen. They are beautiful, full color productions taking up an entire page. I don’t recall off the top of my head how many of them there were, but there must have been close to thirty or more. I’m not sure if this edition is still available or not, but if you are a fan of the series I would highly recommend picking up a copy if you get the chance.
The Book’s the Thing
The other, much thinner book is by Tolkien’s friend and colleague C.S. Lewis. An Experiment in Criticism is a book I’ve been meaning to read for several years now. It’s one of Lewis’ non-fiction works, featuring his thoughts on what makes for good literature and how we ought to approach the reading and judging of books. I think as readers (and as writers) we too often simply read whatever we fancy and have no real grasp as to whether a story was truly good or beautiful or if it simply played to our (not always wise or beneficial) predilections. We often fall into the trap of judging a book on whether it was “exciting” or “entertaining” or “a page-turner” and we forget that what a story actually says, the substance of the story is of far greater in importance.
Thinking about what we write is a critical endeavor. We need to put thought into what we write and read, not just into the plot, not just in considering the grammar and the pacing, but to think about whether this novel is worth the time it took to read (or write). There is so much literature being written every day and so much of it is blatant rubbish and some of that rubbish sells (quite a bit in some cases). Considering one’s craft is essential to the development of a writer and I can think of no better teacher in this regard than Mr. Lewis. And so this copy, a recent gift which I received, is probably the next book I’ll pick up.
And as a bonus, it’s short enough that I may actually finish it before the next Nightstand books rolls around!