Nightstand Books #5 -
nightstand books lewis & tolkien

Nightstand Books #5

nightstand books lewis & tolkienAs 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!

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Comments (7)

  1. Haven’t read the CS Lewis one… but I do own that same copy of Lord of the Rings. When I want to actually read the books though, I read the paperback set we have, as the hardbound edition would probably give me carpal tunnel. LOL (It’s the paperback set with the old Alan Lee covers, not the new movie covers, though, so that makes it better). We also have each of the books in hardback with the Alan Lee paintings inside… um… how many copies of LOTR can one own before being classified as a complete and hopeless nerd? I think I’m probably there.

    My collection of Lord of the Rings books is only rivaled by the number of sets of Star Wars that I own (not including the books). haha. But I am firmly hanging on to my VHS tapes of the digitally remastered Star Wars movies, despite not having a VCR anymore… just in case they really never do release those versions on DVD. Yes, I am one of those crazy people who cares that “Han Shot First” in the original.

    And now that you’re convinced I’m crazy, my work here is done.

    I am currently reading The Courtship of Princess Leia, and it’s the only book on my nightstand… because editing. 🙂

    • DJ Edwardson says:

      Wow, when I grow up I want to have that many LOTR books!

      I’v never read any of the Star Wars books myself, but I’m with you on the “Han Shot First” kerfluffle. The “improved” editions are mostly all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense if you ask me…

      • Well, if you ever want a fun read, the Star Wars books are actually pretty well-written and entertaining, and they continue the “feel” of the movies (the original trilogy) quite well.

        Good ones to start with would be either:
        Shadows of the Empire by Steve Perry (this takes place between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi)
        Truce at Bakura by Kathy Tyers (takes place almost immediately upon the conclusion of Return of the Jedi)
        The Courtship of Princess Leia by Dave Wolverton (takes place after Truce at Bakura)

        However, if you don’t care about chronological order (which I do sometimes, but not so much with the Star Wars EU) – my favorites are the Hand of Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn. These were the first ones actually written and take place about 5 years after the conclusion of Return of the Jedi.

        So… that’s my humble opinion on a few different places you could start. I know a lot of people don’t get into reading these books because there are so many now that it’s overwhelming to even think about trying to figure out where to start. The nice thing is, that though they are pretty consistent (esp considering the lack of oversight – which is awesome), the are also fairly stand-alone from book to book or trilogy to trilogy, so it’s not the same as feeling like you’re about to sit down with a 20+ book series.

        • DJ Edwardson says:

          Wow, you must have, like a PHD in Star Wars. I do like that a reader can basically start anywhere. I might try the Zahn book since I liked Icarus Hunt so much.

          Super informative and helpful comment, Jenelle. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. Abbey says:

    I once spent a whole year trying to get through the last ten chapters in The Two Towers, so I don’t think six months to get through the whole book is too bad. My dad reads them about once a year too.
    An Experiment in Criticism sounds like a wonderful book! Sometimes it seems like no one cares about reading critically anymore. People don’t discuss themes or characters or plot intricacies… Books are no longer art. They exist to entertain for the duration that they are read, and then the reader has to go on to the next book to be entertained by something else, instead of being satisfied by an incredible plot, near-human characters, and themes that cut so deep you still think about them weeks later. Stories like Twilight or The Fault in Our Stars will always be replaced by something else, something new. But books like Beowulf, Les Miserables, The Lord of the Rings, authors like Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis; they will survive.

  3. […] Last month I featured two works by Lewis and Tolkien and this month I have unintentionally ended up with these two authors on my nightstand again. No big master plan here, it’s just that most of my most prized books are from these authors so it’s only natural that they would end up getting featured on these lists more frequently. […]

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