April 21, 2017 – Books, books, books.

Okay readers – let’s get together one more time for another group participation exercise. The previous two participation exercises involved music and film. Let’s follow the same theme and pick our top two fiction books. The idea is that you pick the top books you’ve read and why. We want to know what about those books was compelling and why the other’s reading this blog should read them.  So, without further ado, here are my top two fiction books and why the readers of this blog should read them.

Number 2.  James Clavell’s Shogun. I have made it a yearly ritual to read Shogun because of the rich story and characters. The plot of the novel is full of twists and turns and written in short concise sentences that have great impact on the reader’s mind, adding to the tempo and suspense of the story.

Although there are many well developed characters in the book, most of them are complex, with unique features. I thoroughly enjoyed observing their development. My favorite was Toranaga, the wise daimyo, a man of great military genius who outwits everybody else all the while sticking to bushido – the warrior code of honor.

I always feel like I’m experience feudal Japan with Blackthorne.  To see Lady Mariko through his eyes, as he admires her personality, courage, erudition and strong sense of honor.  She is one of the most charismatic female characters I’ve read.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good adventure novel and to all those who would like to find out cultural facts about feudal Japan without having to wade through history texts. Don’t be intimidated by its size: it reads so fast that you will be unable to put it down. I would start the book on mornings and usually forget to eat all day until I had read the last page.

Number 1. JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy.  This is another yearly ritual. I will usually take a summer weekend and start the trilogy and find myself back in Middle Earth. Spending my childhood summers in Middle Earth helped alleviate the boredom of growing up in a small town. The story is complex, the characters, particularly the hobbits,  are rich and feel like old friends. Tolkien’s central hero is someone we all can relate to – a humble hobbit, of an ancient people noted for loving “peace and quiet and good tilled earth”.

The books are a magnificent achievement; an epic tale of friendship, love and heroism, books that set the benchmark for all fantasy novels to come. Tolkien’s descriptive narrative beautifully depicts Middle-earth (although I can do without a lot of the poetry) and the journey that the Fellowship undertakes feels real to the reader.

It is hard to put into words the joy felt when reading a fantasy book as good as this and anybody who has never read it should set aside some time to do so. It the best fantasy book of all time in my opinion.

The Lord of the Rings is timeless because it’s the product of a truly amazing mind. Tolkien was a distinguished linguist and Oxford scholar of ancient languages with strong ideas about the importance of myth and story and a deep appreciation of the role of nature.

The epic novels, a decade in the making, recounts the War of the Ring and the closing of Middle-Earth’s Third Age.  The end of the Third Age was the time when magic begins to fade from the world and the time of men begins. Tolkien beautifully details this transition with tremendous skill and love. The Lord of the Rings is a universal and all-embracing tale, worth every second used to read.

One Comment

  1. Again, this is a very challenging task because there are so many good books. I find it difficult to pick a top ten much less a top two, but here goes:

    #2) Devil and the White City. Admittedly, this selection shows my affection for the Second City, but I unashamedly accept that bias and own it. That said, the things I really enjoy about this novel are the dual plot lines that Larson interweaves throughout the story in such a seamless manner. The vivid descriptions of both the 1893 World’s Fair and H.H.Holmes’ icy cold plotting and planning make you feel like you’re watching a film or walking the city back in the day. Finally, there are so many historical references to great inventions and figures who played a part in the Colombia Exposition that it’s hard to imagine such a collection of characters and activities connected to one event.

    #1) Hand down this is To Kill a Mockingbird. I reread this novel as well because it is a practical textbook on social justice through the eyes of both protagonist and antagonist. Atticus and Jem have shaped my character as much as any living person.

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