Thursday, July 28, 2011

There and Back Again: My 18-Year Journey to Finish Reading The Hobbit

Yes, it took me 18 years to actually read The Hobbit. That's an average rate of about 18 pages per year. It only took me 18 months to read the King James' version of the Bible, and I was done with the last Harry Potter book 18 hours after its release.

I first picked it up back in middle school when a boy I had a crush on insisted it was the best book ever written. The crush didn't last much longer than it took me to get board. Then in high school I picked it up when rumors began to circulate that the Lord of the Rings would be made into a movie. I finally gave up on the prequel and managed to get through the trilogy the summer after I graduated. Then again in college I attempted to read if for my Children's Lit class, but there were too many other books I wanted to read. With 18 months until the movie release, I procured another copy, figuring it might take me that long to get through it. I don't know why I was so determined to read a book that can't hold my interest.

This time I finished it in 18 days, but I still don't like the book. I think it's all those dwarves' names. How can you expect me to remember the names of 13 stout men who all look and act so much alike? At least I know Bilbo, Gandalf and Smaug. Or maybe it's that the action is nowhere near as intense as modern adventure novels. Bilbo may be pretending to be a thief and all, but there are far too many riddle wars and too much wandering around starving to really be considered an adventure–fantasy novel. Or it could be more a book for young children and I was just too old to truly appreciate it. There are a lot of adults who love the book, but how much of that is tied to childhood nostalgia?

No disrespect to people who love this book, but I just don't see the appeal. It's not the first time I haven't liked a popular book (even through Markus Zusak is one of my favorite authors, I couldn't get through The Book Thief, and my disdain for many of the classic British authors like Dickens, the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen is well documented). Then again, there are books I love that other people can't stand (like my passion for Greek plays and Roman philosophers—and Shakespeare, I have yet to read something by Shakespeare I don't love). Some books speak to some people more than others, and The Hobbit happens not to speak to me.

So there's another book marked off my Guilty Un-Reads list. Maybe I'll like the movie better. Or maybe I'll just stay home and read a different book.

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