I will probably review all of these eventually, but for now, I have included the blurbs (mostly from GoodReads)
Tolkien & the Great War
“To be caught in youth by 1914 was no less hideous an experience than in 1939 . . . by 1918 all but one of my close friends were dead.” So J.R.R. Tolkien responded to critics who saw The Lord of the Rings as a reaction to the Second World War. Tolkien and the Great War tells for the first time the full story of how he embarked on the creation of Middle-earth in his youth as the world around him was plunged into catastrophe. This biography reveals the horror and heroism that he experienced as a signals officer in the Battle of the Somme and introduces the circle of friends who spurred his mythology into life. It shows how, after two of these brilliant young men were killed, Tolkien pursued the dream they had all shared by launching his epic of good and evil.
This is the first substantially new biography of Tolkien since 1977, meticulously researched and distilled from his personal wartime papers and a multitude of other sources.
John Garth argues that the foundation of tragic experience in the First World War is the key to Middle-earth’s enduring power. Tolkien used his mythic imagination not to escape from reality but to reflect and transform the cataclysm of his generation. While his contemporaries surrendered to disillusionment, he kept enchantment alive, reshaping an entire literary tradition into a form that resonates to this day.
One of my favorite books in the Discworld series! This one can be read alone, although there are a few connections to other books in the series. I loved this, but I need to reread it in order to review it.
‘Just because you can’t explain it, doesn’t mean it’s a miracle.’
On the Discworld, religion is a controversial business.
Everyone has their own opinion, and indeed their own gods, of every shape and size, and all elbowing for space at the top. In such a competitive environment, shape and size can be pretty crucial to make one’s presence felt.
So it’s certainly not helpful for the Great God Om to find himself in the body of a tortoise, a manifestation far below god-like status in anyone’s book.
In such instances, you need an acolyte, and fast. Brutha, the novice, is the Chosen One – or at least the only one available. He wants peace and justice and brotherly love. He also wants the Inquisition to stop torturing him now, please…
The Discworld novels can be read in any order but Small Gods is a standalone novel.
Another of my favorite Pratchett books! This one is not part of the Discworld series.
Alone on a desert island — everything and everyone he knows and loves has been washed away in a storm — Mau is the last surviving member of his nation. He’s completely alone — or so he thinks until he finds the ghost girl. She has no toes, wears strange lacy trousers like the grandfather bird, and gives him a stick that can make fire. Daphne, sole survivor of the wreck of the Sweet Judy, almost immediately regrets trying to shoot the native boy. Thank goodness the powder was wet and the gun only produced a spark. She’s certain her father, distant cousin of the Royal family, will come and rescue her but it seems, for now, that all she has for company is the boy and the foul-mouthed ship’s parrot, until other survivors arrive to take refuge on the island. Together, Mau and Daphne discover some remarkable things (including how to milk a pig, and why spitting in beer is a good thing), and start to forge a new nation.
Encompassing themes of death and nationhood, Terry Pratchett’s new novel is, as can be expected, extremely funny, witty and wise. Mau’s ancestors have something to teach us all. Mau just wishes they would shut up about it and let him get on with saving everyone’s lives.
Lud-in-the-Mist, the capital city of the small country Dorimare, is a port at the conﬂuence of two rivers, the Dapple and the Dawl. The Dapple has its origin beyond the Debatable Hills to the west of Lud-in-the-Mist, in Fairyland. In the days of Duke Aubrey, some centuries earlier, fairy things had been looked upon with reverence, and fairy fruit was brought down the Dapple and enjoyed by the people of Dorimare. But after Duke Aubrey had been expelled from Dorimare by the burghers, the eating of fairy fruit came to be regarded as a crime, and anything related to Fairyland was unspeakable. Now, when his son Ranulph is believed to have eaten fairy fruit, Nathaniel Chanticleer, the mayor of Lud-in-the-Mist, finds himself looking into old mysteries in order to save his son and the people of his city.
The Broken Sword
Thor broke the sword Tyrfing to save the roots of Yggdrasil, the tree that binds earth, heaven and hell. Now the elves need the weapon for their war against the trolls. Only Scafloc, a human kidnapped and raised by elves, can hope to persuade Bolverk the ice-giant to make Tyrfing whole again. But Scafloc must also confront his shadow self, Valgard, the changeling in his place among men.
The King of Elfland’s Daughter
One of the great early fantasies; I read this years ago and found it enchanting, so I want to read it again someday.
The poetic style and sweeping grandeur of The King of Elfland’s Daughter has made it one of the most beloved fantasy novels of our time, a masterpiece that influenced some of the greatest contemporary fantasists.
The Years of Rice & Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson
It is the fourteenth century and one of the most apocalyptic events in human history is set to occur – the coming of the Black Death. History teaches us that a third of Europe’s population was destroyed. But what if? What if the plague killed 99 percent of the population instead? How would the world have changed? This is a look at the history that could have been: a history that stretches across centuries, a history that sees dynasties and nations rise and crumble, a history that spans horrible famine and magnificent innovation. These are the years of rice and salt.
The Once & Future King by T.H. White
I loved this but have never reviewed it; I will definitely have to reread it and write about it sometime.
T.H. White’s masterful retelling of the saga of King Arthur is a fantasy classic as legendary as the sword Excalibur and city of Camelot that are found within its pages. This magical epic takes Arthur from the glorious lyrical phase of his youth, through the disillusioning early years of his reign, to maturity when his vision of the Round Table develops into the search for the Holy Grail, and finally to his weary old age. With memorable characters like Merlin and Owl and Guinevere, beasts who talk and men who fly, wizardry and war, The Once and Future King has become the fantasy masterpiece against which all others are judged, a poignant story of adventure, romance, and magic that has enchanted readers for generations.
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
a brilliant essay collection!
An exhilarating meditation on nature and its seasons—a personal narrative highlighting one year’s exploration on foot in the author’s own neighborhood in Tinker Creek, Virginia. In the summer, Dillard stalks muskrats in the creek and contemplates wave mechanics; in the fall she watches a monarch butterfly migration and dreams of Arctic caribou. She tries to con a coot; she collects pond water and examines it under a microscope. She unties a snake skin, witnesses a flood, and plays ‘King of the Meadow’ with a field of grasshoppers.
War and the Iliad by Simone Weil & Rachel Bespaloff
War and the Iliad is a perfect introduction to the range of Homer’s art as well as a provocative and rewarding demonstration of the links between literature, philosophy, and questions of life and death.
Simone Weil’s The Iliad, or the Poem of Force is one of her most celebrated works—an inspired analysis of Homer’s epic that presents a nightmare vision of combat as a machine in which all humanity is lost. First published on the eve of war in 1939, the essay has often been read as a pacifist manifesto. Rachel Bespaloff was a French contemporary of Weil’s whose work similarly explored the complex relations between literature, religion, and philosophy. She composed her own distinctive discussion of the Iliad in the midst of World War II—calling it “her method of facing the war”—and, as Christopher Benfey argues in his introduction, the essay was very probably written in response to Weil. Bespaloff’s account of the Iliad brings out Homer’s novelistic approach to character and the existential drama of his characters’ choices; it is marked, too, by a tragic awareness of how the Iliad speaks to times and places where there is no hope apart from war.
This edition brings together these two influential essays for the first time, accompanied by Benfey’s scholarly introduction and an afterword by the great Austrian novelist Hermann Broch.