One of the main reasons I like to keep the books I have read is to look at them and remember where I was and “when” I was when I first read them. Sometimes I stand in front of the linen closet that currently houses my books and just look at the titles. While I own quite a few books that I haven’t read yet, there are many old battered titles that have been in my hands more times than I can count.
I am one of those people who re-reads her favorites all the time. Each time I read a book I find something new—a new line to make me smile, a new favorite character, or a scene I thought I forgot. As I get older and read some of my early favorites, I can also remember how much I used to love that book as a kid and how it helped encourage my love of reading at a young age.
Books have the potential to teach you something new each time you read them. That’s why you can never really be done with a book. No matter what, there is always something more waiting in the pages.
Even the books that I can almost recite always surprise me. Mostly because I really can’t recite them and when I think I know what’s coming next, I get it wrong.
As I am drawing near the end of The Fellowship of the Ring, I am recalling a lot of old memories. I’ve read the series a few times (maybe 3 or 4), but I have seen the films more than I can count. And I really think the films are well done, even though things are not exact as so many wish they were.
I believe it was during my freshman year in high school when my family went out to Colorado the first time. We never flew, but instead drove to wherever we were going on vacation. That was the year we had a huge van and we were crammed into it for 20+ hours as we drove past cows, grass, and nothingness for what seemed like an eternity. I read or slept for most of the trip and I flew through my reading material rather quickly.
Halfway through our vacation, I made my parents go into a bookstore in one of the small towns we were passing through and visiting. I remember that the bookshop was really small and their science fiction and fantasy section consisted of one lowly bookshelf. I had just recently started to read that genre, as my freshman Honor’s English class had to read Ender’s Game and I had fallen in love. So, I searched the shelves trying to find something to read.
At the time, the movies were not even being mentioned. There was no imdb.com or anything similar. I had heard of The Lord of the Rings only from my English teacher who told me, “If you really want to read good fantasy, you need to read Tolkein. He is where it all started.”
The small bookstore had a copy of all three books, so I picked them and searched the back for the “blurbs” that either sell or destroy a book. The back of The Fellowship of the Ring said the following:
“The dark, fearsome Ringwraiths were searching for a hobbit. Frodo Baggins knew they were seeking him and the Ring he bore—the Ring of Power that would enable evil Sauron to destroy all that was good in Middle-earth. Now it is up to Frodo and his faithful servant, Sam, with a small band of companions, to carry the Ring to the one place it could be destroyed—Mount Doom, in the very center of Sauron’s dark kingdom,” (Del-Rey Paperback Edition).
It sounded gloriously epic and dramatic, just what my teenage heart desired. So, I begged my dad to get them for me, and he got me all three. I remember the shopkeeper telling me they were good and I would certainly enjoy them.
It was only once we were back in the car that I noticed they had this printed in a line on the front cover:
“An Epic Motion Picture Trilogy Coming Soon From New Line Cinema!”
I dove right in and while I thought it was hard to read in some parts, particularly all the songs and poems, I really began to fall in love with them. I have memories of sitting in the backseat of that van reading about the Misty Mountains and looking up at the Rockies soaring around me, comparing them in my mind.
I finished the third volume, The Return of the King during the car ride on the way back to Michigan. And I remember thinking to myself, “Wow. That was awesome.”
I was incredibly articulate for a 14-year-old.
Flash forward a few years and The Lord of the Rings hit the big screen. New editions were coming out with Elijah Wood plastered on the cover, or scenes from the movie. My lowly little editions with the old artwork were outnumbered by illustrated versions with stills from the film, or cast interviews, or a pull out map of Middle-earth. It seemed like everyone was reading them and it didn’t seem as personal an experience as when I read them.
Sometimes I feel that film adaptations ruin a book and the value it had once before. When I started reading these again, all I could see was Elijah Wood and Orlando Bloom in my head (not that I’m really complaining) and my long-ago images of who the characters used to be have been lost.
But now, I am remembering that trip to Colorado and how I fell in love with the story then. And now, I am falling in love with the story all over again.
And if I really want to, I can be THAT book snob who says, “I read them before the movies, and I loved them then.” But that really doesn’t matter, does it?
The point is this; these books are old friends that everyone had forgotten for awhile, and even though they’ve gotten all glamorous and well known, my books and my memories with them are still the same as they’ve always been. No one can really take that kind of experience away from me.
So I encourage you to read an old friend. You might be surprised to see what kind of memories it brings back to you.