The Create Your Own Fellowship book tag was launched by Beth @ BooksNest, Ashleigh @ A Frolic Through Fiction, and Lauren @ FictionTea ahead of their #TolkienAlong readathon of The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings.
All three are exceptional content creators, so please consider giving them a follow!
“I will take the ring to Mordor”
A book you’re not quite sure if you like or not…
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman
The Ocean at the End of the Lane was my first (of two) Gaiman novels.
On the face of it, the novel sounds fantastic.
The blurb actually sold me on the book:
On one hand, I think I liked it – or at least the idea of it. It’s well written, and Gaiman has the ability to pull out a lovely turn of phrase. But it just didn’t resonate with me in quite the way I thought it might do. It just bounced off me a little.
That seems to be a trend with my experience of Gaiman’s writing so far. I adore his ideas; perhaps more than the actual execution. Can’t quite put my finger on why!If you’re a Gaiman fan, do give me some recommendations in the comments.
“I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you!”
A book you’ll always be loyal to
The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye is the quintessential marmite novel – people typically love it or hate it depending on how they feel about the teenage protagonist, Holden Caulfield.
For that reason, it’s a novel that you probably need to read at a younger age in order for it to resonate with you.
On the surface, Holden Caulfield is a cynical kid who writes off people around him due to their perceived lack of authenticity, or ‘phoniness’ as he puts it. He’s obnoxious, pretty ‘phony’ himself, and makes it difficult for you to root for him.
That being said, I think that’s there’s a lot more going on with Holden beneath the surface. He’s a genuinely kind soul, who’s suffering from trauma. He mentions his late brother Allie an awful lot, and there are moments when he lays out his pain of loss for the reader.
Loss is present throughout the novel. Loss of friends, loss of family, and an overbearing protectiveness towards young people from suffering the same inevitable fate.
No matter how many times I come back to this novel, it always instills a sense of belonging in me. I can identify with Holden’s protective nature and nostalgia for a lost youth.
I’ll always be loyal to Holden Caulfield because he’s always been loyal to me.
“What about second breakfast?!”
A book you want to re-read
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, J.R.R. Tolkien
Funnily enough, The Lord of the Rings!
The Two Towers, specifically.
Those who know me will know that I am absolutely smitten with Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. I have LOTR jewellery, numerous different editions of the same books, a CD copy of the EXCELLENT BBC radio drama, and much more…
But The Two Towers has a special place in my heart. If you’ve seen the films, the novel of The Two Towers overlaps with the end of The Fellowship of the Ring and the beginning of The Return of the King movies. So, in my opinion, the novel of The Two Towers captures the most iconic moments of the series.
It also contains one of my favourite passages in literature, for example:
“Gollum looked at them. A strange expression passed over his lean hungry face. The gleam faded from his eyes, and they went dim and grey, old and tired. A spasm of pain seemed to twist him, and he turned away, peering back up towards the pass, shaking his head, as if engaged in some interior debate. Then he came back, and slowly putting out a trembling hand, very cautiously he touched Frodo’s knee–but almost the touch was a caress.
For a fleeting moment, could one of the sleepers have seen him, they would have thought that they beheld an old weary hobbit, shrunken by the years that had carried him far beyond his time, beyond friends and kin, and the fields and streams of youth, an old starved pitiable thing.”
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The turning point for Gollum/Smeagol is really quite touching, and yet so sombre at the same time. It’s what makes him such a wonderful character.
I haven’t read this one in such a long time. Perfect time to plug the upcoming #TolkienAlong Readathon that inspired this book tag!
“You can trust us to stick to you through thick and thin – to the bitter end.”
A book about friendship
Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling
How could I not choose Harry Potter for this category? I nominated the series because the importance of friendship is not specific to a single book.
Until he reaches Hogwarts, Harry is truly friendless. His life lacks any real meaning, other than being a punchbag for the odious Dudley.
There’s a huge disparity between Harry’s life with the Dursleys and the magnificence of Hogwarts, and friendship plays a big part in the magic. As a reader, you’re gutted when the term is over, or when Harry is denied the chance to visit Hogsmeade with his friends. You feel that disappointment.
On the other hand, when Harry meets Ron on the Hogwarts Express in The Philosopher’s Stone, the Weasleys rescue Harry from Privet Drive in The Chamber of Secrets, and when Cedric Diggory helps Harry with a clue in The Goblet of Fire, the friendship displayed is so powerful. It’s genuinely touching.
I re-read The Philosopher’s Stone earlier this year, which was a great reminder of how fantastic this series of books is. Rowling’s wizarding series is lightning in a bottle and will easily be remembered as a classic of children’s fiction.
A book with a hero/heroine to swoon over
The Last Wish, Andrzej Sapkowski
The Last Wish is the first book in the now-popular The Witcher fantasy series. It’s a collection of short stories framed within an overarching story in which Geralt – the titular witcher (a monster hunter) – is recovering from wounds sustained in his latest battle.
Somewhat of a Byronic Hero, Geralt is forced into situations by virtue of the society he lives in – and his profession – where he has to make challenging moral and ethical choices. Not least when it comes to taking and sparing lives.
Whereas Geralt is a professional monster slayer, he is almost universally against taking the life of another human for payment. But this code is challenged by the blurring of lines between human and monster, which is a common thread throughout his tales.
Witchers are necessary in order to keep monsters at bay, yet they’re considered outcasts in society.
And despite the hostility faced, Geralt remains charming and a hugely charismatic figure.
“Shall I get you a box?”
A short but fun read
Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salman Rushdie
Okay, so this one is just over 200 pages, so it depends on your definition of short. I think 200 pages is pretty short!
Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a wonderful little book, which Salman Rushdie wrote for his kids whilst he was in hiding from religious fanatics who were trying to murder Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses. For more on this, read here about ‘The Rushdie Affair.’
It’s a novel about a storyteller called Rashid, who loses his ability to tell stories, and the efforts of Haroun – his son – to help him regain his voice.
Set in a fictional magic realism-infused Kashmir, Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a fairy-tale of sorts – and like all good fairy-tales, it’s underscored with some pretty serious themes. An obvious one being the censorship of storytelling, with Rushdie not-so-subtly addressing his enemies.
It’s a brilliant story itself, with a rich tapestry of Eastern culture, but it also includes some great callbacks to stories like Alice in Wonderland.
Haroun and the Sea of Stories is well worth your time, and definitely one to read to a younger person.
“They’ve taken the little ones”
A series you never made it past the first book
His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman
I recently finished Northern Lights by Philip Pullman and was genuinely thrilled from beginning to end.
However, this wasn’t always the case.
When I was younger, I tried to read Northern Lights but it really didn’t capture me. The concept of Daemons seemed quite alien to me – I just could not get my head around it. Plus there’s a lot of discussion around religious institutions. I read about the Magisterium and the General Oblation Board and, as a child, I just switched off.
I have always come back to it though and tried to give it a go. First, when the movie The Golden Compass released in 2005(?), I tried to read it again but – again – I couldn’t get into it.
Recently, I casually watched the BBC adaptation His Dark Materials and decided a couple of episodes into the show that I wanted to give Pullman’s trilogy another chance. I immediately stopped watching the show and got hold of the audiobook.
I’m pleased to say that I absolutely adored Northern Lights.
The audiobook is brilliantly voice-acted, plus Pullman does the narration (he has an excellent reading voice).
I knew that this was a series designed for me. As I’ve matured, I’ve become a lot more interested in theology, philosophy, and the discussions around human existence. But even without all these deep topics, it’s just a really good story.
I’m so disappointed that I couldn’t get into it sooner than I did, but hey – better late than never!
Thank you Philip Pullman for crafting such a wonderful piece of fiction. I cannot wait to read The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass (and beyond!).
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us”
A book that made you think about your life, the universe, and everything once you finished it
The Plague, Albert Camus
Camus is a phenomenal writer of philosophical fiction and the driving influence behind this blog. It’s also a very quotable book…
Essentially, The Plague is a fictional novel about how the people in an Algerian town called Oran deal with the outbreak of a plague. At first the deaths are low, people are pretty relaxed about it, but it quickly develops into a pandemic and Oran is quarantined from the rest of the world.
Some view it as a metaphor for fascism infecting a population, as Camus was a member of the French resistance during WWII. It’s very much a multi-layered novel and it interested me so much, that I chose to write on it for my Masters thesis.
I view The Plague as a development of Camus’ earlier non-fiction book The Myth of Sisyphus, which is a very lengthy essay on a philosophical stance called ‘Absurdism’.
In brief, Absurdism is the divorce between our expectation of meaning from the world and its capacity to disappoint that expectation. We’re alone in the world and there is no god.
The Plague contextualises the Absurd into a real-world drama in which humanity is forced to confront the Absurd through the lens of its own mortality. The novel poses ethical questions and discusses what it is to be a man (referring to mankind, rather than anything gender-specific).
The novel demands its characters, and the reader, to ask the questions ‘What now? How do we move beyond the Absurd and develop a society in which positive morals and ethics can thrive?’
Beautifully written, The Plague is an incredibly thoughtful novel and definitely reconfigured how I see my place in the universe.
If you enjoyed this Create Your Own Fellowship book tag! If so, please consider making your own and tag me in it so I can read your answers!