Thank you for joining us all summer long for Last Read posts from a long list of talented writers, librarians and readers.
Lori is the author of young adult fantasy Gates of Thread and Stone, available now from Skyscape. She has a borderline obsessive fascination with unicorns, is fond of talking in capslock, and loves to write about magic, manipulation, and family. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, kids, and a friendly pitbull.
In the last several years, I’ve needed to be extremely particular with my reading time because I don’t have a great deal of it. Sadly, rereading much beloved stories is a luxury I can no longer indulge. The number of books waiting to be read in those precious available reading hours is daunting enough that even considering a reread fills me with guilt.
So while considering my last read, although I can name at least a dozen books I’d love to revisit, none of them felt quite right for such a precise and important purpose. At the end of my life, I hope to be surrounded by my family. I hope to be able to have the time to reflect on the people and the moments that have been like markers in my life, guiding me along to my next milestone, adventure, or discovery.
In some ways, many of my markers are books—stories that came along right when I needed them, helping me to find my way while teaching me what I might need to carry me through the next stretch in life’s journey. I read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe at a time when I needed to believe that somewhere out there was a wardrobe waiting just for me. The Fear Street series allowed the dark and disturbing to exist more strongly in fiction than those in everyday life. Julie Garwood’s Highlander books taught me that romance and humor could and should go hand in hand, and that there was nothing wrong with having high expectations. I read Anansi Boys and Tithe when I didn’t know how to finish my first manuscript, the one that I needed to finish just to prove to myself that I could.
Although I spent a long time mulling this over, my choice for a last read is still the first book that flashed into my mind when Ryann and Lynne introduced the series back in May. That book is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.
Like the other books mentioned above, The Hobbit is a marker in my life, specifically in my childhood. Fantasy had captured my heart the way it tends to do when you’re young and still dominated by imagination. But it wasn’t until The Hobbit that the budding writer in me truly understood the sheer possibilities and the true magic of fantasy.
My sisters and I spent a great many hours at the public library, especially during the summers. (Brief aside to say that if not for my sisters, I might not have had as much access to books. Thank goodness for bookish siblings!) The internet didn’t exist then so book recommendations came by either word of mouth or through browsing the library shelves by category of interest. That was how I found many of my great literary loves, including The Hobbit.
To say that the world of Middle Earth swept me away is an understatement. Elves and wizards and dwarves! Here was a world so strange and extraordinary, and yet unmistakably familiar. I knew then that this was what I needed to write, and that every word I would ever put to paper would be one word closer to reaching this kind of mastery. But, in fact, the most truly striking feature of The Hobbit is its protagonist. I was in awe of Bilbo Baggins, a hobbit who lived under the hill, who was not a warrior or a wizard, but was clever and courageous enough to face trolls and goblins and a fire-breathing dragon. Bilbo was my first true literary hero, and it was the wonder of him above all else that stayed with me.
I met Bilbo as a child, and he changed forever the way I read and wrote fantasy. But to my regret, I never got the chance to reread The Hobbit once I was older. So as my last read, I would want to meet Bilbo again, to fall in love with him again, to rejoin him on his quest so that I might believe, once more, that magnificent things await just beyond the next turn.