I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book very much, because I wasn’t a big fan of LOTR (sorry, guys!). But, to my surprise, I LOVED it.
This book is just charming. It’s engaging, funny, and cheerful–and mostly devoid of the endless scenery descriptions and battle scenes that I hated in LOTR. Gandalf is grumpy, the elves are silly; everyone is less serious and more enjoyable to read. The book talks directly to its readers, something I truly enjoy when done well. It makes mention of trips to the post office, and even suggests that goblins might have had a hand in making WMDs!
Bilbo is a truly unlikely hero. He is constantly wishing for home–“not for the last time,” as our narrator tells us whenever Bilbo thinks of a hot cup of tea or a seed cake or smoking a pipe in his comfortable hobbit hole.
Basically, this book lives up to the hype, even for me, a total non-fantasy-lover. It’s amusing, fun, and engaging. Read it, read it, read it.
Rating: Re-read Worthy
This book is part of a book pairing in the Reading to Distraction reading challenge that I’m taking part in this year. In this challenge, based on a BuzzFeed article, you read one favorite childhood book, and then read a similar, grown-up version. The pairing for The Hobbit was Michael Chabon‘s Gentlemen of the Road, which I also thoroughly enjoyed.
According to the BuzzFeed article, here’s the connection:
So it doesn’t have any hobbits or wizards, but what Gentlemen of the Road lacks in fantasy it more than makes up for in action, adventure, and enthralling characters. Zelikman and Amram, physican and ex-soldier respectively, make their way through the Caucasus Mountains in the year 950, fighting and stealing and somehow getting in the middle of a full-scale revolution.
Gentlemen of the Road was, to me, not as memorable as The Hobbit. It has Chabon’s unique writing style, but isn’t as memorable as the last book of his that I read (it’s much shorter, too). The characters, though, are funny and likable, despite their cheating outlaw ways:
They’re an odd pair, to be sure: pale, rail-thin, black-clad Zelikman, a moody, itinerant physician fond of jaunty headgear, and ex-soldier Amram, a gray-haired giant of a man as quick with a razor-tongued witticism as he is with a sharpened battle-ax. Brothers under the skin, comrades in arms, they make their rootless way through the Caucasus Mountains, circa A.D. 950, living as they please and surviving however they can–as blades and thieves for hire and as practiced bamboozlers, cheerfully separating the gullible from their money.
None of which has necessarily prepared them to be dragooned into service as escorts and defenders to a prince of the Khazar Empire. Usurped by his brutal uncle, the callow and decidedly ill-tempered young royal burns to reclaim his rightful throne. But doing so will demand wicked cunning, outrageous daring, and foolhardy bravado . . . not to mention an army. (Summary via Amazon.com)
As you can probably tell from the Amazon summary, it’s a bit more over the top than Tolkien’s book, which is fairly subdued and gentle. Sometimes that makes for some great moments, but sometimes it’s just… over the top.
On the whole, these two books make a pretty good pair. Gentlemen of the Road doesn’t fare quite as well when compared with The Hobbit, but that’s mostly my personal preference. Each book is a fun road trip/journey story, just with totally different flavors.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good