I've finished a handful of books in the last couple of weeks (mostly the last week, which was a holiday from lectures, if not university work) and since it seemed unlikely I'd write posts for all of them, I'm going to put a snippet about each here.
The Lord of the Rings
I am always impressed by the immensity and grandness of this story by the time I finish it. It starts out merely cheerful and exciting - by the end it makes me wonder if I could ever do anything so worthwhile. Then I remember Frodo telling Gandalf that he wished he needn't have lived in such a time, and Gandalf's response about having to live through the time we are born into (although I've a feeling he phrases it more eloquently). I can thus convince myself that I don't need to be a Frodo or a Samwise or an Aragorn or an Eowyn.
It's harder to justify why I shouldn't strive to create as magnificently as Tolkien did. Exactly what that means is a little fuzzy, but I come away feeling inspired; like it's no good if all the book does is make me sad and happy and incredulous and awestruck. One needs to do something, whether it's a trip to Mount Doom, making sure Gaffer Gamgee has enough to eat, creating something to reflect the glory of our world, devouring knowledge like it's gong out of fashion or - just something. It doesn't seem enough to let life happen to one, after that account. One must do something.
It's been a while since I read a textbook from cover to cover. It's nice having work that's focussed enough to make it worth the investment. This was very accessible, but covered a fair amount of ground (at least it felt that way to me - I don't have much to compare). It was, at least, enough to springboard me from high schoolish level into a more specialised textbook with a fair degree of confidence. (I'm currently reading Christopher Chatfield's The Analysis of Time Series: An Introduction)
The Four Loves
C. S. Lewis
I read this and thought "Hmm, that's interesting, but there's nothing particularly mindblowing about it." But since then I've been remembering this quote or that idea in a bunch of different contexts. I'm not sure there's an exciting core message that the whole book works to convey - although it's all thematically consistent - but there are fascinating insights scattered throughout. I was a little disappointed that so much of the book seemed to address men only. I see Lewis's point that he doesn't have any other experience, but I still didn't like it. Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable and thought-provoking read.
A Skull in Shadows Lane
From the title, the back cover blurb, and what I've previously read from Swindells, I was expecting this to be a light-hearted five-find-outers-style mystery story. Instead it was a rather thoughtful look at post-WWII life through the eyes of eleven year old Jinty Linton, her brother Josh and their cohort, in a little English village where "nothing ever happens". I think Swindells exploits that ordinariness very well - this connected with me in a way that war stories generally don't. It felt like a children's book (which it is), but I still enjoyed it and have found a new way of seeing that time period.