Now that it’s December and therefore acceptable to finally talk about Christmas, I have written up a quick list of great books for anyone looking to buy something for the bibliophile in their life.
I would also love to hear from you which books you think I should pick up this holiday season, so leave your suggestions in the comments below!
For everyone – The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
This one is a no-brainer; if you haven’t already read The Hobbit, go out and buy it (or borrow it from your local library) as quickly as possible. The story follows a young hobbit named Bilbo Baggins as he leaves the plush comfort of his home to join thirteen Dwarves (and one wizard) on their quest to reclaim their ancestral mountain kingdom from the clutches of the evil dragon Smaug. Along the way, the adventurers encounter everything from Elves to giant eagles, from Trolls to a curious creature named Gollum, and Bilbo comes to realise adventuring may not be so bad – maybe.
But don’t just take my word for it – Tolkien’s first novel was originally published over seventy years ago and was so popular the publishers requested a sequel. You may not have heard of it though, it’s called The Lord of the Rings.
For the social recluse demographic in my readership, there is even an upcoming trilogy of movies based on the book being released. Yes, the book is so good they made three movies out of it.
Bonus feature – Leonard Nimoy sings the ballad of Bilbo Baggins.
Science Fiction – Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Seventy years since an alien, insect-like species called the Formics (or buggers) nearly wiped out humanity, the countries of Earth have come together to form the International Fleet in an attempt to prevent another devastating invasion. The IF has a powerful fleet of interstellar battlecruisers and fighter ships, yet they are still hopelessly outnumbered by the buggers; what they really need is a brilliant commander, a new Napoleon or Hannibal, to even the odds. As such, they turn to six-year old Ender Wiggin, a child prodigy who may be humanity’s last chance, and ship him off to Battle School where he will be pushed, beaten, isolated, and manipulated – all in the hope that one day, when it really matters, humanity is able to defeat the buggers.
The book is even more awesome than you are thinking right now.
Classic Literature – Aeneid by Vergil
I wouldn’t be a good Classicist if I didn’t include at least one Greek or Roman epic in this list (be thankful I didn’t include more), and there are few books that deserve being called a classic of Western literature more than the Aeneid.
Chronicling the journey of the eponymous hero Aeneas, this story begins with his narrow escape from the destruction of Troy with his son by his side and his father on his shoulder (literally). The rest of the first half of the story takes Aeneas across much of the Mediterranean, pursuing his personal odyssey to find a place to settle the Trojan survivors and re-establish Troy itself, and eventually he reaches the western shore of the Italian peninsula. The real highlight of the first half, however, is the love story between Aeneas and the Carthaginian queen Dido. Frankly, the story of Dido and Aeneas is my favourite tale of tragic love in all of literature and it’s worth reading the Aeneid for this subplot alone.
If the first half of the story is about Aeneas’ voyage to Italy, the second half is about the troubles he encounters once he gets there; for anyone who enjoys reading about epic warfare and battles, this will be your new favourite thing. Where the first half of the Aeneid has great romantic passion, as between Dido and Aeneas, the second half is filled with martial passion – most notably perhaps near the end between Aeneas and his counterpart, Turnus, king of the Rutuli, as they fight to the death.
Historical Fiction – Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Okay, so I will admit right here that I actually haven’t read this book yet – although it’s the very next book on my to-read list – but I am going to recommend it nonetheless because I haven’t heard a single bad thing about it. Oh, plus both Wolf Hall and its recently-published sequel, Bringing Up the Bodies have won the Man Booker Prize. So there’s that.
The story is (apparently) a pseudo-biography about the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell, an English statesman in the court of Henry VIII during the 16th century. Historically, Cromwell was an ardent supporter of the English Reformation, and was instrumental in engineering the annulment of the marriage between Henry and Catharine of Aragon – an event which is played out in the novel.
One of the aspects of the novel that has intrigued me the most is its supposed re-evaluation of Cromwell’s motives and morality. Thomas Cromwell has often been viewed in a negative light, yet by placing him at the centre of her story Mantel has set up a situation in which the reader will be forced to evaluate his decisions not with the long lens of history and the benefit of hindsight, but rather as a person acting with human motives and immediate concerns.
Honestly, I am very excited to read this book, and will most likely write up an actual review of it once I’ve gotten it in my hands.
So what do you think of my suggestions? Is there anything you would add to the list? Have you read any of these books before? Let me know in the comments below!