Obsessive about Books

Okay, so the blog title is a bit of “duh” for anyone who knows me. Yes, I am totally obsessive about books.  But at least I work in publishing, where it’s a bit more normal than the rest of the world, where – I’m convinced – no one actually reads anything anymore (which will in turn cause problems for the publishing industry, so I should enjoy my job while I can).  A bit of a tautological leap there, but moving on!

Right now I am interested in re-reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien.  But first I have to state a few things: 1) I passionately loved the books.  2) I only saw the first movie.  3) I hated it.   Not because it was a bad movie, but any means – it was amazing and creative and visually stunning … but it’s not MY version of the story.

I read the books for the very first time when I was in third grade (in Mrs. Severson’s class). I can still point out to you what shelf in the library they were kept on (on the low shelves under the window by the hallway, in the second section from the left on the top shelf).  (Yes, I am a freak.)  These books had a big impact on my life. I was only 9 years old, but I “discovered” this amazing new world – no one else I knew of had ever read or heard of Tolkien (remember this was back in the 80s) – it was long before the movies were even a twinkle in Peter Jackson’s eye. I think I re-read the books at least every year since thing (until the movies came out, anyway) – so at least 10 or 12 times.  I would periodically mention them to other people, and most just rolled their eyes or called me a geek for liking such arcane/weird/British things (and yes, those are three were synonymous to that particular social group).

You can tell that I have a very personal connection to the tale, and when the movies came out I was really heartbroken because suddenly this special little thing that was just all mine was POPULAR – and wildly so. I felt a bit like my favorite band had sold out, except on a more personal level. My private diary was open to the world – MY elves and dwarves and hobbits were everywhere, but I didn’t want to share them!  ARGH!!  I tried to keep an open mind when I saw the first movie, but really I was disappointed because I had pictured things just a little bit differently. Gandalf was nice, but in my mind he was scruffier.  Frodo was okay, but he should have been more tubby.  Samwise was faithful alright, but I thought he was made of sterner stuff, both physically and emotionally.  I decided NOT to see the second two movies, and I won’t be going to see The Hobbit if it ever comes out, because I want to try and preserve my imagination and how I read/experience the books.

Which brings me to my current obsession. I want to re-read the trilogy, but I only want to read THE SAME VERSION that I read for the first time.  Crazy?  Obsessive?  Yes. I know.  I acknowledge and take full responsibility for that.  BUT … what if a different version/copyright of the books HAS A DIFFERENT ENDING?  As an editor, I know how much gets changed in an edit.  And I’ve seen how books get altered for the American or UK markets.  So what if the version I read now is different than what I remember?  Have you ever thought of that?  The only way to make sure you have the same experience is to read THE SAME BOOK.  Literally.  (At this point I’m debating if I need therapy.)   So short of calling my elementary school and begging them to see if they still have the copy from 1989 (which I doubt), I turn to the internet to find out.  Obviously I didn’t note the publisher or ISBN from when I read it in third grade (now THAT would be crazy!)

But I do have a remarkable memory, and I can swear to you that I read the edition with these covers:


Now my mission begins – to find out who published this edition, when, and how I can hold of a copy!  Any suggestions?


UPDATE:  it’s the 1988 Hougton Mifflin edition, and I’ve just ordered the complete set from abebooks.co.uk!  Yay!


Posted on 25/10/2011, in Book Review and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hi Astrid!

    I hope you’re doing well. I’m enjoying the blog as usual!

    I have a couple of comments. I love The Lord of the Rings, too. I read all three books at once, and after spending so much time with the characters, I was sad to have finished the books. To be honest, I thought Fellowship of the Ring was the weakest of the three books, but once I got through the first half of it, I was hooked.

    From that point of view, it might be worth it to try out the other two movies, especially the extended versions. I think Peter Jackson’s style is too deliberate, but it was neat to see the characters come to life. It wouldn’t be worth buying the movies, but you could probably rent them for a few pounds.

    I searched around for editions of the books, and the cover of the 1977 American Houghton Mifflin edition of The Silmarillion shown here (http://derhobbit-film.de/collecting-tolkien.shtml?e) looks similar to the covers you showed. Here’s some text that discusses editorial changes made throughout the years, though I didn’t read it yet myself (http://www.tolkiensociety.org/tolkien/tale.html).

    As for having the same experience as you did when you first read the books, you are in a different place in your life today, with different context, and you know how the story goes. It would be very cool to have the same edition that you originally read, but I don’t think it can bring you the same experience. The upside is that each time you re-read the books, you’ll get a whole new experience!

  2. Catching up on your blog. Must say, you both have been busy as usual. John is reading Fellowship of the Ring for 6th grade GT English. He is a bit daunted by the number of pages but loves Lord if the Rings. I can only imagine what “project” he will have to do. (or I will have to assist)… I will keep you posted–or ask for advice. Hugs to you both!

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