The Hobbit, Long Time Coming

After starting The Hobbit Party, I had to finally read The Hobbit.  Growing up, I read many terrible science fiction and fantasy novels.  In high school, I discovered Terry Pratchett and he has been one of my favorite authors throughout every stage of my life so far.

The Hobbit was this weird thing… I actively avoided reading it for many years.  My dad suggested I read it when I was little, and he must have caught me in a mood, because I refused.  It’s so strange because I inherited my taste in books, movies, TV shows, etc., from my Dad, so if he recommended something to me, I would probably like it.  He suggested I read I,Robot by Isaac Asimov and I loved it. (Will Smith ruined it!)

When Peter Jackson’s LotR movies came out, we went to see them together.  I wanted to see the movies before reading the books because I knew the books would be better.  I’ve made a habit of this.  If I read the book first, I end up sitting through the whole movie cataloging all the differences and it’s not fun.  After The Two Towers, I couldn’t wait anymore, so I had to read the whole series to find out what happened.  That was the first and only time I have read The Lord of the Rings series.  I also read most of The Silmarillion.  Still refused to read The Hobbit.

Then, Peter Jackson did a trilogy of The Hobbit.  Now that I’ve seen the movie–or, 2 out of 3 at least– I can read the book.  So I did.

I have definitely missed out on some kind of magic by waiting until adulthood to read The Hobbit.  Part of the problem is that Terry Pratchett has satirized so much of Tolkien’s work, in a loving and respectful way, that The Hobbit didn’t hold anything new for me.  That was compounded by my having already seen the movies and read some detailed literary criticism.  If I ever have kids, we are going to read all of Tolkien’s work while they’re young enough to feel the magic.

Drinking Tea

Reading The Hobbit makes me want to drink tea.  So does Jane Austen.  And Tolstoy.  I suppose it’s just the power of suggestion, but I wonder how much deeper this influence goes.

One book that had a great impact on me was Cheaper by the Dozen.  I must have been in middle school when I first read it.  The father, Frank Gilbreth, was an efficiency engineer, and I have been obsessed with efficiency most of my life.  He invented a concept called Therbligs (Gilbreth spelled backwards, almost.)  I wish I could quote the exact passage, but my copy is still in a box in my living room, but here’s what I remember:

A therblig is a unit of action.  So, if you are combing your hair, the first therblig is to locate the comb, the second is to move your hand to the comb, the third is to grasp the comb, the fourth is to lift the comb, etc.  Obsessing over the distance between tools and color-coding items helped me a lot when I worked at Starbucks.  I think I’ve mellowed a bit, because I no longer get so frustrated when things aren’t organized efficiently, or traffic doesn’t behave the way it should.  Still, having read Cheaper by the Dozen when I was young had a strong influence over my behavior well into my 20s.

This worries me because I wonder how other books have influenced me in ways I haven’t noticed.  I read Jane Eyre recently, and it struck me how awkward Mr. Rochester is.  I wasn’t able to judge his awkwardness when I was young, so did that set me up to respond to awkwardness as normal and normal social cues as odd?  I’ll probably never know.

Back to my tea.