The One

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Cover art by Alan Lee

A couple weeks ago, Emily wrote a post about a popular Tumblr trend of listing your Top 10 Favorite Books, or the Top 10 Books That Changed Your Life, or something along those lines. As Emily noted, deciding which ten books to put on this list is far from easy. There are a lot good books to choose from, and throughout the years so many books have influenced me in a number of different ways. But the difficulty in choosing only applies to books #2-10. The top place on any possible list of ten books will always be the same 100% of the time without even the smallest doubt: The Lord of the Rings.

Those who know me are well aware of my undying love for J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic The Lord of the Rings. I made my obsession with Tolkien and his work pretty obvious in elementary school, middle school, high school, and college via large posters taped on my wall, the excessive number of copies that I own, dressing up as Eowyn for Halloween, how often I quoted the movies during the day, and many other eccentric habits of mine that stem from my deep love of the three books that make up Tolkien’s immortal trilogy. So whether I’m making a list of my ten favorite books or the ten books that changed my life, The Lord of the Rings is always number one. This is partly because I love the story and the characters, partly because I was insanely obsessed with the books and the movies as a pre-teen, and partly because it is the best piece of fiction ever to come out of the Western world. But this book’s importance to me goes far beyond my own measly opinion that it is the best ever.

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J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings didn’t just influence me. It didn’t just inspire me. In a sense, the books created the person I am today. That sounds cheesy, but I don’t mean that it turned me into someone who wore a hobbit cloak to school and learned to speak Elvish. I mean that it awoke the creator inside of me, an aspect of myself that I consider to be of the upmost importance to my very being. Through Emily’s list of books, she’ll explain how each one influenced her as a writer, but The Lord of the Rings made me into a writer, or at least it turned me into a person who wanted to write. Not that I want to write like Tolkien or be Tolkien, but the man was the most powerful mythmaker I’ve ever read. He was the author who first gave me the idea that I could create worlds and characters and stories of my own. He didn’t just introduce me to mythmaking or story writing. To me, he practically invented the concept.

And it wasn’t just writing. Reading The Lord of the Rings was the thing that made me into an artist (albeit an average one). It inspired me to draw. I first started drawing in elementary school after I read Tolkien’s books and saw the movies. For some inexplicable reason, I felt not just the desire, but the need to draw these characters myself. And so I did. For years. And slowly I got better, and my interest in art expanded from there, but when I trace back my personal relationship with art, it starts with The Lord of the Rings.

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Three cheers for progress.

This also applies to music, though this is mostly due to the movies and the amazing score by Academy Award winning composer Howard Shore, but it ties directly to the books. Watching the movies, listening to the music, and reading about the cultures in Tolkien’s novels made me want to learn how to play the piano. I practically learned how to play the piano with the only goal of eventually learning how to play the music from Peter Jackson’s trilogy. But the stories in Tolkien’s work, along with the music he inspired in other artists like Enya, Chris Thile, and The Piano Guys, inspired me to try my own hand at composing. I’m not a spectacular composer, but it’s something I take great pleasure in that never would have happened if it hadn’t been for Tolkien and his writing.

Anyone who knows me is well aware that when I start talking about The Lord of the Rings I can’t stop, so I will leave my rambling about the characters and the themes for another time. For now, I will say that no other book was, is, or will be as important to me as Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. To me, it wasn’t just a good book. It wasn’t just good writing or interesting characters or a compelling story. It was an agent of creation, awakening the artist inside of me. It didn’t just teach me how to write; it made me want to write in the first place—and draw and play music and stop biting my nails (true story). Without this book I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I wouldn’t have the same dreams or goals. I wouldn’t be trying to make it as a writer. I wouldn’t be Clare. How many books are that powerful in a person’s life?

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My brothers being good sports and agreeing to dress up as three hobbits and a Nazgul for Halloween, with me as my favorite character Eowyn on the left.

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