56. (56) – The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

This is a beautiful, fun book.  I’m frankly not a huge fan of what I would label as “quest fantasy”, and this story really is a quest story.  But there is something unique about its structure.  It’s light.  It’s a series of adventures Bilbo finds himself in after his unexpected party.  When Bilbo finishes one obstacle, he finds himself in another (escape from Goblins to be eaten by wolves).  Despite all the obstacles, the stakes never really feel that high, but that’s perfect for the novel.  And the scene with Gollum stands out so much once you get to Lord of the Rings. 

There aren’t a ton of simple fantasy novels like this anymore.  Hell, when they decided to adapt this for a movie, they took all the lighthearted fun out and tried to turn it into a brooding, epic fantasy tale.  Maybe that’s why I despised the movies so much.  You’ll be seeing more of Tolkien soon, but I think we often underrate the brilliance of The Hobbit, which in many ways stands out as more unique than the great trilogy that follows it.   

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