Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Reading Tolkien

March 25 is Tolkien Reading Day, a day dedicated to reading the works of the genius that is J.R.R. Tolkien. As I thought back on my previous readings of the epic adventure Lord of the Rings and, of course, my favorite Tolkien book, The Hobbit, I realized that everything I need to know in life, I learned from reading Tolkien.


It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door…You step into the road and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. (The Fellowship of the Ring)—Any day can become an adventure. Continue reading

I.T. guys talk Tolkien…or do they?

“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something.” Chapter 4, The Hobbit

This Sunday, March 25th is the Tolkien Society’s designated Tolkien Reading Day. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the release of the beloved and award-winning novel, The Hobbit.

It goes without saying that a lot of HPB employees are huge Tolkien fans. Since I didn’t experience The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s other works until I was well into my 20’s, I thought perhaps some of my co-workers might have childhood memories filled with adventure stemming from Tolkien’s writings.

…and this is where this blog post begins to fall-apart. This is a true email conversation that spanned about 8 minutes total time one Tuesday afternoon. I asked my “lunch-bunch” friends in I.T. a simple question:

Me: “Do you know if anyone down there is a big-big-big Tolkien fan (or are any of you)? We have “Tolkien Reading Day” later this month and I need a blog contributor.

[If I would have listened carefully, I would have heard keyboard clicking screech to a halt and a heavy sigh on the other end of the building]

DJ: Just because we work in I.T. or have goatees does not mean we automatically nerd out about Tolkien.  Having said all that, I have read all the books and own all the movies. I have not read the entire Silmarillion, so I would not say I am a big big big fan.

RT: I can’t believe you haven’t read all of the Silmarillion. When I have to walk into Mordor I don’t know if I can have you in my fellowship.

DJ: Well if you had read any of the Silmarillion then you would also know that it would not really prepare you to face Mordor in its current state. 

JT: I haven’t been so insulted since Marvel replaced Brian Bendis with Andy Diggle on Daredevil.  ANDY DIGGLE!  So that should tell you something. I mean, why not just give it to Dan Slott?!?

DJ: Dan Slott can’t draw feet. This is known. You might as well roll a troll priest when undead is clearly the better option*.

*WoW patches circa 2009 and prior only.

ME: Decide on something. Maybe a top 5 list …something on The Hobbit (75th anniversary). If I get nothing, I am just submitting this conversation.

JT: I think you mean Rob Liefeld, but I take your point.  He’s as useless as a hunter with STR attributes on his weapon!*

*so much funnier when read in the voice I’m using in my head.

DJ: Just make a “Scumbag Bilbo” meme where it has him taking Gollum’s “Precious” like a chump and call it a day.

I admit I have no idea who Dan Slott is, and don’t really care.  It was just my segue way into pretentious “min-maxer” WoW comment.

RT: Yawn, this conversation is like watching two healers duel.

ME: The blog post is practically writing itself.

DT: Can we go out for ice cream now?

DJ:  Geez, Dave, just sit back and enjoy the ride.   Pretend you are Pippin or Merry and just chill the heck out while everyone else carries water for you.

DT: That pretty much describes most of my days.

DJ: I’m sure you would have been all for giving Tom Bombadil the one ring for safe keeping, wouldn’t you?

RT: Nerd.”

And then they all decided to go across the street for a smoothie.

There you have it folks. Have an extra breakfast today and crack open a Tolkien classic this fine reading day!

— Becky

J.K. Rowling + the Nobel Prize Debate

A couple weeks ago Jeff O’Neal of Book Riot wrote a provocative article which started the discussion about J.K. Rowling as a writer deserving of the title Nobel Laureate. It has gotten the literary community stirring with quite a debate.

The Nobel prize often brings underdogs of literature into the limelight much in the same way that Sundance calls our attention to often under-rated, independent films. Alfred Nobel intended for this prestigious award to recognize “literary excellence.” But who says literary excellence can’t take the form of mass-market fiction? If J.R.R. Tolkien couldn’t receive the award after being nominated by C.S. Lewis in 1961, then who? Setting aside artistic and subjective elements, shouldn’t literature which is beloved by millions of readers across many generations stand a chance?

At HPB, we applaud authors who spark imaginations and ignite a passion for reading. So while the bar may be set a little too high for J.K. Rowling to win a Nobel prize for her contribution to literature, we believe she deserves our praise. After all, she’s inspired a new generation of readers. And writers, too. And the characters she created in her books will live on for generations to come.

What do you think? What author do you think deserves the Nobel Prize for Literature?

Meredith is Associate Creative Director at Half Price Books Corporate.
You can follow her on Twitter at @msquare21.

Hobbit Day: 74 Years of Hobbits

Today is Hobbit Day, as a part of Tolkien Week! According to The One Ring, yesterday marked the 74th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit. On this day in 1937, publishers Allen & Unwin printed just 1,500 copies, which sold out by December. Since then, Bilbo’s tale of defeating the dragon Smaug and reclaiming the birthright of Thorin has sold up to 100 million copies in 40 different languages.

The One Ring summed up The Hobbit’s importance nicely:

“Numbers alone can’t tell its importance and influence on the fantasy genre. In 1937, heroic fantasy tales involving dwarves and elves barely existed. Taking inspiration from his love of fairy tales and sagas, and the work of proto-fantasists such as William Morris, Tolkien inadvertently developed and legitimised an entire genre of writing.

For, without the famous line ‘In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit,’ there would almost certainly be no Lord of the Rings.

And where would epic fantasy be without Lord of the Rings?

So raise a glass and toast The Hobbit. A most excellent and audacious book. To twist a phrase written by the professor himself: May the binding of its pages never fall out.”

Very well said. To get you in the spirit of the day, try on a hobbit name for size. Mine is Sancho Boffin of Needlehole. Or, whip up hobbit-style recipies for First Breakfast, Second Breakfast and Elevensies. Of course, all Tolkien fans and moviegoers – myself included – are very excited about the upcoming movie The Hobbit. Fellow film buffs will want to check out Peter Jackson’s video diary with behind-the-scenes interviews about the making of the new movie. If you don’t have the extended edition on DVD + Blu-Ray like me, be sure to tune in for The Lord of the Rings movie marathon on TV this weekend. 

Nevermind about no talking during the feature presentation. Enjoy your second breakfast, quote your favorite lines, have a good laugh with friends and clank the half pints of beer all you want. After all, it’s Hobbit Day! Cheers! — Jim

From The Buy Guy: Rare, Signed “Lord of the Rings” Boxed Set

Hi, Everyone! This is the Buy Guy, Steve Leach, reporting from the Buy Counter. Today I have exciting news! Kerry West, Store Manager of the Mentor, Ohio location, had something very rare and exciting cross her Buy Counter recently.

“We recently acquired a three-volume ‘Lord of the Rings’ in slipcase, each signed by J.R.R. Tolkien. We bought it from a woman who inherited it from her grandfather.  It is a second American edition; all three books are signed, and the first volume has an inscription.  The condition is not great, but the appearance of signed Tolkien items is so rare that the item’s value is great.” 

  This inscription (above right)reads, “Allen, 4000 m (miles) is a long way to travel for my dubious company.” J.R.R. Tolkien. It is dated December 15, 1966.

A few different factors were evaluated when determining the value of this Lord of the Rings boxed set. Very few American editions were signed. According to a website that specializes in Tolkien, another boxed set sold for $9,000 with only the first volume signed. The description noted that Tolkien very rarely wrote anything other than his name. Other signed copies of any individual books (not as a boxed set) start at $7,500. Because this boxed set includes signatures on all three books plus a personalized inscription on the first volume, Kerry and Steve are estimating the value at $25,000-30,000.

Contact Kerry at 042mgr@halfpricebooks.com if you are interested!

Happy Buying & Selling!

— Steve


(Note: Thanks to our Sales Inventory Manager Kim Freeman for providing these pictures!)