Time Magazine Top 100 Novels
Book 53: The Lord of The Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien
This is a series of reflections reading through Time Magazine’s top 100 novels as selected by Lev Grossman and Richard Lacayo published since 1923 (when Time magazine was founded). For me this is an attempt to broaden my exposure to authors I may not encounter otherwise, especially as a person who was not a liberal arts major in college. Time’s list is alphabetical, so I decided to read through in a random order, and I plan to write a short reflection on each novel.
Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite books. I first read this work as a teenager and I return and read through it every couple of years. I continue to be amazed at the depth of the story and how I continue to be enriched by each reading. Tolkien is a master at developing a complex world complete with complex cultures, languages, and histories which form the backdrop for the incredible journey of Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and Boromir. The work is a classical battle between good and evil on an epic stage and throughout the work spins a defiant hope in the midst of incredible odds.
The test of any great book is how it holds up after multiple readings. Even after walking the paths with the characters many times and knowing how the journey unfolds it still remains a phenomenal journey which continues to reveal new aspects each time. The battle scenes at Helms Deep and Minas Tirith are some of the most moving fantasy battle scenes I’ve read both in their reserve in the details of the battle and their stirring defiant language that lets the reader ride with Rohirrim or stand against the darkness or Mordor.
This is a hopeful epic of heroic perseverance with good ultimately triumphing over evil. After reading several nihilistic or fatalistic works on this list that narrate the ending of an age it was enjoyable to revisit this rich story where the protagonists come through the darkness and emerge into the new age they helped form. Even though the main protagonist, Frodo, comes out permanently scarred and unable to enjoy the homecoming at the end of the work he leaves behind a hopeful new beginning for his beloved Shire, a world safe under the reign of Aragorn, and a place where Sam can raise his new family and tell the stories of the fellowship to new generation.