Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Books 15 & 16 of 2016: On A Sea So Cold & Still by Daniel Elton Harmon & A Tolkien Bestiary by David Day

I don't often read non-fiction when I'm not studying for a course. I used to love reading history books as a child and ever so often I take a scan through the freebies on Amazon for the Kindle. On A Sea So Cold & Still by Daniel Elton Harmon was one of those.

This is a book about the Titanic which began life as an article for a magazine but the author got so involved in the research that he compiled a whole book full of information and speculation about the events surrounding the sinking of the ocean liner.

I became interested in Titanic at the age of about twelve when I saw the film in the cinema and there was Titanic stuff everywhere. I remember going onto the internet and finding a passenger manifest. I scanned the names picking out the people who were featured in the film, the people who were the same age as me, the people who were recorded as missing. I was fascinated. I also had the game 'Titanic: An Adventure Out of Time' which enabled you to go walking around the ship itself, so this ebook appealed to that twelve-year-old girl.

It was a really interesting book and I don't think that you needed to be particularly knowledgeable about the ship to be able to appreciate it. It's a fairly short read as well, so you could probably read it in just one sitting if you wanted.

I found it particularly sobering to read the real life accounts of the survivors and the people who lost loved ones. It took me back to looking at the passenger lists as a child and realising just how many people lost their lives. At the time it was the children who affected me most, knowing they were the same age as me, my friends, my little brother. Reading this I found it quite harrowing to hear about the other people as well.

I think that this book might have benefited from having some maps to show the locations where events occurred. There were a few points where I was trying to picture where various ships were which heard the Titanic's calls and I couldn't really work it out. I'd have liked to see something to help me visualise who or what was where.

I liked the way that this was written. In the beginning I felt that it was jumping around in time a little, but by the end of the book I had come to quite like it. I almost wish that it had been longer, though it was just the right length for what it covered, I think there is just so much to learn and speculate on about what happened.

I was so interested in what I learned in this book I decided that my next ebook would be another Titanic one I found on my Kindle.

But next on my To-Read list was a book-book, so I went with A Tolkien Bestiary by David Day. It's a sort of encyclopaedia of peoples, places and creatures in Tolkien's Middle-earth, arranged alphabetically and surrounded by beautiful illustrations by a selection of artists.

I inherited this copy from my Grampy some years ago. When he realised I was such a massive Tolkien fan he offloaded a bunch of his Tolkien (and Tolkien-related) books onto me. I've flicked through this book on numerous occasions but it wasn't until April that I actually sat down to read it.

I love that this is treated as a Middle-earth text, it's written using the 'authentic' sources, such as The Silmarillion, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I like that it ties into the Middle-earth mythology and adds to the realism that they're all discovered texts from some long-forgotten past.

It also takes into account details from The Adventures of Tom Bombadil. I wasn't too sure about this at first, but the Mewlips poem is one of my favourites (it's so dark and creepy) so I did like that they were included. I suppose that it's plausible that they could feature in the writings of Hobbits. Perhaps the Mewlips are linked to the dead faces in the water of the Dead Marshes.

The pictures in this book are gorgeous. It's worth getting and looking at purely for the pictures. That's pretty much just what I've done every other time I've skimmed through it. The colour ones are my favourites, especially of the places around Middle-earth.

It was also interesting to note that several of the black and white line drawings are reproduced in my Tolkien Colouring Book which I got for Christmas a few months before I read this.

It's a big hardback book though and not too portable. I took the dustjacket off because it's looking a little battered and I didn't want it to get more so, but I still wasn't really able to take it out and about with me. Since then I've acquired a leather-effect cover version which is closer to regular paperback size so in future rereads, I think I'll use that version.

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