Last year at about this time, I had a lively chat with the director of my local Christian bookstore. We are friends, our husbands are in a men’s group together, and I wanted to try to do something fun for her store: I wanted to host a summer book club at Cathedral Book and Gift for young readers. My friend Ann thought it was a lovely idea. In no time at all, we had three summer book clubs scheduled and in the works. And they turned out to be a blast! We had so much fun that we scheduled several more clubs for the school year.
After each club, I posted book club guides on this site for anyone else who might want to do something fun in their community. You can find those guides here.
In January, I attended the Cathedral Book and Gift Christmas party and had to explain, in my introduction to the board of directors for this mission store, who I was and what we were doing. The weekend before, the kids and I had conducted a trial of Frodo Baggins. Some of the book club members, five of them, contested quite intelligently that Frodo is an unworthy character who is utterly replaceable. The rest of the club (about ten of them) argued passionately in his defense. I am not sure that we ever came to any resolution, but we had fun teasing out the meaning of things in The Lord of the Rings.
When I was done speaking, the grownups at the party clamored for their own book club; a hobbit club in particular. They wanted to read Tolkien and look for themes, subtext, and all of the things that make a classic really interesting. And so, the Cathedral Book and Gift Hobbit Club was born.
In our first meeting, we resolved to read two commentary books by Joseph Pearce as well as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Being Catholic, we wanted to read for dual purposes: our own enjoyment and a search for the spiritual themes hidden in the story. In a number of places online, I have seen Catholic bloggers and writers suggest that Tolkien tied his story to the Liturgical Calendar, so we also wanted to try to read these books on such a schedule as to hit certain places at certain times of the year.
Below is the schedule we will be using for the next year. It presumes that the reader is either already familiar with Tolkien’s Middle Earth or does not mind some spoilers. Because we want to see spiritual themes in our reading, we are reading the Joseph Pearce books in advance of our Tolkien reading in the hopes that Pearce will help us to have eyes that see.
We would like to read Pearce’s biography of Tolkien as well. We have not included it in the schedule because we do not want to overwhelm the book club participants. We plan to consider including Tolkien: Man and Myth at a later date. If you are curious about the biography, check out my review here.
I would love to encourage you to build a book club in your area!
Here is a PDF of the schedule: Hobbit Club Schedule
June 18, 2018: Bilbo’s Journey, by Joseph Pearce
July 15, 2018: The Hobbit, Chapters I-VI
August 19, 2018: The Hobbit, Chapters VIII-XIX
September 16, 2018: Frodo’s Journey, by Joseph Pearce
October 21. 2018: Fellowship – “Book One”
November 18, 2018: Fellowship – “Book Two” – CANCELLED DUE TO ILLNESS
December 16, 2018: Departure of Boromir – Treebeard
January 20, 2019: The White Rider – The Palantir
February 18, 2019: Taming of Smeagol – Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
March 17, 2019: Window on West – Choices of Samwise
April 28, 2019: Minas Tirith – Mount Doom
May 19, 2019: Field of Cormallen – The Grey Havens