Book Review of The Hobbit: Or, There and Back Again

The Hobbit: Or, There and Back Again
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Helpful Score: 4

J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" is perhaps one of the best-written books about the advantages of having parties. Written relatively early in his days as an Oxford don, "The Hobbit" is a strongly autobiographical novel about Tolkien and his status as a party man. His reputation as a party enthusiast was so secure, in fact, that Tolkien regularly was the host to impromptu parties as other Oxford and even Cambridge professors would appear uninvited at his home with the expectation of a good meal, some beer or wine, and rousing party games.

It is such experiences that form the basis for "The Hobbit." A sedentary fellow, much like Tolkien, Bilbo Baggins finds himself the unassuming host of a party of dwarves (more established professors) and the wizard Gandalf (the president of the university).

Wooed by promises of great wealth, and strongly encouraged by Gandalf, Bilbo joins the dwarves on a quest to regain their lost ancestral gold, an action that represents Tolkien's own quest for tenure, a position that, once secured, would guarantee him employment, a place to live, social status, and ultimately a healthy retirement package.

The story follows Tolkien-as-Bilbo's journey to the heart of the Lonely Mountain, where he must confront the dragon Smaug (the experience of teaching undergraduate and graduate students) and be swept up in the dramatic Battle of Five Armies, a situation not unlike peer review.

And in the course of the story, Bilbo acquires a magical Ring that secures his reputation with the dwarves, much as Tolkien's literary and liguistic prowess, developed through education, secured his position in academia.

A thoroughly fascinating and enchanting book, "The Hobbit" will have you wishing again and again for the opportunity to attend more parties and, even more, to host them yourself.