• The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien, read by Rob Inglis — The only book I completed reading in December (I was also reading Les Misérables and Adam Bede), it is the last book of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This book confirmed Gollum as my favorite character. The story was always more interesting when he was present. The climax was truly dramatic. The book carried on rather too long afterwards, though I’m not sure what should have been cut. The stuff about Aragorn healing people was bizarre, but in keeping with his characterization and the style of the story. I’m not sure all of the appendices were included on the audiobook, but a lot of extra information was contained in them. I’m afraid I had trouble keeping track of who everyone was throughout all the added details.
• Adam Bede, by George Eliot — The first full-length novel by George Eliot (pen name of Mary Ann Evans). “Sophie” of A Reasonable Quantity of Butter and I have begun the Eliot Project, where we read through all of Eliot’s novels in chronological order and write our thoughts on them. Adam Bede was very good, confirming George Eliot as one of my favorite novelists.
• Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, a fully dramatized recording by Arkangel, 2003 — Deservedly one of the most famous plays by the immortal Bard. Additionally, the Arkangel Complete Shakespeare series is, for the most part, very well done. They are the best audio recordings of Shakespeare’s plays that I’ve come across.
• Child Star, by Shirley Temple Black — An autobiography which covers the author’s life to the birth of her last child, ending before her career of government service. It contains many interesting anecdotes about Shirley Temple’s acting career. It is clear that she truly enjoyed her work. Mrs. Black writes in a simple, unaffected style, though on occasion I was unclear whether she was writing about an actual incident or something from one of her movies. Also, I think she included too much information from time to time. She seems to have been a positive person. Though not varnishing the bad things in her life, she deals with them without bitterness. My favorite line from the book comes in chapter 3 when she details the bankruptcy of her first director, Jack Hays:
“From the day I learned to walk, almost half my life had been working in movies. … but unfortunately my employer was now bankrupt. I was out of a job with no future in sight, and still too young to get into kindergarten. All in all, it was a tough spot for any five-year-old.”
Painting is “An Old Woman Reading” (1655) by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (1606-69).