I finished reading The Silmarillion last night. For the first time! And it only took me about three months!
Why so long? Because I don’t have a lot of free time to read, and because I approached it thusly:
1. Read the Wikipedia entry for the section (e.g., Ainulindalë) or sub-section (e.g., Húrin’s kids) I was about to read.
2. Read a chapter.
3. Listen to the Silmarillion Seminar episode about that chapter.
4. Re-read the chapter.
5. Repeat steps 2–4 until a new major sub-/section, then GOTO step 1.
I have tried many times over the course of my life to read it and failed every time. Whether it’s my fault or the text’s, I’m not going to venture. But I did finally realize that just sitting down to read it wasn’t working for me. So, I went into English major mode and approached it like a subject of study instead of light reading.
Now I feel like I understand the text, have a better appreciation for Tolkien as a writer and creator, and finally understand why people care about elves. I also feel like I’m in a good position to re-read The Silmarillion in years to come and actually gain greater insights each time.
I also look forward to re-reading The Hobbit and LOTR and finally understanding all of the references. I plan to adopt the same approach. I want to earn my Tolkien merit badge!
I want to mention that it was Jeff La Sala’s “Silmarillion Primer” series on TOR.com that got me started on this project.
Unfortunately, he’s producing installments too slowly for a reasonable read-along.
That’s what sent me on a journey that led to Corey Olsen, the Tolkien Professor. I cannot recommend his seminar podcast enough. Olsen — an actual professor of medieval lit — has an incredibly deep knowledge of Tolkien, and his insights (and those of the seminar participants) are fantastic. I would not have made it through the text without him.
Next up, I’m going to take a bit of a break and read Carpenter’s biography of Tolkien, and then it’s on to LOTR — which is also the next selection for The Tabletop Roleplayer’s Book Club community here on G+. Following along with them seems like an added incentive.