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My Reading Life, by Pat Conroy

Vista Book Group: My Reading Life

The Vista Book Group met in February to discuss My Reading Life by Pat Conroy as part of the One Book, One Columbia initiative. The discussion group that night was about evenly divided among those who were great fans of Mr. Conroy’s work and those who had never really read his work or even seen the films based on his books. We rated the book about 4 out of 5 stars; one person gave it 3 stars because it wasn’t long enough!

My Reading Life is Pat Conroy’s collection of tales on what books, language, and reading mean to him. Mr. Conroy is a voracious reader who has read what seems to be just about everything. It is clear from the stories contained in this book that he loves language and that he is always on the search for interesting-sounding words; in fact, you may need to keep a dictionary at hand while reading this book to look up all of the interesting-sounding but somewhat obscure words that you come across.

This book made for a great discussion for a variety of reasons. Many of Mr. Conroy’s anecdotes had personal meaning for book group members, for instance, if you grew up as a military brat, if you had an abusive home life, once a year you take down that quintessential Southern novel, Gone With the Wind, and read it again, or if you had that special someone that helped instill in you a love of reading and education. In addition to how we could relate Mr. Conroy’s stories to our own lives, we were also able to talk about the books that had meaning for us.

My Reading Life would make a great discussion book for any book club. And lucky for you, we have three circulating book club sets that can be checked out from Richland Library! So read, discuss, and think about what books have made up your reading life.

Below is a list of some of Pat Conroy’s other nonfiction books and some of the books that make up a portion of the reading lives of Vista Book Group members:


Amazon Says: The island is nearly deserted, haunting, beautiful. Across a slip of ocean lies South Carolina. But for the handful of families on Yamacraw island, America is a world away. Fo more...
Amazon Says: The island is nearly deserted, haunting, beautiful. Across a slip of ocean lies South Carolina. But for the handful of families on Yamacraw island, America is a world away. For years the people here lived proudly from the sea, but now its waters are not safe. Waste from industry threatens their very existence–unless, somehow, they can learn a new life. But they will learn nothing without someone to teach them, and their school has no teacher. Here is PAT CONROY’S extraordinary drama based on his own experience–the true story of a man who gave a year of his life to an island and the new life its people gave him. less...
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Amazon Says: NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Pat Conroy, one of America’s premier novelists, has penned a deeply affecting coming-of-age memoir about family, love, loss, basketball—and life more...
Amazon Says: NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Pat Conroy, one of America’s premier novelists, has penned a deeply affecting coming-of-age memoir about family, love, loss, basketball—and life itself. During one unforgettable season as a Citadel cadet, Conroy becomes part of a basketball team that is ultimately destined to fail. And yet for a military kid who grew up on the move, the Bulldogs provide a sanctuary from the cold, abrasive father who dominates his life—and a crucible for becoming his own man. With all the drama and incandescence of his bestselling fiction, Conroy re-creates his pivotal senior year as captain of the Citadel Bulldogs. He chronicles the highs and lows of that fateful 1966–67 season, his tough disciplinarian coach, the joys of winning, and the hard-won lessons of losing. Most of all, he recounts how a group of boys came together as a team, playing a sport that would become a metaphor for a man whose spirit could never be defeated. Look for special features inside. Join the Circle for author chats and more. RandomHouseReadersCircle.com less...
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The Boo by Pat Conroy
Chantal W. Says: Cataloged as a biography.
Amazon Says:  Bestselling author Pat Conroy’s debut novel?now available as an ebookA powerful story of a man’s undoing at the hands of his greatest admirer At the South more...
Amazon Says:  Bestselling author Pat Conroy’s debut novel?now available as an ebookA powerful story of a man’s undoing at the hands of his greatest admirer At the South Carolina military academy the Citadel, amid the tumult of the 1960s, Cadet Peter Cates is an anomaly. He is a gifted writer, a talented basketball player, and a good student, but his outward successes do little to impress his abusive father. Instead, Cates is mentored by Lt. Colonel Courvoisie, an imposing and inspiring man whom the cadets have nicknamed “the Boo.” But when Cates writes a searing letter condemning the school’s meek response to a stabbing on campus, his bond with the Boo will be threatened as both are forced to confront what it means to be a man of honor. Set against the richly drawn military school backdrop that Conroy would return to in his bestseller The Lords of Discipline, The Boo is an unforgettable story of duty, loyalty, and standing up for what is right in the face of overwhelming circumstances.  less...
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My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
Amazon Says: Bestselling author Pat Conroy acknowledges the books that have shaped him and celebrates the profound effect reading has had on his life. Pat Conroy, the beloved Amer more...
Amazon Says: Bestselling author Pat Conroy acknowledges the books that have shaped him and celebrates the profound effect reading has had on his life. Pat Conroy, the beloved American storyteller, is a voracious reader. Starting as a childhood passion that bloomed into a life-long companion, reading has been Conroy’s portal to the world, both to the farthest corners of the globe and to the deepest chambers of the human soul. His interests range widely, from Milton to Tolkien, Philip Roth to Thucydides, encompassing poetry, history, philosophy, and any mesmerizing tale of his native South. He has for years kept notebooks in which he records words and expressions, over time creating a vast reservoir of playful turns of phrase, dazzling flashes of description, and snippets of delightful sound, all just for his love of language. But for Conroy reading is not simply a pleasure to be enjoyed in off-hours or a source of inspiration for his own writing. It would hardly be an exaggeration to claim that reading has saved his life, and if not his life then surely his sanity.   In My Reading Life, Conroy revisits a life of reading through an array of wonderful and often surprising anecdotes: sharing the pleasures of the local library’s vast cache with his mother when he was a boy, recounting his decades-long relationship with the English teacher who pointed him onto the path of letters, and describing a profoundly influential period he spent  in Paris, as well as reflecting on other pivotal people, places, and experiences. His story is a moving and personal one, girded by wisdom and an undeniable honesty. Anyone who not only enjoys the pleasures of reading but also believes in the power of books to shape a life will find here the greatest defense of that credo. less...
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Amazon Says: In this powerful and intimate memoir, the beloved bestselling author of The Prince of Tides and his father, the inspiration for The Great Santini, find some common ground a more...
Amazon Says: In this powerful and intimate memoir, the beloved bestselling author of The Prince of Tides and his father, the inspiration for The Great Santini, find some common ground at long last. Pat Conroy’s father, Donald Patrick Conroy, was a towering figure in his son’s life. The Marine Corps fighter pilot was often brutal, cruel, and violent; as Pat says, “I hated my father long before I knew there was an English word for ‘hate.’” As the oldest of seven children who were dragged from military base to military base across the South, Pat bore witness to the toll his father’s behavior took on his siblings, and especially on his mother, Peg. She was Pat’s lifeline to a better world—that of books and culture. But eventually, despite repeated confrontations with his father, Pat managed to claw his way toward a life he could have only imagined as a child.      Pat’s great success as a writer has always been intimately linked with the exploration of his family history. While the publication of The Great Santini brought Pat much acclaim, the rift it caused with his father brought even more attention. Their long-simmering conflict burst into the open, fracturing an already battered family. But as Pat tenderly chronicles here, even the oldest of wounds can heal. In the final years of Don Conroy’s life, he and his son reached a rapprochement of sorts. Quite unexpectedly, the Santini who had freely doled out physical abuse to his wife and children refocused his ire on those who had turned on Pat over the years. He defended his son’s honor.      The Death of Santini is at once a heart-wrenching account of personal and family struggle and a poignant lesson in how the ties of blood can both strangle and offer succor. It is an act of reckoning, an exorcism of demons, but one whose ultimate conclusion is that love can soften even the meanest of men, lending significance to one of the most-often quoted lines from Pat’s bestselling novel The Prince of Tides: “In families there are no crimes beyond forgiveness.” less...
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Amazon Says: “This book is the story of my life as it relates to the subject of food. It is my autobiography in food and meals and restaurants and countries far and near. Let me take you more...
Amazon Says: “This book is the story of my life as it relates to the subject of food. It is my autobiography in food and meals and restaurants and countries far and near. Let me take you to a restaurant on the Left Bank of Paris that I found when writing The Lords of Discipline. There are meals I ate in Rome while writing The Prince of Tides that ache in my memory when I resurrect them. There is a shrimp dish I ate in an elegant English restaurant, where Cuban cigars were passed out to all the gentlemen in the room after dinner, that I can taste on my palate as I write this. There is barbecue and its variations in the South, and the subject is a holy one to me. I write of truffles in the Dordogne Valley in France, cilantro in Bangkok, catfish in Alabama, scuppernong in South Carolina, Chinese food from my years in San Francisco, and white asparagus from the first meal my agent took me to in New York City. Let me tell you about the fabulous things I have eaten in my life, the story of the food I have encountered along the way. . . ”America’s favorite storyteller, Pat Conroy, is back with a unique cookbook that only he could conceive. Delighting us with tales of his passion for cooking and good food and the people, places, and great meals he has experienced, Conroy mixes them together with mouthwatering recipes from the Deep South and the world beyond. It all started thirty years ago with a chance purchase of The Escoffier Cookbook, an unlikely and daunting introduction for the beginner. But Conroy was more than up to the task. He set out with unwavering determination to learn the basics of French cooking—stocks and dough—and moved swiftly on to veal demi-glace and pâte brisée. With the help of his culinary accomplice, Suzanne Williamson Pollak, Conroy mastered the dishes of his beloved South as well as the cuisine he has savored in places as far away from home as Paris, Rome, and San Francisco. Each chapter opens with a story told with the inimitable brio of the author. We see Conroy in New Orleans celebrating his triumphant novel The Prince of Tides at a new restaurant where there is a contretemps with its hardworking young owner/chef—years later he discovered the earnest young chef was none other than Emeril Lagasse; we accompany Pat and his wife on their honeymoon in Italy and wander with him, wonderstruck, through the markets of Umbria and Rome; we learn how a dinner with his fighter-pilot father was preceded by the Great Santini himself acting out a perilous night flight that would become the last chapters of one of his son’s most beloved novels. These tales and more are followed by corresponding recipes—from Breakfast Shrimp and Grits and Sweet Potato Rolls to Pappardelle with Prosciutto and Chestnuts and Beefsteak Florentine to Peppered Peaches and Creme Brulee. A master storyteller and passionate cook, Conroy believes that “A recipe is a story that ends with a good meal.” less...
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Chantal W. Says: A favorite of many with a spunky heroine. Often counted as one of the most romantic books of all time.
Amazon Says: Along with the plays of William Shakespeare and the works of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen’s novels are among the most beloved books of Western literature. Pride and more...
Amazon Says: Along with the plays of William Shakespeare and the works of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen’s novels are among the most beloved books of Western literature. Pride and Prejudice (1813) was in Austen’s lifetime her most popular novel, and it was the author’s personal favorite. Adapted many times to the screen and stage, and the inspiration for numerous imitations, it remains today her most widely read book. Now, in this beautifully illustrated and annotated edition, distinguished scholar Patricia Meyer Spacks instructs the reader in a larger appreciation of the novel’s enduring pleasures and provides analysis of Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, Lady Catherine, and all the characters who inhabit the world of Pride and Prejudice. This edition will be treasured by specialists and first-time readers, and especially by devoted Austen fans who think of themselves as Friends of Jane. In her Introduction, Spacks considers Austen’s life and career, the continuing appeal of Pride and Prejudice, and its power as a stimulus for fantasy (Maureen Dowd, writing in The New York Times, can hold forth at length on Obama as a Darcy-figure, knowing full well her readers will “understand that she wished to suggest glamour and sexiness”). Her Introduction also explores the value and art of literary annotation. In her running commentary on the novel, she provides notes on literary and historical contexts, allusions, and language likely to cause difficulty to modern readers. She offers interpretation and analysis, always with the wisdom, humor, and light touch of an experienced and sensitive teacher. less...
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Chantal W. Says: This is the first in the series, but they are all great. For the young and the young at heart.
Amazon Says: What did Harry Potter know about magic? He was stuck with the decidedly un-magical Dursleys, who hated him. He slept in a closet and ate their leftovers. But an owl messenger more...
Amazon Says: What did Harry Potter know about magic? He was stuck with the decidedly un-magical Dursleys, who hated him. He slept in a closet and ate their leftovers. But an owl messenger changes all that, with an invitation to attend the Hogwarts School for Wizards and Witches, where it turns out Harry is already famous.. . . Full color. less...
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War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Chantal W. Says: Included in Conroy's and a Vista Book Group member's reading lives.
Amazon Says: Details the invasion of Russia by Napoleon and his army. more...
Amazon Says: Details the invasion of Russia by Napoleon and his army. less...
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Amazon Says: First published by Viking in 1967, The Outsiders immediately resonated with young adults. This groundbreaking novel was like nothing else out there?it was honest and gritty, a more...
Amazon Says: First published by Viking in 1967, The Outsiders immediately resonated with young adults. This groundbreaking novel was like nothing else out there?it was honest and gritty, and was a deeply sympathetic portrayal of Ponyboy, a young man who finds himself on the outside of regular society. Forty years later, with over thirteen million copies sold, the story is as fresh and powerful to teenagers today as it ever was. Celebrate the fortieth anniversary of a classic with this stunning edition, featuring the original cover. less...
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The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Chantal W. Says: Included in Conroy's and a Vista Book Group member's reading lives.
Amazon Says: Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger's New Yorker stories--particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme With Love and S more...
Amazon Says: Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger's New Yorker stories--particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme With Love and Squalor--will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is full of children. The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep. less...
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Chantal W. Says: A favorite of a book group member and Pat Conroy's mother.
Amazon Says: Since its original publication in 1936, Gone With the Wind—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the bestselling novels of all time—has been heralded by readers everywhe more...
Amazon Says: Since its original publication in 1936, Gone With the Wind—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the bestselling novels of all time—has been heralded by readers everywhere as The Great American Novel. Widely considered The Great American Novel, and often remembered for its epic film version, Gone With the Wind explores the depth of human passions with an intensity as bold as its setting in the red hills of Georgia. A superb piece of storytelling, it vividly depicts the drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction. This is the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, manipulative daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War forever change her way of life. A sweeping story of tangled passion and courage, in the pages of Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell brings to life the unforgettable characters that have captured readers for over seventy years. less...
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Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Amazon Says: Charlotte Brontë’s impassioned novel is the love story of Jane Eyre, a plain yet spirited governess, and her employer, the arrogant, brooding Mr. Rochester. Publishe more...
Amazon Says: Charlotte Brontë’s impassioned novel is the love story of Jane Eyre, a plain yet spirited governess, and her employer, the arrogant, brooding Mr. Rochester. Published in 1847 under the pseudonym Currer Bell, the book heralded a new kind of heroine—one whose virtuous integrity, keen intellect, and tireless perseverance broke through class barriers to win equal stature with the man she loved. Hailed by William Makepeace Thackeray as “the masterwork of a great genius,” Jane Eyre is still regarded, over a century later, as one of the finest novels in English literature. less...
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Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
Amazon Says:   A panoramic satire of English society during the Napoleonic Wars, Vanity Fair is William Makepeace Thackeray’s masterpiece. At its center is one of the most unforgettabl more...
Amazon Says:   A panoramic satire of English society during the Napoleonic Wars, Vanity Fair is William Makepeace Thackeray’s masterpiece. At its center is one of the most unforgettable characters in nineteenth-century literature: the enthralling Becky Sharp, a charmingly ruthless social climber who is determined to leave behind her humble origins, no matter the cost. Her more gentle friend Amelia, by contrast, only cares for Captain George Osborne, despite his selfishness and her family’s disapproval. As both women move within the flamboyant milieu of Regency England, the political turmoil of the era is matched by the scheming Becky’s sensational rise—and its unforeseen aftermath. Based in part upon Thackeray’s own love for the wife of a friend, Vanity Fair portrays the hypocrisy and corruption of high society and the dangers of unrestrained ambition with epic brilliance and scathing wit. With an introduction by Catherine Peters. (Book Jacket Status: Jacketed) less...
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Amazon Says: New more...
Amazon Says: New less...
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The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
Amazon Says: First published in 1941, Walter Farley's best-selling novel for young readers is the triumphant tale of a boy and a wild horse. From Alec Ramsay and the Black's first meeting more...
Amazon Says: First published in 1941, Walter Farley's best-selling novel for young readers is the triumphant tale of a boy and a wild horse. From Alec Ramsay and the Black's first meeting on an ill-fated ship to their adventures on a desert island and their eventual rescue, this beloved story will hold the rapt attention of readers new and old. less...
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Amazon Says: Fifty years after its original publication, Catch-22 remains a cornerstone of American literature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—books of all time. In recent more...
Amazon Says: Fifty years after its original publication, Catch-22 remains a cornerstone of American literature and one of the funniest—and most celebrated—books of all time. In recent years it has been named to “best novels” lists by Time, Newsweek, the Modern Library, and the London Observer. Set in Italy during World War II, this is the story of the incomparable, malingering bombardier, Yossarian, a hero who is furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. But his real problem is not the enemy—it is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Yet if Yossarian makes any attempt to excuse himself from the perilous missions he’s assigned, he’ll be in violation of Catch-22, a hilariously sinister bureaucratic rule: a man is considered insane if he willingly continues to fly dangerous combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore ineligible to be relieved. This fiftieth-anniversary edition commemorates Joseph Heller’s masterpiece with a new introduction by Christopher Buckley; a wealth of critical essays and reviews by Norman Mailer, Alfred Kazin, Anthony Burgess, and others; rare papers and photos from Joseph Heller’s personal archive; and much more. Here, at last, is the definitive edition of a classic of world literature. less...
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One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Amazon Says: One of the most influential literary works of our time, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a dazzling and original achievement by the masterful Gabriel García Márquez, winner more...
Amazon Says: One of the most influential literary works of our time, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a dazzling and original achievement by the masterful Gabriel García Márquez, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.One Hundred Years of Solitude tells the story of the rise and fall, birth and death of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Inventive, amusing, magnetic, sad, and alive with unforgettable men and women -- brimming with truth, compassion, and a lyrical magic that strikes the soul -- this novel is a masterpiece in the art of fiction. less...
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Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Amazon Says: The illustrations for this series were created by Scott McKowen, who, with his wife Christina Poddubiuk, operates Punch & Judy Inc., a company specializing in design and illus more...
Amazon Says: The illustrations for this series were created by Scott McKowen, who, with his wife Christina Poddubiuk, operates Punch & Judy Inc., a company specializing in design and illustration for theater and performing arts. Their projects often involve research into the visual aspects of historical settings and characters. Christina is a theater set and costume designer and contributed advice on the period clothing for the illustrations. Scott created these drawings in scratchboard ­ an engraving medium which evokes the look of popular art from the period of these stories. Scratchboard is an illustration board with a specifically prepared surface of hard white chalk. A thin layer of black ink is rolled over the surface, and lines are drawn by hand with a sharp knife by scraping through the ink layer to expose the white surface underneath. The finished drawings are then scanned and the color is added digitally. One thing’s for certain, no house that Anne’s in will ever be dull.” That’s what Marilla Cuthbert says about Anne, the lively red-headed orphan she and her brother Matthew adopt. For decades, girls have agreed, eagerly reading every book in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s series that chronicles Anne’s coming of age. less...
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Amazon Says: Published for the first time as Ernest Hemingway intended, one of the great writer’s most beloved and enduring works: his classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s. Publi more...
Amazon Says: Published for the first time as Ernest Hemingway intended, one of the great writer’s most beloved and enduring works: his classic memoir of Paris in the 1920s. Published  posthumously  in  1964,A  Moveable  Feast remains  one  of  Ernest  Hemingway’s  most  beloved works.   Since   Hemingway’s   personal   papers   were released  in  1979,  scholars  have  examined  and  debated  the changes made to the text before publication. Now, this spe- cial restored edition presents the original manuscript as the author intended it to be published. Featuring a personal Foreword by Patrick Hemingway, Ernest’s sole surviving son, and an Introduction by the editor and grandson of the author, Sean Hemingway, this new edi- tion also includes a number of unfinished, never-before-pub- lished Paris sketches revealing experiences that Hemingway had with his son, Jack, and his first wife Hadley. Also included are irreverent portraits of other literary luminaries, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ford Maddox Ford, and insightful recollections of Hemingway’s own early experiments with his craft. Sure to excite critics and readers alike, the restored edition of A Moveable Feast brilliantly evokes the exuberant mood of Paris after World War I and the unbridled creativity and unquenchable enthusiasm that Hemingway himself epitomized.   less...
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The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Chantal W. Says: A favorite of a book group member and check out Chapter 7 of My Reading Life.
Amazon Says: THE GREATEST FANTASY EPIC OF OUR TIME Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit who wanted to be left alone in quiet comfort. But the wizard Gandalf came along with a band of homeles more...
Amazon Says: THE GREATEST FANTASY EPIC OF OUR TIME Bilbo Baggins was a hobbit who wanted to be left alone in quiet comfort. But the wizard Gandalf came along with a band of homeless dwarves. Soon Bilbo was drawn into their quest, facing evil orcs, savage wolves, giant spiders, and worse unknown dangers. Finally, it was Bilbo–alone and unaided–who had to confront the great dragon Smaug, the terror of an entire countryside . . . This stirring adventure fantasy begins the tale of the hobbits that was continued by J.R.R. Tolkien in his bestselling epic The Lord of the Rings. less...
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