It seems like a theme has developed on this blog over the last week revolving around my completion of Book One in the Stormlight Archive series. My intrigue for Brandon Sanderson’s work has blossomed into a full blown obsession and I simply must talk about it. As I’m well into Book Two, Words of Radiance, it felt like a good time to share some of my favorite bits from The Way of Kings, real life inspiration from fantasy people.
“You can’t go someplace a second time until you been there a first time, I reckon. Everyone has to stand out sometime…” – Yalb to Shallan on the docks at Kharbranth
It’s so easy to get ahead of ourselves. Too often I catch myself dwelling in the useless realm of someday, dreaming up perfect conversations with perfect people who I still have yet to meet. Life just doesn’t play out that way. Things never go the way you expect them to but that’s what makes it interesting. We like to pretend that we know where we’re going when in reality, we’re all just wandering through life waiting for the day that our prayers are answered and we bump into the right people.
“A blank page was nothing but potential, pointless until it was used.” – Shallan thinking on drawing and art.
Whether you’re a painter, writer, composer or musician, I think every artist on the planet can identify with this. That blank page is always there, begging to be filled even if only with the seemingly infinite mental clutter which obscures the true artistic gems of your consciousness.
“The hallmark of insecurity is bravado.” – Dalinar Kholin to his son, Adolin at the Shattered Plains
Have you ever noticed how the most uptight people are the only ones going out of their way to show the world how incredibly easy going they can be? This goes for all sorts of things. In my experience if you strut around like you’ve got something to prove, chances are, you do. No one is perfect. We’re all only human after all. How much simpler life would be if we all stopped trying to appear as we think we ought to and instead embraced the fabulous, singular individuals that we already are.
There’s always a period of time after finishing a really good book during which you can’t bring yourself to open another. To do so feels like a terrible betrayal, a blatant disrespect for its characters who are now dear friends. There will be a time for meeting new friends but right now you’re caught in a silent reverie, hugging this story to your chest after closing the scuffed back cover on its perfect ending. For a while all you want is to hold onto this world and the warm buzzing feeling that fills you up like a swarm of happy bumble bees. Soon you’ll replace this book in its home on the shelf beside its peers, its spine now cracked and its corners frayed from your adventures together. But right now, you just savor its familiar weight in your hands and smile to remember the people you met.
Once again, the hours have ticked by while I wasn’t looking and now the darkness outside my windows is complete with a huge partial moon hanging high in the sky and the clock preparing to announce the new day. I have completely and utterly failed to stick to my desired bedtime but at the moment, I can’t bring myself care.
My evening was hijacked by an epic tale of radiant knights who wield fantastical blades and armor as they charge into battle. Their glorious deeds are chronicled in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series. I have fewer than 50 pages left to read of Book 1, The Way of Kings, which is considerably less than the 250 remaining pages that I started with when I sat down to read after a short afternoon jog through the neighborhood.
The book, a brand new copy before this read, has been well loved. The spine is cracked in several places, the glossy cover creased and scratched, the corners of its crinkling pages just starting to turn up from use. Digging my nose out of it long enough to serve up dinner was extremely difficult. My food almost went cold as I ate with a fork in my right hand and the heavy novel held open in my left.
I’m sure I’ll be writing about this book again but amid the most recent excitement, one phrase stuck out to me.
“Somebody has to step forward and do what is right, because it is right.”
How many times have you caught yourself granting a favor in the hope of reciprocation at a later date? Or maybe you find yourself lending a hand because it’s the polite thing to do. It’s what you’re supposed to do. I know I’m guilty of it.
When was the last time you did something good for no other reward than the smile that it brought someone’s face? That is the kind of person I want to be.
I couldn’t decide on a favorite quote today so instead, below are my key takeaways from the last three books I read this year. Sometimes the best advice comes from the imagination of a stranger, captured and seeded into the pages of a good book as glimmering jewels of wisdom left by the author for us to find.
“When a guy really loves a woman, she doesn’t have to plead with him to commit. He’d commit to her if she lived on the moon.” – How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason & Crystalina Evert
“You will not only find, but also give, the love you have been created for.” – How to Find Your Soulmate Without Losing Your Soul by Jason & Crystalina Evert
“The nicest thing you can do for someone is be happy to see them.” – The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal
“Clothing doesn’t really change a man, but it changes how others react to him… The trick is convincing yourself that you deserve the reactions you get… Don’t worry that you aren’t giving people what they want. Give them who you are, and let that be enough.” – Elend Venture, The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
“A man can only stumble for so long before he either falls or stands up straight.” – Tindwyl, The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson
Today’s a new day! Let it be a fresh start for whatever trials life is throwing your way. You are capable of anything you set your mind to. Today is Day 1 of the rest of your life. What will you make it?
To any fantasy book lovers out there, if you haven’t found Brandon Sanderson, you need to. The Mistborn Trilogy wasn’t my first taste of Sanderson’s world building but it was the most recent one, in addition to being the reason that I got almost nothing done this weekend. What can I say? The book made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
I settled in for a couple chapters on Saturday morning while sipping a coffee and the next thing I knew, it was 10pm on Sunday night and I was straining not to hurl The Well of Ascension across the room because there just weren’t enough pages left to tie up all the loose ends. Happily, the story continues in The Hero of Ages. There’s a chance that the phrase “page turner” was a prophetic term created specifically for tales of the Final Empire and the strange and mystical creatures that live there. While Sanderson’s work is far from a relaxing read, it is bound to keep you on your toes as well as awaken dreams of becoming an allomantic metallurgist.
For years I’ve dreamed of having too many books, of reading all the stories on my rickety little bookcase with it’s wobbly particle board frame and bowed shelves. And when I finished reading all of those fantastic adventures I’d go out and find new ones until there was no more room on my teetery shelves. Someday when I was all grown up with a house and a dog and a little money saved up, I’d turn to the love of my life and say “honey, we’re gonna need a bigger shelf.” There are so many places to see and characters to meet, living their lives beneath the glossy covers of all those books.
But when COVID hit and I was stuck at home for three months, I hardly touched any of them. I regret to say that during those three months of solo apartment living with little to look forward to but the monotony of virtual meetings and conference calls from the home office, I relapsed into a screen addiction that I’d all but beaten down.
The magic of the written word can take you to wonderful, far away places but remains locked behind the cover of a good book, unleashed only when you crack it open and allow its spine to sing for joy of the tale it’s about to tell. I allowed myself to be lured away from that healing magic by the easy, mindless entertainment of Netflix and Facebook and Youtube, all cutting through the lingering silence of my lonely home. I forgot all the friends that huddled together collecting dust on my tired bookshelves.
Recently, I picked up The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal and absently skimmed a few pages while waiting for my dinner to finish cooking one evening. I ended up reclined on my sofa with my feet up and the book propped open in my lap, completely enthralled as it introduced me to Edith Magnusson and her fabulous pies. The sweet musky scent of the novel’s pages engulfed me, filling my nostrils and calling me home again.
I feel like I’ve woken up for the first time in months, no longer trapped by the cold pale light of my computer screen. It is the nature of a book lover’s reading list to never be truly complete. I’ll spend weeks plowing through one story only to buy three more when it’s done. The catalog of novels and self help books on my to do list will never be finished but I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life striving toward that end.
What stories do you daydream of returning to? Share in the comments.
In an effort to improve my creative writing skills I have recently become an avid reader. I’ve always loved books. My sister and I grew up being read legends of Middle Earth and the grim deeds of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. These instilled in both of us a passion for the written word but often finding time to actually read has taken a backseat to other more pressing things.
However, having graduated and now enjoying the freedom that spare time brings, I have been plowing through the stories on my bookshelf, most recently Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg. I’m a sucker for happy endings. I like to know that the peculiar and remarkable people in those stories end up where they’re supposed to be and my love and attention as a reader was not wasted on a lost cause. The last three pages can make or break any book for me. There were some stories in which I was completely enthralled until the last two paragraphs that I wish more than anything I could unread. Better yet, I wish they could be unwritten instead of left out in the open to dry up what would have been a fantastic tale.
There were other stories that I felt might have been oversold by the people who recommended them. Bill Clegg’s novel was one of them. I clung to my skepticism through every unhappy sentence. However, when I arrived at the last page, I had no choice but to let it go because there was no ending that could have better completed this masterpiece. There’s always a special connection to stories like that, best friends that won you over against all odds. Those are relationships that stay with you.
People are always surprised when they come to visit and discover that I don’t own a television. However, in place of a fancy flat screen I have a small rickety bookshelf laden with an impressive, albeit incomplete, Tolkien collection, the beginning of a Brandon Sanderson addiction and every published book by Sarah Addison Allen. These are accompanied by a smattering of family recommended reads, backbreaking college textbooks and well intentioned self help books. I have a long way to go to achieve my life long dream of becoming someone with too many books but we all have to start somewhere.
While I enjoy the occasional Netflix binge, I’m excited for the day that I need a bigger bookshelf. Someday I will graduate from apartment living and settle in a nice home with a yard and a dog (and a series of turrets and secret passages if my fairy godmother is feeling generous). But one thing this future dream home must have is a library, preferable doubling as a cozy study where every wall is lined from floor to ceiling with stories of every length and genre. I can’t wait! What books do you keep in your hobbit’s study? When it comes to reading lists, there’s always room to grow.