Concerning Hobbits

“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit.” It’s a quiet, humble beginning to an epic fantasy adventure tale, but then, hobbits are quiet, humble creatures. Despite this, a little hobbit is the hero of J. R. R. Tolkien’s adventure tale The Hobbit, prequel to his famous Lord of the Rings trilogy.

It all begins in the Shire, a quiet, idyllic community inhabited by hobbits. At about half the size of a human, hobbits are small in stature but rich in warmth; they are a peaceful race who love predictability and a relaxing evening at home by the fire. Certainly they are not adventurers or rabble-rousers—in fact, doing anything unexpected is frowned upon in the hobbit community. Bilbo Baggins is a very respectable member of his community who spends his days smoking his pipe, reading his books, eating frequent meals, and drinking tea in his cozy hobbit hole; he certainly never goes on any adventures or does anything unexpected. That is, until one day thirteen loud, boisterous dwarves show up on his doorstep and force their way in with no explanation whatsoever. Against all odds, the wizard Gandalf has chosen Bilbo as the fourteenth member of the dwarves’ dangerous expedition to slay a dragon and reclaim their homeland. He is to be their burglar, tasked with sneaking into the dragon’s lair to assess the situation and steal a very important jewel. So it is, despite his protestations that he is unfit for such a quest and is certainly not a burglar, that Bilbo reluctantly sets out on a great adventure.

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Happy Birthday to Us!

Today, Off the Shelf turns one year old! To celebrate, each of our staff members has selected a favorite book, and one lucky reader will win the whole stack of these wonderful reads (each inscribed by the Off-the-Shelfer who loves it). Five chances to win below! Thank you for making…
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The Price of Being Pretty

It’s a bit embarrassing for me to declare my love for a YA novel, but I am utterly proud of loving this book. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld is the book that ignited my desire to work in the publishing industry. It was the first book that I felt personally connected…

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The Heart of What It Is To Be A Teenager

I recently heard author Jason Reynolds speak at a book event in Brooklyn, promoting his new young adult novel The Boy in the Black Suit, the follow-up to last year’s When I Was the Greatest. At first I was surprised that the audience at the event was almost entirely African-American.…

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Experiencing Humiliation

As a child, I was ashamed of many things. I was ashamed of having my picture taken. However many times I practiced in front of a mirror, I couldn’t hold my gaze in front of a camera. Just before the camera snapped, I wilted. I didn’t like my smile; I…

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Revisiting Ian McEwan’s Masterpiece

“Writing stories not only involved secrecy, it gave [Briony] all the pleasures of miniaturization,” Ian McEwan writes in his 2001 novel Atonement. “A world could be made in five pages, and one that was more pleasing than a model farm. The childhood of a spoiled prince could be framed within…

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Turn On Your Book Light

Novelist, poet, and essayist Elizabeth Rosner is the author of the highly acclaimed bestselling novels The Speed of Light and Blue Nude. Her newest novel, Electric City, and Gravity, a poetry collection, were both published in October 2014. Her website is The release date for my first novel, The Speed of Light,…

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