Win a copy of The Hobbit – one of the greatest children’s books of all time

To coincidence with the re-release of one of children’s literature’s greatest books, I’ve got THREE copies of The Hobbit to give away. To win, leave a comment about your favourite childhood story/book you can remember reading with your parents.

To my shame, I have never actually read The Hobbit. It wasn’t on the curriculum at the state comprehensive I went to and I never sought it out.  It’s only now, as a father, that I wish I had.

However, I know a woman who has read it. And it changed her life.

She’s my wife, Rebecca, mother of my stepdaughter Daisy, ten (that’s her, above, getting stuck in), and our two sons, Tom and Sam, aged seven and four.

I asked her about the impact The Hobbit made on her when she was a little girl. Here’s what she wrote…

‘I am in my bedroom, lying on my bed listening to the clatter of my mum in the kitchen downstairs, and there is a door in front of me, a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle.

And all I want to do is push it open and see what lies beyond.

So I do.

And I am propelled into a world so vast, so thrilling and rich in colour and scope, yet precise to the very last detail, it pops my eyeballs and sucks the breath right out of my lungs.

It is now more than 30 years since I first read The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien but the moment I opened Bilbo Baggins’s front door again, I was full of the same eye-popping wonder.

It is, in many ways, such a simple story about a company of friends who go on an adventure.

But it changed my life.

Aged ten, I was shy and awkward. I didn’t really fit in anywhere. I wasn’t cool, I didn’t have posters of popstars on my wall and I lived largely in my own inner world and, well, that was the kind of behaviour that saw you getting picked last for everything at school – except a savaging by the popular kids.

It was The Hobbit that saved me.

The story, the characters, the strange and fantastical lands were my escape. I loved Tolkien’s language – otherworldly, yet oddly also down-to-earth, and really funny. I loved the creatures – the elves, the dwarves, goblins and trolls. I loved the names – Thorin Oakenshield, Smaug and Gollum.

I was blown away by the enormity of the creation. There were maps and back-stories and even a dwarvish language. It was, and still is, almost impossible to believe that all of this came from the imagination of one man.

I knew straightaway, of course, that I was Bilbo, the timid and distinctly ordinary hobbit who, without wanting to, finds himself embarking upon a perilous journey.

Along the way he makes friends, battles enemies, steals a very important ring, bags the treasure and, most importantly, discovers he is not so timid and ordinary after all.

For that last bit alone, I owe this book a lot.

In fact, it’s hard to overestimate the impact The Hobbit made on my life. It made me believe that inside the timid and awkward me was someone who could strive and be successful. It started my love affair with reading and the written word that still endures. It made me realise that there is simply no limit to the sweeping breadth and depth of the imagination, and it made me determined to be a writer when I grew up.

If we accept, and I do, that no reading you do in your lifetime is as important as the reading you do as a child, then it is true to say this book made me who I am.’

If you’d like the chance to win a copy of The Hobbit, please leave a comment below about your favourite childhood story/book that you can remember reading with your parents.


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9 Responses to Win a copy of The Hobbit – one of the greatest children’s books of all time

  1. Jessica

    Hi Keith,
    Since I could read from the age of 4, I can’t remember reading with my parents, but I’ve been reading ever since. Mostly Dutch books ( I’m from the Netherlands), but I read a lot of translated books too. My favourites were Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, I started reading these when I was about 6 or 7. I loved George, being the strong willed and adventurous girl I’d loved to be, and I would have liked Julian to be my older brother. I actually named my son Julian, but only remembered that the name was from the Famous Five a few years after he was born. The name must have been stored in my subconscious memory I guess.
    I only read the Lord of the Rings trilogy after the movies were made (I read the books first, then watched the movies as one should), and loved them. The Hobbit is still on my ‘to read’-list, so maybe one day…

  2. The Hobbit got the ball rolling for me. We had been force read The Tempest and Moonfleet in 1st year so The Hobbit opened bright new lands, strange people and magical creatures. Fairy tales for big boys.

    However, the books that I remember with greatest affection are in the Science Fiction genre. Issac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clark and Robert A Heinlein with fantastic stories like “I, Robot”, “The Martian Chronicles”, “2010, A Space Odyssey” and “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”. New worlds, endless possibilities and opportunities for the most awkward, introverted loners in the universe.

    I always fancied I had a secret super power, a special talent or skill that would bubble to the surface when I made first contact. The underdog saves the day… It didn’t matter that these things didn’t happen. While I escaped between the pages of “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel” I was redeemed. My social awkwardness didn’t matter.

    I have seen some of these future visions come true: mobile phones, satellites, space stations and men on the moon. But also Big Brother (“1984” not Channel 4/5 version), global self-destruction (Martian Chronicles), Closure of libraries and the destruction of books (Fahrenheit 451) and other less savory outcomes of the advance of technology. Some of these visions seem quite prophetic.

    What did I gain? A love of reading for a start. A love I have been happy to pass on to my daughters. I gained a sense of self-worth too. Sharing the stories with friends made me realise I was one of many young people in fear of isolation. Also, a sense of the future is not necessarily bright (or Orange) without self-control, without an understanding of humanity and it’s virtues and without seeing history (even the present) as something to learn from.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. Ah, The Hobbit. Lost count of how many times I’ve read that one. Last time was as a bedtime story to Thing2. Each time I’ve left it just long enough for it to fade into memory before being welcomed back to Middle Earth one more time. That book started me off on so many of my hobbies. Dungeons and Dragons, which owes most of it’s ideas of elves, dwarves, orcs and the like owes so much to The Hobbit, is still something I play to this day (well, it and it’s descendants)

    The book I remember enjoying most was one I read at the same time as my mum – The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’d read it at night, she’d read it while I was at school. Great fun. We did the same with the whole of the Lord of the Rings as well. Can’t wait for mine to discover Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett (well, beyond Where’s My Cow and World of Poo), Neil Gaiman… When I think of the pleasures that await them, I’m incredibly jealous. In fact I can feel a blog post coming on – 5 books I wish I was reading for the first time again.

    What I read as a kid – and I also read “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel”, along with a few of Bradbury’s other works – definitely coloured my view of what the future would be like. Frankly, I feel robbed. Where’s my flying car? Where’s the teleporters? Jetpacks? Household robots? I mean here we are in 2012 – proper science-fiction numbers!!! – and sure we’ve got the Internet, hand-held computers and the like, but that’s small fry compared to the flying cars we were promised. Ah, well, at least we’ve not been invaded by the Martians or wiped out by Triffids.

  4. Dammit! Have Spacesuit was Heinlen’s, not Bradbury’s. Now I feel stupid.

  5. Squashedfly

    My most outstanding memory of being read to as a child was of my stepdad, Jim, reading me, my younger brother and sister, the hobbit. It probably took a month for him to finish it but for once we couldn’t wait for bedtime.
    I was about 10, my brother 8 and the youngest 6. I remember my sister could rarely stay away past the first page but she still insisted she hear the story.
    He did voices and accents for all the characters, working through it without any hurry and giving our young imaginations time to digest and paint amazing scenes in our minds. I still remember snuggling under my quilt and drinking in each magical scene. He finished every night with a cliff hanger, just to keep us going.
    My stepdad died 20 years ago this week but whenever I see the Hobbit book or read even a page I can remember the characters just how he brought them to life.
    It is so special to me and my siblings, none of us has ever forgotten those lovely winter nights, that I hope my own children will have the opportunity to love books in the same way too.

  6. kathleen hooper

    my parents didn’t grow up with a culture of books, and I can’t remember our house having books. However, once I started school and could read, I devoured every reading matter I could find, including cereal boxes and Jampot labels. I have treasured books ever since, and have made sure I have passed a love of reading onto the next generation
    Ironically now that my mother is (very) elderly and less mobile she spends a lot of time (and gets a lot of enjoyment) out of reading

  7. Although I don’t really remember the countless books my parents reads to me, the likes of Cinderella and Snow White (all of the ‘Well-loved Tales’ brand), the book that had the most impact for me was when my Mum and Dad gave me a set of the classics, all bound in red leatherette and stamped with gold. I still have them today and have been trying to collect all those in the range that I didn’t have.

    The first one I read was Little Women and I loved it – my very first ‘grown up’ book without pictures!!!

  8. Kirsty Fox

    My mum used to read to me Roald Dahl books and the one that really stands out that she would read over and over again was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

  9. Val

    I always loved reading as a child and was very good at it, so I’m afraid I can’t really remember books I read with my parents. However I do remember reading to my parents the poems of Shel Silverstein. He was my favorite author as a child and I carried his books around like a shield. I still have them, though now they are worn and broken and past fixing. ‘Falling Up’ was the first big book I read completely through. I’d always read the poems to my parents and my love was their love. They’d take me to Barnes and Noble and buy the books without hesitation.