The Atlantic’s New Book “Hub”

Books The Atlantic

Screen capture of The Atlantic magazine’s new Books hub (9/26/2018)

The other day, I saw a post on Twitter about The Atlantic’s new book hub. So I thought I’d wander over and take a look. The Atlantic is one of the magazines I subscribe to for its literary and cultural commentary. It is a good “left of center” balance to my other subscription of this sort, First Things, a far more conservative and religiously oriented publication. As a reviewer, both publications put me on to books that cultural thought-leaders are discussing. This page brings all of The Atlantic’s reviews and literary criticism together in one place–sort of.

It should be noted to start with that this “hub” is not a separate website like Literary Hub but a “section” within the online presence of The Atlantic. The menu headings at the top of the page are not for sub pages within “Books” but rather for the magazine as a whole. But what you find here is still quite rich. Best of all, while they would love it and offer the chance to do so, you do not need to subscribe to The Atlantic. At least for now, the whole site operates on a “no paywall” policy.

The top of the page includes previews of feature articles, currently on a new book on Oklahoma City, and a piece of literary criticism looking at The Iliad in light of the #MeToo movement. Three other articles are highlighted below it: one on a new book on Princess Margaret, one on a graphic novel of an intergalactic tale populated by women, and one considering the current president through the novel, The Great Gatsby.

Below these in a single column are previews of fifteen more articles in a single column. Several caught my eye. One is on a new book about Nietzsche, suggesting that his work may help us live better in the mess of life (intriguing, but I’m skeptical). One centers on a single sentence in a Chekhov novel. In a review of novelist William T. Vollman, I learned not only about Coal Ideologies, a new two volume work, but the fact that this somewhat eccentric writer (once suspected of being the Unabomber) has his papers archived at The Ohio State University, in my home town. Below that is a thoughtful article on recent criticism of the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder, particularly her treatment of Native peoples. I could go on but the article at the bottom of this page, on Alfred Brendel and his essays on Beethoven caught my eye. I’ve loved listening to Brendel’s recordings of Beethoven’s work. I think I want to get the book, and then listen to the recordings with his comments in hand.

At the bottom of the page, there is a “see more stories” bar that takes you to the next page on the site. I clicked through twenty pages and did not come to an end. As a Tolkien fan, I found this piece on the 80th anniversary of The Hobbit on page 8. There is a plethora of riches here, both concerning new works, and reconsidering classics, something I particularly appreciate, since I read both.

I’m not sure how you would index this wealth of material, but that would be helpful (I’m trying to figure out how to do that with my own reviews, so I can forgive this). There is a search symbol at the top right of the menu bar. Entering a topic or author yields a Google-type listing of links to articles in The Atlantic. One thing my blog does that this site doesn’t is offer links at the end of an article to articles of similar interest. Instead you get The Atlantic’s currently most popular articles, which takes you away from their book “hub.”

I wonder if this page will evolve over time or even be spun off from the parent site. This might allow for development of the site’s features, and perhaps better utilization of what has to be a tremendous archive of reviews and literary criticism. Yet, even in its present format, I find myself more drawn to read the articles here than in the print magazine, the reverse of how I think about the rest of the content, which tends to be more long form writing. Because the magazine publishes ten times a year, you might come back once or twice a month to see what is new, in contrast to review publications that come out more frequently. When you do, you will be richly rewarded.

The url for the site is: https://www.theatlantic.com/books/

Ten Books I Want to Read Before I Die

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Some of my “Read Before I Die” Books

I posted a question at my Bob on Books Facebook page yesterday asking people to name one book they would like to read before they die. It seems that this is a popular topic. Here is a link to a Google search I did on the topic. It’s actually a worthwhile question to think about. We can read only so many books in a life, the length of which we have no way of knowing. One book available proposes a list of 1001 books.

Here’s my answer pared down to ten books. One of my criteria is that I’ve not read the book. The other is that I have the book already. That should warn you that it is probably a pretty idiosyncratic list. Don’t feel under any obligation to make it your list but use it simply as an example for doing this yourself.

  1. Charles Taylor, A Secular Age. It seems every other book I read references this book, and it seem a seminal work in helping us understand the time we are in.
  2. Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism. There seems to be a sense that the horrors of Stalinism and Nazism can’t happen here. I think they can, and I’d like to know what Arendt, who wrote the classic work on this thinks.
  3. T. S. Eliot, Collected Poems and Plays. I have read poetry of Eliot since college and acquired this work several years ago.
  4. Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind. I’ve never read this and it was one of the books I inherited from my mom.
  5. Marcus Aurelius, Meditations. Might be as close as we get to the reflections of a philosopher-king.
  6. Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans. Barth’s study of Romans rocked not only his world but the theological world around him.
  7. Ron Chernow, Washington. I’ve delighted in his biographies of Grant and Hamilton.
  8. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (3 vols.). I bought this set from a retiring pastor 40 years ago. I suspect Hodge and I might differ on a few things, but his rigorous thought will make the argument worth it!
  9. Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity. This has been on my shelves only half as long, but this classic study of church history has been begging to be read.
  10. Honore de Balzac, Pere Goriot and other stories. My mother loved Balzac as a young girl. I have her whole set of Balzac novels, that came from her father. I think I want to read these for what they might tell me about my mom before I pass them along.

It would not be hard to add to this list, and if you ask me another time, I might come up with a completely different one. But doing this makes me ask, why have I waited so long on a number of these? Perhaps the time has come to wait no longer.

 

10 Rules For Lending Books

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U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman J.T. Armstrong

I saw a post from Bustle yesterday on “15 Rules for Borrowing Books, So You Don’t Lose Your Friends in the Process.” The article didn’t say anything about lending, so I thought I might propose a few rules for lenders, with the basic idea that you don’t want to lose friends over books. I really don’t think I can come up with 15, but here goes…

1. Basically, say good-bye to a book when you lend it. Just let it go, because there is a high likelihood you will never see it again. Is it really worth more than your friend?

2. If a book has special meaning to you (family heirloom, heavily annotated, a part of a set, or a reference you use regularly and need), don’t lend it. Just be honest and say, “this book has special meaning for me, or has been in the family, or is something I use regularly.” True friends will understand.

3. A book plate (ex libris) with your name may help. Sometimes people honestly forget from whom a book is borrowed.

4. Don’t lend a book if you need it or plan to read it soon. Again, just explain that. Offer to lend it after you’ve read it.

5. View lending as an easy way to clear out excess books from our shelves. Most of us have more books than shelves. A quoted attributed to Joe Queenen says, “Lending books to other people is merely a shrewd form of housecleaning.”

6. If repeat borrowers who don’t return books bothers you, set a limit. Just let your friend know that you only lend two books (or whatever number seems right to you) at a time to someone, and would be glad to lend the book they want when they’ve finished the others they’ve borrowed and returned them. Of course you have to decide if keeping that close a track of what you’ve lent matters.

7. Consider what the book meant to you. If it was beneficial, do you want to keep that to yourself, letting the book collect dust on your shelves. Lending a book can open up conversations with friends such as “did you see what I saw in this book?”

8. Don’t lend books you’ve borrowed, unless the owner says it is OK, and who owns the book is clear so that it can get back to them.

9. On the other hand, if you really are not concerned about getting the book back, let the person know they are free to pass it along after they have finished reading it. If a book is really good, shouldn’t it pass through many hands?

10. Think of lending books as a way of stocking your library in heaven. I take comfort in these words by C. S. Lewis:

My friend said, “I don’t see why there shouldn’t be books in Heaven. But you will find that your library in Heaven contains only some of the books you had on earth.” “Which?” I asked. “The ones you gave away or lent.” “I hope the lent ones won’t still have all the borrowers’ dirty thumb marks,” said I. “Oh yes they will,” said he. “But just as the wounds of the martyrs will have turned into beauties, so you will find that the thumb-marks have turned into beautiful illuminated capitals or exquisite marginal woodcuts.*

*C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 216.

Why “Bob on Books” is Now on Facebook

Bob on Books Home

Screen capture of Bob on Books on Facebook 9/10/2018

You might have noticed in yesterday’s post that there is now a “Bob on Books” Facebook page. Facebook kind of forced me into it. For as long as I’ve had my blog, Facebook allowed scheduled automated sharing of my WordPress posts on my Facebook profile. Facebook blocked this capability at the end of July but allowed scheduled automated sharing to Facebook pages.

I suspect this is part of Facebook’s approach to dealing with “fake news” and “fake account” sites and the propagation of this material. But it was at least a minor inconvenience to many of us who connected our profiles to our WordPress blogs. It is still possible to manually post links from a blog to your profile, an extra step. Harder than that is that when Facebook broke the connection, it also cut my “follower count” on my blog by 2500 in one fell swoop. Now that may not be all bad, because I suspect a good number of my Facebook friends don’t look at my blog but were still counted as “followers.” But it meant taking the time to set up a page and inviting people to “like” and “follow” it. That certainly has the advantage of people “opting into” your content, and perhaps is a better indicator of interest. Maybe it is more honest.

There are several advantages beyond this of a page:

  • People interested in blog posts and other material can access this quickly.
  • It allows me to post polls, articles, photos and quotes, and a “question of the day” facilitating ongoing conversation to a greater degree than the blog.
  • Facebook provides a variety of metrics for pages that you don’t have access to on profiles. I can also get another indicator of the interest in individual blog posts.
  • It is easier to post on Facebook than the blog, which anyone on Facebook can do. On the blog, people need to set up a WordPress account (not necessarily a blog) to post comments, something not everyone wants to do.
  • For a relatively low expense, I’ve added 100 followers beyond my own circle of contacts in the last month. I tried promoting the website for the blog, but this led to very few additional blog followers. I haven’t promoted posts.
  • I don’t have a good sense yet whether the page has translated into more traffic on my blog, although my summer stats usually decline, and this year have been on the rise. Unfortunately, WordPress stats aggregate all “referrals” from Facebook, so clicks from my profile, my page, or posts in other groups (which I do a fair amount of) are all lumped together. It certainly hasn’t hurt, from what I can tell.

The big minus that you just have to deal with is that pages are a revenue stream for Facebook and they are constantly inviting you to promote the page, an individual post, and your website. For some reason, I find the page loads more slowly than my personal profile, perhaps because of all the extra analytics. I would like to see Facebook streamline this (it may be better for visitors than admins who see extra content).

This might be more “inside baseball” than some of you may like. What I hope might be the case is that the blog and the Facebook page complement each other and maybe foster a bit of a “Bob on Books” community of people interested in interacting about good books, their reading experiences and how all this relates to our pursuit of the good, the beautiful, and the true in our lives. Blogs allow more extended development of an idea or review of a particular work. Facebook pages afford the chance for briefer but more frequent posts and interactions. I hope you will visit both

I’d love to hear your feedback. Even after five years of doing this, I still feel I’m making it up as I go….

 

Overcrowded Shelves

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Bookshelves in my home office

Over at my Bob on Books Facebook page, I have a “question of the day.” Recently I asked whether people had more shelves than books or books than shelves. It was unanimous: everyone who commented had more books than shelves.

I have not reached a books-to-shelves equilibrium but here are some of the strategies I’ve pursued to keep the overflow under a measure of control.

1. I freely lend. I’m almost disappointed when someone does the rare thing of returning a book. Often, people ask to borrow books I’ve reviewed.

2. I donate books related to my work to a book grab for new employees in my organization.

3. I always ask whether I will re-read or use as a reference every book I read. If I keep it, another book (or three) has to go.

4. Library book sales are a great place to donate your books to a good cause. You clear your shelves, you give your books a second life with someone else, and you provide funds for “extras” for the library you love.

5. A variation on this is that I’ve donated some books to the theological library of the seminary where I’m an alumnus. I know that doesn’t fit everyone, but I also know it fits some of you.

6. Some have donated books to seminaries or other educational institutions in other countries. Either donate classics or newer scholarship and text books.

7. I do sell some of my books at Half Price Books. Increasingly, we walk out with money in our pockets. Recent books generally bring the best prices, so read it, and if you know you won’t read it again, sell it quick.

8. I know some have set up their own online selling and you can make more on your books by doing this, if you are willing to devote the time to it and give good service and value.

9. I try to find at least one book a day that I put on my donate/sell piles.

10. Finally, books fitly chosen and shared with someone actually interested in the book gives you the joy of passing along a book to someone you know will appreciate it. I find it always helps to ask first if they would be interested in reading it–otherwise, it can feel like you are just dumping your books.

This is one advantage of e-readers–one book or a thousand take up the same physical space. I would be even deeper in books were it not for the ones on my Kindle. Still, I like reading, and especially reviewing, from physical books.

Of course, I suspect there are other creative ways to deal with the overflow. Here are a few I could come up with.

1. Build something with them. I’ve seen great examples of book igloos online.

2. Insulate with them. Anyone know the R-value of books?

3. Use them to support a table or counter top.

4. Some big books make great door stops.

5. Or just do what most of us do and stack them, box them, squirrel them away and live around them.

6. Build or find an annex for your books. We have heard of a few used bookstores getting their start this way.

Have you come up with other creative ways to deal with your book overflow? If you are a reader, you likely will need to sooner or later!

Five Books

Five Books The best books on everything

Screen capture Of Five Books home page accessed 8/30/18.

No, this isn’t a quiz about the five books you’d want if you were stranded on a desert island, although that would be interesting! Rather it is about a book website I just came across that has apparently been around for a while. Five Books takes its name from the basic idea of the site: to interview authors, publishers, academics and others for their recommendations of five books they think are the best on a topic about which they are knowledgeable.

For example, as I write, the current featured interview is with author Laura Wood on Coming-of-Age novels. Recent interviews were with Mark Sereze on Ice Books, Jane Kamensky on Boston Books, and Georgina Adams on the Art Market. Each interview page has cover images at the top and links to Amazon embedded to allow you to buy the books (they are an Amazon affiliatee, one of their ways of monetizing the site–the other is donations).

The site indicates they have over 1000 interviews and that they publish two new ones each week. That is a treasure trove! There are at least four ways to mine it. If you are looking for a particular topic you can search for it by clicking the search icon in the upper right of any page. Across the top of the home page is a topic or category listing. Or you could just start with their most popular interviews, found by scrolling down the page. The final is the random interview on the top right. Clicking it took me to an interview with Mark Tully, a journalist who has lived in India for most of his life, on the Best Books on India. It most likely will take you somewhere else.

You can also see a list of those books most often recommended. On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill tops the list. Clicking on the link takes you to a page where you can see all the lists (nine in Mill’s case) where the book was recommended

One other feature, labelled “new,” allows readers to submit their own list of five books on any topic.  I was surprised several people posted about books on Belgium! The home page features recent lists. Scott Meadows offers a fascinating list on Classical Education.

One of the strengths of the site is that they get interesting people who are knowledgeable about their subject. Some of the names, in addition to those already named, that I came across include Simon Winchester, Jerry Coyne, Nigel Warburton, Daniel Goleman, Diarmaid Macculloch, and Simon Blackburn.

The website is easy to navigate and rich in resources. With a thousand interviews you won’t soon run out of interviews. You may also sign up to receive emails of the latest list. Enjoy!

 

Regimented Reading

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By Nancy Wong (Personal collection of Nancy Wong) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

I came across a post today on Bookriot that I found a bit puzzling. It was titled An Experimental Year with Regimented ReadingThe writer admitted to struggling with a reading slump, which I have to admit to not understanding. A reading slump for me would be like an eating slump. Something would have to be seriously wrong with me! So perhaps I wasn’t the most sympathetic to the writer’s proposed remedy which was a reading regimen, written out month by month, color coded by “too long on the TBR” (green), series books (yellow), new releases (hot pink), and re-reads (blue) with asterisks (*) by the priority reads. The writer has planned this out until January. I would love to hear a report about how this worked.

A list like that might be the one thing to put me in a slump! I have enough else that is planned and scheduled, that scheduling my reading would drive me up a wall. That said, as I reflected on it, I have to admit that there is a certain method to my reading madness that guides my decisions of what I read next. Here is some of what governs my choices. I usually read on my Kindle during morning exercise on the treadmill. I alternate books I’ve purchased “just because” and e-galley’s I’ve requested for review. In print books, I usually have something “Christian-related” I’m reading and, because I review books from a number of publishers, many of these are new releases I’ve requested for review. I try to mix in older “backlist” or classic works, often something our Dead Theologians group is reading. Often my choices come down to what strikes my fancy when I’ve finished one book. Then I have a mix of history, science, current events and fiction that I choose from, usually alternating among these. A gift from my son usually jumps to the top of the pile.

Sometimes, I choose books that are related to something I might be speaking on or is something we are talking about in our organization. Then there are times where I’ve been reading or researching something, and it sparks an interest in something I want to read more deeply about. This happened recently researching posts about my hometown, and the sobering discovery of significant Klan activity in the 1920’s in a northern, industrial town. I wanted to find out more about that as a part of local history that tended to be glossed over.

In making the transition from simply reading to reviewing, I’m aware that some of the choices I make have to do with books I’ve agreed to review or are newly published. I probably get around to these more quickly than I once did, realizing that it’s probably a good idea to write about a book while people are interested in it. Sadly, it also reflects the reality that this is often a very short period. That’s a dynamic I wrestle with–seeing new releases on my TBR pile and hearing the clock ticking. Most of the time though, I’m pretty good at choosing things I enjoy reading. Perhaps it would be good to be more sparing in the choices so that the pile is smaller!

So, I guess I have a bit of my own regimen after all, just not written down. The closest to a plan are a few piles from which I choose my next books. The biggest dilemma is often having to choose among a number of good choices. I guess I’ve never wrestled with slumps because there are so many things I’m curious about, and so many genres and authors I enjoy.

So, how do you choose your books? Do you have any kind of plan? Do you ever get into a reading slump? What helps you get out of it? It would be fun to hear. We really are all different, and it seems to me that reading is one of those areas where there is no single “right” way to go about it. Perhaps that’s why we like it.

 

There’s An App for That!

Have you ever tried to set up a book group? There is the whole process of choosing a book, setting up a meeting time, sharing comments about the books you are reading. Endless chains of email later, you ask, are we having fun yet? Like so many other things, there are apps for that which make your life easier.

BookRiot just ran an article on five apps that are out there to help manage book clubs. It turns out that two are collaborative tools used more widely in many work groups, Slack and Flockwhich have many of the meeting tools and communication tools you need to set up a book club and manage it: polls, scheduling, chat, and file sharingIf you already use one of these tools for work, you might consider adapting it to organizing bookclubs. If not, the other three apps are dedicated bookclub apps.

Only one of these is currently a mobile app, Book Club by Book Movement. Bad news for Android users. It is currently only available as an iPhone app. It appears to be an elegant little app. In addition to functions allowing you to organize, choose books, set meetings, RSVPs, and even buy books, it has a “Discover” function that allows you to enter an adjective which will pull up titles related to it and a “Top Club Picks” to see what other clubs are reading. For books you are buying, it tracks prices and allows you to buy when there are deals. The poll allows for anonymous voting connected to cover images of the book. The app is free.

Bookclubz and Our Own Book Club (OOB) are both web-based apps. Of the two, Bookclubz seemed far more straightforward in creating clubs, communicating, scheduling, polling and tracking the books you’ve read. It also shows the most popular book club books and offers a featured book of the month, along with a discussion guide.

All the apps are free. Only Bookclubz identifies its affiliate partnership with Amazon as a funding source, but I suspect something similar is true of the others as well. They also have an option for clubs to make a donation. I appreciate this transparency even if I’m not an Amazon fan.

So, if you are in a book club that finds the admin a hassle, or are forming one, one of these apps may make your life easier. Personally, I really liked Bookclubz, although I wish they had an Android app.

 

Why I Don’t Use Amazon Links in Reviews

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Screenshot of editing page for my most recent review, showing weblink to publisher.

If you’ve clicked on a book title in one of my reviews, you will discover that in nearly all cases, it will take you to a publisher’s web page for the book. Some may wonder, why don’t I use an Amazon link?

I did at one time until a bookseller friend whose work I value greatly challenged me that I was helping to dig the grave of his business. Since I want to see him, and other brick and mortar booksellers stay in business, I paid attention. He pointed out that I was essentially endorsing Amazon as “my bookseller of choice” by directing traffic to their website.

I hadn’t thought about that. Amazon links to books almost always come up at the top of a search for a book, even when you enter a publisher name. I was using those links as a matter of convenience. It is more challenging to find publisher links to a book, particularly for backlist books. And there are books I review sometimes that are out of print. In this case, I use a link to ABE Books, which provides connections to a number of booksellers who have the book.

So here are the reasons I don’t link to Amazon:

  • Do you want one bookseller “to rule them all and in the darkness bind them?”
  • I want to leave the choice of where you buy your books, and the format in which you buy them, to you.
  • I want to support publishers, who often sell the books online, adding to their revenues at a time where they face great pressure.
  • Publishers often have helpful marketing information about their books–video trailers, readers guides, author information, and more.
  • I want to support local booksellers whose presence enriches our community. Most also have an online presence, allowing you to order books and have them shipped to you, or available to pick up at the store.
  • Some of you may want to get it at your local library. I don’t want Amazon to replace libraries, which provide so many services, particularly for those who are financially strapped.

Finally, because I write about books and bookselling, I do not want to have a financial relationship with Amazon as an Amazon Associate. Yes, I actually could make some pocket change if someone uses a link on my page to buy a book from Amazon. But I don’t want to for all the reasons above.

I’ve concluded that for all the convenience Amazon offers, we are sacrificing a rich, local culture, as well as the subtler delights of relationships with librarians, publishers, and booksellers, as well as the serendipitous delight of finding what you weren’t, as well as were, looking for on the shelves of a local book store. That is not something I want to lose.

 

Robert Jordan, A Tolkien Successor?

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Robert Jordan, by Jeanne Collins, [CC BY 3.0] via Wikipedia

I fell in love with the Lord of the Rings trilogy of J.R.R. Tolkien as a college student and have read it several times since. I have always wondered, could this ever be matched? Recently, I’ve begun reading Robert Jordan’s The Eye of the World, the first of a fourteen part series known as The Wheel of Time. (The last three volumes of this series were completed posthumously from Jordan’s notes and his completed first and last scenes.) The series is on the Great American Reads list of 100 great books or series, which is how I learned of it. I’m only 120 pages into the first book so I cannot yet compare the two works, except to say that Jordan has also created a world, an epic conflict between good and evil with a Dark Lord, a boy-hero, a woman counterpart to Gandalf, Moiraine, and the equivalent of orcs, trollocs. I don’t know whether I will make it through–each book is over 600 pages, 3 million words in all.

All this made me curious about who Robert Jordan was. It turns out that “Robert Jordan” was the pen name of James Oliver Rigney, Jr. He used several pen names for different works, all playing off his initials (note J and R, and J.O.R. of Jordan). He was born in Charleston, South Carolina October 17, 1948. He served as a helicopter gunner in Vietnam, receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bronze Star. After serving, he completed a B.S. in physics and worked as a nuclear engineer. A blood clot from a fall that was nearly fatal turned him toward a career as a writer when he reportedly threw a book across the room he was reading in the hospital, shouting, “I can do better.”

Writing as Reagan O’Neal, he completed a series of historical fiction novels centered around the Fallon Family in the early 1980’s, at a time when similar novels by John Jakes were popular. He tried his hand at a western, Cheyenne Raiders, under the name Jackson O’Reilly. It was at this time that Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian was turned into an Arnold Schwarzenegger blockbuster. Writing for the first time as Robert Jordan, he wrote seven more Conan books beginning with Conan the Invincible.

Following this, he turned his hand to creating The Wheel of Time series, which he originally envisioned as six books. The first, which I am reading, he published in 1990. Ten more volumes were written by 2005. Michael Livingston, in a Tor.com article, compares Tolkien and Jordan, considering their war experiences, as well as the fantasy worlds the two men created and reaches this verdict:

“James Rigney was not the first heir to the Tolkien legacy—and by no means will he be the last to follow him—but he might just be the most complete interpreter of that legacy. Rooted in mythology and history, founded in philosophy and spirituality, forged of war and the American experience, his Wheel of Time has easily earned its place alongside the British master fantasist. Even more, given the academic status Tolkien’s work has managed to achieve, the work of Robert Jordan has earned its place on any list of turn-of-the-millennium literature, whether the majority of critics like it or not.”

All of his books were edited by his wife Harriet, an editor with Tor Books. In early 2006 he announced his illness, amyloidosis, on his blog. It is a rare blood disease that causes a thickening of the heart walls, weakening the heart. He was optimistic about beating it, undergoing a form of chemotherapy. He wrote:

“Don’t get too upset, guys. Worse comes to worst, I will finish A Memory of Light, so the main story arc, at least, will be completed. And frankly, as I said, I intend to beat this thing. Anything can be beaten with the right attitude, and my attitude is, I have too many books to write yet for me to just lie down. Don’t have time for it. Besides, I promised Harriet I’d be around for our 50th, and that means another 25 years from this month right there. Can’t break a promise to Harriet, now can I?”

He hoped to finish what he saw as his final volume. He was able to write the beginning and end and outline and compile notes for the book. A Tor video recounts the decision during his last weeks to entrust the completion of the series to fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson. As it turned out, the final volume turned into three more books, the last of which was completed in 2013.

James O. Rigney, Jr. died on September 16, 2007. The post on his blog site the next day reads:

“It is with great sadness that I tell you that the Dragon is gone. RJ left us today at 2:45 PM. He fought a valiant fight against this most horrid disease. In the end, he left peacefully and in no pain. In the years he had fought this, he taught me much about living and about facing death. He never waivered in his faith, nor questioned our God’s timing. I could not possibly be more proud of anyone. I am eternally grateful for the time that I had with him on this earth and look forward to our reunion, though as I told him this afternoon, not yet. I love you bubba.

Our beloved Harriet was at his side through the entire fight and to the end. The last words from his mouth were to tell her that he loved her.

Thank each and everyone of you for your prayers and support through this ordeal. He knew you were there. Harriet reminded him today that she was very proud of the many lives he had touched through his work. We’ve all felt the love that you’ve been sending my brother/cousin. Please keep it coming as our Harriet could use the support.”

Rigney described himself as a “high church Episcopalian” and his funeral service took place at St James Church in Goosecreek, South Carolina. He is buried in the churchyard. It is interesting that his work combines both Christian and eastern religious influences–a view of time that is cyclical and yet a universe of good and evil (Shai’tan=Satan).

Obviously, I’m not in a position to make the comparison with Tolkien yet. What is apparent is that Jordan created a powerful epic fantasy world. At very least, it is the best selling fantasy series since Lord of the Rings, selling over 80 million copies. Sony Pictures is adapting it for television. I have at least two friends who have completed the series, so there is hope. I’ll keep you posted. For now, I’m enjoying getting immersed in his world.