I like to think that I don’t belong to a book club because no one is ready to dissect a text the way I do. But really, the reason is much simpler. I’m an introvert. I want to dissect books without actually talking to people. It sounds impossible, but I’ve found something to scratch my deep-dive-book-club itch without having to meet with people: fan podcasts.
It started with Binge Mode: Harry Potter. I first heard of this podcast last August, and being a Harry Potter fan, decided to give it a try. Mallory Rubin and Jason Concepcion were working their way through the books, covering several chapters at a time. After they finished a book, they’d spend an episode talking about the associated movie’s triumphs and failures. When I first looked them up, they were already discussing Goblet of Fire. Not wanting to miss a thing, I went back and started listening from the beginning.
While their take on Harry Potter is funny, even irreverant, Mal and Jason love this story and its characters. They dug deep (DEEP!) into the texts, made connections across the books, and really explored Rowling’s wizarding world. I found their treatment both satisfying and enjoyable.
Listening to Binge Mode changed how I think about the books. It made me aware of details I’d ignored or missed. I’ve always liked Goblet of Fire, but never noticed how silly Voldemort’s elaborate plan to capture Harry really is. Before hearing Mal and Jason’s take on Deathly Hallows, I didn’t appreciate how well structured the book is or the full power of Harry’s emotional journey as he faces down Voldemort one last time. Thanks to Jason in particular, even my hatred of Order of the Phoenix has softened. I am now convinced that Harry’s endless rage in that book is mostly justified.
Because my already great appreciation of the Harry Potter books was increased by a fan podcast, I decided to go looking for one about The Lord of the Rings. There are lots of to choose from. After trying several, I’ve settled on The Prancing Pony Podcast. Alan Sisto and Shawn E. Marchese are well-read, thoughtful fans who, back in 2016, decided to tackle Tolkien’s written works one chapter per episode.
After some introductory material, they started with The Silmarillion and I’ve decided to read along. I’ve only read The Silmarillion once, and it was a slog. I’m hoping that reading it “with” someone else will help me to appreciate it more, just as Binge Mode helped me appreciate parts of the Harry Potter series that I didn’t like as much.
So far, my expectations are being met. I only have to read a few pages at a time, so I can really focus on what I’m reading. Hearing someone else’s thoughts on the material shortly afterwards is making the reading experience even richer. I’m only two chapters into the book, and I’ve already learned important things I didn’t know about Gandalf (but that’s another post).
My journey with The Prancing Pony Podcast is sure to be a long one. I have 107 episodes to read for and listen to before I will catch up with them. And they are far from done. They’ve covered The Silmarillion and The Hobbit, but they’ve just gotten to Chapter 6 of Lord of the Rings (“The Old Forest”, where they meet both Old Man Willow and Tom Bombadil). Only 46 episodes until they get to “The Gray Havens,” but it will be many more, because they cover lost of special topics as well.
In my mind, listening to this podcast is just like belonging to a book club. I can always be an active part of the discussion if I want to, by sending them my comments or questions. For now, I’ll just keep listening and reflecting on what I’ve read. At last I’ve found a book club that works for me.
What do you look for in a book club?