Unpopular Opinion: Why The Silmarillion is the Best of Tolkien

Show Notes for Bonus Episode 1.5

Check out the free version of the episode below:

To get access to full-length bonus episodes, head over to our Patreon.

Quick links from the episode:

  • First thoughts:
    • This book is very much like the book of Genesis, and this was a conscious effort on the part of Tolkien.
    • Why are so many grown-ass elves, angels, men just absolute spoiled brats in this book?? Was Tolkien making some kind of commentary? Good thing there are some absolute gems like Beren and EΓ€rendil.
    • Overall, this book is our favorite Tolkien offering. Both Paige and Jennifer really appreciate seeing the elves as badasses, rather than the apathetic emo kids they are in the Lord of the Rings. It’s because they’re tired okay?!
    • Plus, how sweet is it that Tolkien used his own love story as inspiration for the story of Beren and Luthien?
  • Family Trees:
    • Hung up on the insanely complicated family trees in The Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings? You’re not alone! Thankfully most, if not all, editions will include genealogical charts. However, if you are away from your books, the LOTR Project *may* be able to help you.
      • We say may because this huge tree is not super browser friendly and takes some work to scroll through. However, it is extremely detailed and the LOTR Project has embarked on several other projects that you might find interesting.

Among the tales of sorrow and of ruin that came down to us from the darkness of those days there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review or following us on social media. If you’d like to support the podcast head on over to our Patreon for bonus content or our Bookshop store to purchase your own copy of The Silmarillion. Until next time, cheers!

The Great Schism: Jennifer and Paige Clash Over Jane Eyre

Show Notes for Episode 1.18

Check out the episode below!

I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.

Charlotte BrontΓ«, Jane Eyre

Quick Links from the Episode

  • For more information on the Bronte family, check out this truly extensive Wikipedia article.
  • The Bronte sisters were heavily influenced by Romanticism, among other things, a cultural and intellectual movement that peaked from 1800 to 1890.

Here is the trailer for the latest Jane Eyre adaptation starring Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska:

Don’t let this trailer fool you, this is not a horror movie.

If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review or following us on social media. If you’d like to support the podcast head on over to our Patreon for bonus content. Until next time, cheers!

Paige’s Favorite Book: Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

Show Notes for Episode 2.3

Quick Links from the Episode

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (1877)
  • Folio Facts: The smell of old books is known as bibliosmia and is caused by volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released by the materials of the book. Scientists can now measure the state of preservation of a book by testing this smell using chromatography and spectroscopy.
  • BBE Bookstore: Jennifer presented Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari. Interested in reading Sapiens and supporting the podcast? Order from our Bookshop store!
  • We mention the 1905 Revolution in this episode, a hugely important event in Russian history and Jennifer is eternally ashamed that she couldn’t remember what it was about.
  • Creatives’ Corner: Paige plugs YouTube channel Overly Sarcastic Productions. Co-hosts Red and Blue make educational videos about mythology, literature, history, etc. Recommended for any nerd who appreciates a healthy dose of sarcasm.

Rummaging in our souls, we often dig up something that ought to have lain there unnoticed

Leo Tolstoy – anna karenina

Main Points from the Episode

  • Why did Jennifer hate Anna Karenina? Well, she didn’t actually hate it, per se. Having read it a while ago, her impression of the book overall is fuzzy. However, here are the things she does remember: Levin and Kitty are adorable and the ending was a shocking twist. Rather than hating the book, teenage Jennifer found that the middle portions just really dragged, especially the portions where Tolstoy starts philosophizing. Sorry, she was uncultured back then and there’s no telling what she would think of it now!
  • What do we think about the latest movie adaptation of Anna Karenina? This is where BBE turns into a house divided. The most recent movie adaptation came out in 2012. Directed by Joe Wright and starring Kiera Knightley and Jude Law, this movie seemed destined for success. Visually, this film is stunning. The unique interpretation of the Russian nobility as being actors on a theater stage also lends itself to beautiful and fanciful sets. Critically, the movie was pretty middle of the road.
    • Jennifer loves this movie because of these visual elements and the whimsical feel that the film often takes, but this is the very reason why Paige hates it, lacking that same emotionally tortured punch that the novel does.
  • Does Tolstoy intend Anna to be a sympathetic character? There are a lot of things to factor into this equation. On the one hand, Anna is not always a likable character, and her self-sabotaging can set your teeth on edge. On the other hand, Anna’s isolation and helplessness in the face of a deeply patriarchal society can be simultaneously rage-inducing and heart-breaking for a modern reader. While Anna might be sympathetic to a modern audience, it is not at all clear that she was intended to be read that way (especially considering Tolstoy’s radical religious views towards the end if his life) or if a contemporary audience would have viewed her as one.

Pictured above: shots from the movie Anna Karenina (2012).

Coming up next is the thrilling sci-fi blockbuster, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review, and to keep up with all the BBE news, follow us on social media. If you are interested in supporting the podcast, head on over to our Bookshop store, or visit our Patreon. Until next time!

August Sneak Peek

This August we are excited to bring back another round of Books We Love and Movie Magic. Listeners are extra lucky this month because there are three Mondays in August rather than two, which means four total episodes! We are bringing in some serious literary fire-power with these picks, so keep scrolling to check it out:

Apparently we really can’t get enough of giant classics, because after our Count of Monte Cristo episode, Paige is following up this month with Anna Karenina.

A true staple of Jennifer’s childhood (and beyond) obsession with dinosaurs, when it comes to sci-fi it doesn’t get much better than Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park.

Another oddity of this August, our bonus Movie Magic episode will drop before our last regular episode! We are ready for the drama.

Finishing out the month with another [sci-fi] classic, Paige will be raving about Ursula K. Le Guin’s groundbreaking The Left Hand of Darkness.

And that is a wrap for our August Sneak Peek. To keep up with BBE this season, be sure to follow us on social media. If you are enjoying the podcast so far, we would dearly appreciate a review or you can send us an email. And finally, if you’d like to support the podcast, you can check out our Bookshop store, or head on over to our Patreon to get access to our full bonus episodes (link below). Stay nerdy, bookish peeps!

The Greatest Story of Revenge: Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo

Show Notes for Episode 2.2

The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas (Penguin cloth-bound classics edition)

This week, Jennifer presented her first Books We Love pick: Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. This book is actually one of the books Jennifer has loved the longest. She first picked up this little number around the age of ten and loved it immediately. However, it has been a few years since she last cracked it open, and the distance has complicated her opinion of the book.

A fun coincidence this episode, Paige also loved The Count of Monte Cristo when she was younger. A sucker for some fictional vigilante justice, what Paige appreciated so much is that Dumas pulls no punches in serving his antagonists their comeuppance. In the real world, not everyone who is bad gets what they deserve – often, it seems like the exact opposite happens. However, Dumas was relentless in his pursuit of literary justice.

Wrapped in exquisite historical detail, Dumas presents the reader with questions that can still resonate with them today. What is the efficacy of the legal system? What role does divine Providence play, if any, in the pursuit of justice? And does any one individual deserve to take justice into their own hands?

Quick Links from the Episode

  • Jennifer was super excited to share some piping hot tea from last episode! She stumbled upon a very detailed web page debunking large portions of Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep.
  • Jennifer also discovered that Bill Gates puts his book notes online?
  • This week on Folio Facts, Paige featured the Morgan Library and Museum in New York which has the largest collection of block books in North America. To learn more about block books, the Wikipedia article is a good quick read. The Morgan does have a list of all their block books available online, unfortunately none of them have been digitized.
  • In addition to The Count of Monte Cristo, Jennifer relies heavily on information from Tom Reiss’ Pulitzer-prize winning work, The Black Count (this is an affiliate link from our Bookshop store, we do get a small percentage of this sale). To learn more about Reiss’ work, visit his website.
  • As mentioned in The Black Count, there is an Alexandre Dumas society devoted to the memory all three illustrious men of this name. If you are interested in learning more about the society or possibly even joining, check out their website.
  • Here is the Goodreads thread on whether or not Eugenie Danglars is a LGBTQ character. Not everyone agrees, but a lot of interesting points are brought up, which led Jennifer to conclude that she does believe Eugenie is gay.
  • This episode, BBE Bookstore featured Martha Well’s novella, All Systems Red. Linked is a copy available through our Bookshop store (affiliate link).
  • The Creatives’ Corner pick for this week was the YouTube channel, The Artisan Geek. Seji is a delightful host for this BookTube channel that boasts thoughtful discussions of relevant and interesting topics books including: Underrated Books on Race and Racism; Intentional Reading and How to Diversify Your Reading Material; and Reading Books By Problematic Authors. A must watch channel for any book lover!
This dapper gentleman is Alexandre Dumas (the novelist), taken in 1855.

Main Points from the Episode

  • The story of the Dumas family is a fascinating one that until very recently seems to have been relatively swept under the rug. Alexandre Dumas’ father, General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie was a hero of the French Revolution and born a slave and a son of a French Marquis besides. Having lost his father early on, Alexandre Dumas spent much of his life devoted to restoring his father’s memory and drawing inspiration from his father’s life for his novels – including our topic of today, The Count of Monte Cristo. Alexandre’s son would also become a famous playwright. To learn more about the Dumas, check out the Quick Links above.
  • Some things that Jennifer loved about The Count of Monte Cristo: this time around: the intricacy of the Count’s revenge, the cleverness of Dumas’ protagonist in targeting the individual weaknesses of his enemies, the amazing historical detail of events like Carnival in Rome, and the awesome, badass feminist character that is Eugenie Danglars (seriously, what an interesting character to encounter in a 19th century work).
  • One thing that Jennifer really did not like: the extremely problematic relationship between Haydee and the Count. The power dynamic of master and slave, the clear emotional trauma Haydee has suffered from a traumatic childhood, and her ensuing ‘daddy issues’…like that is a whole ton of yikes.
  • Inspired by the Count’s mentor, Abbe Faria, BBE spends a little it of time discussing other great mentor characters, including Dumbledore, Yoda, and Gandalf (of course).
  • The main portion of the discussion was devoted to questions surrounding justice – unsurprisingly one of the main themes in a book about revenge. Should man act as an agent of divine justice or Providence, outside of human law? What is Dumas’ stance on the matter? Does the Count deserve a happy ending after what was done to him, but also after what he did in return? Dumas leaves his reader somewhat in suspense.

And that is a wrap on The Count of Monte Cristo! Jennifer gives it a solid 5 out of 5 stars – surprise, surprise! We hope you feel inspired to read not just The Count, but any of Dumas’ other amazing works.

Coming up next: our first Bonus Movie Magic episode of the season! This month we will be comparing the book and movie adaptation of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. If you are enjoying the podcast, please consider leaving us a review, and to keep up with all the BBE news, follow us on social media. If you are interested in supporting the podcast, head on over to our Bookshop store, or visit our Patreon (linked below). Until next time!

July Sneak Peek

Welcome back book nerds and book ninjas! We are so excited to be entering Season 2 of Big Book Energy. Thanks to our listeners, we have two new themes for this season. Regular episodes will be Books We Love picks, a chance for us to rave about some of our all time favorite books. The theme for our bonus episodes this season is Movie Magic, where we read a book and then watch the movie to compare the two, probably trashing the movie to bits – but you never know! Season 2 is also bringing some other significant changes. We are changing our schedule, dialing back to posting an episode every other Monday, with one bonus episode per month. We are also introducing three new segments for our episodes: BBE Bookstore, Folio Facts, and Creatives’ Corner. Thanks for joining us for another awesome season.

Keep scrolling to see our July lineup:

Paige’s first Book We Love pick is none other than the Hugo award-winning first novel of N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series: The Fifth Season. A gritty fantasy set in a truly imaginative world, this one is sure to rock your socks off. (Bad pun only applicable if you’ve read the books!)

While Paige went contemporary, Jennifer took a turn for the classics this month with one of her oldest all time favorites: Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. Perhaps one of the greatest revenge stories of all time, the 1,000 pages are 1,000% worth the read.

Our July Movie Magic pick is Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. We didn’t know that this book was even made into a movie? But the story is incredibly compelling, and come to find out Oprah stars as Deborah Lacks?! We are excited to say the least.

And that is a wrap for our July Sneak Peek. To keep up with BBE this season, be sure to follow us on social media. If you are enjoying the podcast so far, we would dearly appreciate a review. And finally, if you’d like to support the podcast, you can check out our Bookshop store, or head on over to our Patreon to get access to our full bonus episodes (link below). Stay nerdy, bookish peeps!