Published by Hodder & Stoughton
Hardback - 224 pages
Published November 2012
Review copy given by publisher
Read the blurb for Wisdom of the Shire on Goodreads
This is the second in a 3-part super post in line with Peter Jackson's adaptation of The Hobbit. Yesterday was my list of things to do while you wait for the movie, and tomorrow will be my review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Gandalf the Grey once said, "Hobbits really are amazing creatures. You can learn all there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you." It's this unique trait that's explored in Smith's book - a sort of self-help guide to better living, taking examples from The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and the rest of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth.
Unlike a lot of self-help books, Smith doesn't patronise you and instead uses the examples of the way Hobbits act as a way to relate simple life lessons to us (much like the way I try to find analogies for real life in the fantasy books I read and the movies I watch). Hobbits are creatures to which everyone can aspire; they're fond of good food and good friends, they're self sufficient and grow their own food and they form a harmonious egalitarian society, and their cultural quirks are things we can use in our day to day lives to make us better and happier people. I fully plan to take Smith's sage like advice and start growing my own food in a little Hobbit garden (for which he gives a diagram at the end of the book) in the New Year.
Some of the legal and political chapters read a little preachy to me; kind of an 'eff the system, all the bankers are corrupt, up with people' kind of attitude that didn't gel well, but the sections on personal relationships and being content with your own life struck a chord. In using the struggles and actions of the inhabitants of the Shire, I could understand these concepts and am able to use them practically to better myself. Writing letters to my friends instead of relying on Facebook and email will be one of these changes (I'm also looking for a pen pal if anyone is interested).
Overall, The Wisdom of the Shire is a fun and useful read that complements both the books and the movies of Middle Earth. Any Tolkien fan can relate to Smith's examples to improve their lives and feel more like the courageous Bilbo, loyal Samwise, fun loving Meriadoc or wise Old Took in the process.