When I first decided to read my way through the BBC Top 100, little did I know that years later, in the week leading up to my thirtieth birthday, I’d be getting up at 4am daily in a desperate attempt to try and finish the final – and highest ranking – book from the list.
Having spent a painful, laborious week reading Joyce’s Ulysses, whichever book followed would have been light relief, but with solid praise from my cousin Hal, step-dad Anthony, and my fab friend Chris, I had high hopes for the books that stole the nation’s heart back when the poll was conducted in 2003. Prior to starting it, I calculated that I had to read approximately 100 pages a day if I wanted to finish in time; no mean feat particularly given I was working full time and had my sister and two friends visiting from London – all of whom I wanted to spend as much time as possible with. And so it was that for the last ten days of my twenties, I spent every spare minute alone reading – from waking at 4am, to deliberately taking the longer bus to work to give me a more ample commute; to reading as I walked from the bus stop to work, to spending every spare second of my lunch break engrossed in Tolkien’s beloved trilogy.
Suffice to say, however, what a wonderful way to end my challenge. Having little recollection of what happened in the films, I came to the novels not fully knowing what to expect, and was immediately swept away by Tokien’s tale of adventures and faraway lands. With wonderful detail and imagery throughout and an imaginative cast of characters Lord of the Rings an epic tale of escapism at its finest.
As the final day of my twenties dawned, I had 140 pages to go and so spent four hours before work racing my way through the final book in Tolkien’s trilogy. Post-work I went to Rose Bay, one of my favourite beaches in the world, where I sat to watch the final sunset of my twenties, and to finish the final book from my challenge. Turning the final page brought with it mixed emotions; relief, satisfaction and a sense of sadness that such a profound part of my life had finished. But mainly I was happy; that I had accomplished what I had hoped to, and that I was closing the final chapter on both a wonderful decade and an incredible list of books, full of anticipation and hope for what the future might hold.