Summer – a time for catching up, relaxing, exploring, starting new projects, or perhaps completing work in progress.  Reading, of course, is key in all of these.  With this in mind, we asked some faculty members at St. John’s about books that have influenced them personally or professionally.

Dr. Tracey-Anne Cooper, a sssistant professor in the History Department writes:

My father read parts of Tolkien‘s Lord of the Rings to me when I was quite young, which was a magical experience both for the familial memory and the exposure to adult story-telling and fantasy. When I was around ten or eleven years-old it was serialized by BBC Radio, and my brother and I taped them all and listened to them several times each week, greedily waiting for the next Thursday-night episode. I am not sure why I waited so long, but I did not read Lord of the Rings for myself until I was nineteen, when I took a very cheap and compact one volume paperback of the trilogy with me when I spent a month Euro-railing. The symmetry of Frodo‘s journey into the unknown and my own was delightful and charming to my less-cynical nineteen-year-old self. In the month I had read the now very tatty book three times and promised I would read it again at least every ten years for the rest of my life, and so far I have. At twenty-five I left quite a good job to study Medieval Studies at university, and among my first courses were Old English language and literature, the subjects Tolkien had taught at Oxford. As it turned out my enthusiasm was luckily matched by aptitude and, three degrees later, I myself conduct research in the Anglo-Saxon world of epic fantasy and Christian symbolism that Tolkien drew on so heavily to create his Middle-Earth. Last year I was asked to participate in a History Channel show “Tolkien’s Monsters,” which, while admittedly was not great television, did leave me grinning on the inside; and it did mean I “had” to read my favorite book again seven years short of my ten-year anniversary.