Reviews for ‘Tolkien’s Ordinary Virtues,’ ‘Prosper’s Demon,’ and ‘The Art of Mindful Living’

Tolkien’s Ordinary Virtues: Exploring the Spiritual Themes of the Lord of the Rings

This is a very good nonfiction critique of Tolkien’s Legendarium. It explores the use of themes of sacrifice, mercy, dignity, glory and grace in the trilogy. Tolkien was a Christian, so the themes explored were from a very Christian perspective. The author even cited scripture regularly to help explain the angle Tolkien was getting at. This was very good, and I highly recommend you read it if you’re a Tolkien afficionado. I got it for free through Audible Plus.

Prosper’s Demon

This is a 100 page novella by K. J. Parker. I really enjoyed this book.

This story is about a Renaissance-era exorcist who’s tasked to keep demons from possessing humankind. The trick is that demons get pissed off at him for regularly stopping their misadventures, so they try to get revenge against him by afflicting him and his loved ones with evil. He lives a miserable life, staying one step ahead of the immortal demons who are doing their best to wipe out human kind… until he learns that a demon has taken possession of a Leonardo da Vinci-like character, and it’s up to the exorcist to defeat the demon. The problem? Exorcising the demon will lobotomize da Vinci. The protagonist is torn between helping the demon with it’s evil intensions- and advancing humanity’s sciences in the process- and also doing his duty to defeat evil by smiting the demons.

This is a great concept to base a story around. My problem is with the protagonist. I needed a little more characterization from him. This is a small quibble- this is a 100page book, so there’s not much room for characterization.

My favorite part of the book was the ending. The author managed to surprise me in a great way, and it made me laugh in a grimdark sort of way. Check this novella out if you’re a fan of dark fantasy books.

The Art of Mindful Living

This is an audiobook of some of the Vietnamese, Zen Buddhist monk Thich Naht Han’s teachings to his students. I thought it was very pleasant to listen to. It focused on everyday advice for living mindfully, having good relationships with your friends, spouse and children, and a good relationship with yourself.

I’ve been reading a fair number of Buddhist literature recently, and if I were to compare this to all of them, I’d say that this book is the Buddhist version of a self-improvement novel. Where others focused on Buddhist orthodoxy, this is more about good advice for clean living.

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