Those who know me well know that I am an avid reader. I typically read three to six books at a time from a variety of genres and this held true during my recent 41-day hike on the Alpe Adria Trail. My favorites were: The Lord of Chaos, A Crown of Swords, and The Path of Daggers from Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig, and Grant by Ron Chernow.
I first discovered the Wheel of Time books after watching the Amazon production of the first book — Eye of the World — when it came out in early 2022. I’ve always loved both science fiction and fantasy books! From the ages of 12 to 20, I read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit each five times. I confess to being a huge Harry Potter fan and have read the entire series twice. I even admit to loving the Twilight books and movies too— clearly, there is more than a little bit of romantic in me!
I have found the Wheel of Time books as interesting as The Lord of the Rings, but for different reasons. Tolkien was such a gifted writer, and his books have a strong, poetic quality to them. Robert Jordan is probably not as good of a writer compared to Tolkien, but he may be an unmatched “world builder.” He really created an amazing world with literally thousands of different characters, and the book allows you to watch hundreds of these characters change and grow over time. There are 14 books in the series, plus one prequel—15 in total. Isn’t that massive? There are more words and pages in the Wheel of Time series than in The Lord of the Rings, all seven of the Harry Potter books, the complete Game of Thrones series, and the Holy Bible combined all together! Whew, that is a lot of reading! On my hike and bike trip, I read all of The Lord of Chaos and A Crown of Swords and half of The Path of Daggers. I loved all three and definitely recommend the series!
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig was another book I read while on this trip and really liked it too! This book is about a depressed, young woman who has made many choices in her life that have led to many regrets. She is permitted the opportunity at “The Midnight Library” to find out what would have happened if she had made different choices — how her other possible lives turned out.
Each of us makes many, many choices every day of our lives, and those choices ripple out from us creating an infinite number of possible other lives depending upon the choices that we make. Different choices result in different lives — many of them very similar, but many others are very different. This is not a long book, but it is extremely absorbing. Full disclosure — I actually listened to this book on my Audible app and loved the narration from the actress Carrie Mulligan. She has an amazing voice and she helped make the book magical for me.
I also listened to the book Grant by Robert Chernow while on my hike. I found this book very interesting. US Grant became a great man, who strongly impacted the history of our country and it almost didn’t happen. He was forced to resign from the army a few years after the Mexican War ended due to alcoholism — a substance he struggled with most of his adult life. His career after the army can only be considered a failure by all common metrics and he would likely have been entirely forgotten had not the Civil War broken out. Due to his past problems with alcohol, Grant had a great deal of trouble even getting a commission in the Union army, and once he did, he was very slow to receive any kind of meaningful rank or leadership. However, when given the opportunity to do so, Grant aggressively fought and won battles. This was something other Union military leaders were not so good at — winning battles. Relatively slowly, Grant began to be noticed — especially by President Lincoln — and he began to gain more leadership authority. Of course, his success also created envy among other military leaders, some of whom tried to block his rise in leadership and power. However, Lincoln believed in him and kept promoting him until he was put in charge of the entire Union army. Robert E. Lee is generally regarded as the great military genius of the Civil War—often by historians from the southern states — but it was actually Grant, who proved over time to be a great military strategist and ultimately won the war for the North.
Isn’t it fascinating to think how the world might be different if Grant hadn’t rejoined the Union army and risen to ultimate military command? Would the Union have won the war anyway? Maybe, but maybe not. It is likely that without Grant’s military victories, Lincoln would have lost the 1864 election to George McClellan. McClellan would likely have brokered “peace” with the Confederacy and we would now be two nations (or more) instead of just one.