J R R Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel or JRR Tolkien (1892-1973) was a professor of Anglo-Saxon and later of English language and literature at Oxford University, best known for writing two fantasy novels: The Hobbit (1937) and The Lord of the Rings (1954-5). He was of the generation of Englishmen who fought in World War I. As he wrote in the foreword to the 2nd edition of The Lord of the Rings, “by 1918 all but one of my close friends was dead.” However, he insisted that his books were not intended as an allegory for anything.
As a writer, he felt that England lacked its own myths and heroic legends. The fantasy world he created in Middle-earth and beyond is extremely detailed, with lots of history and even its own languages and grammar. It was combining this backdrop with the tales of hobbits that he told to his children that made for the intoxicating saga that is The Lord of the Rings.
Books by J R R Tolkien
The Fall of Númenor
by Alan Lee, Brian Sibley (Editor) & J R R Tolkien
The Fall of Númenor is a collection of Tolkien's writings on the Second Age of Middle-earth, put together by British writer and Tolkien expert Brian Sibley and illustrated by Alan Lee. This is the period before the adventures of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (which take place in the Third Age of Middle-earth). Númenor is the island where the Dúnedain live and from whom Aragorn—the king in The Return of the King—is descended.
The book may be distantly connected to the Amazon Prime series The Rings of Power, also set in the Second Age of Middle-earth.
“This one book, which was published in 1937, defined so many variables for the fantasy tradition that are still in place today. Tolkien’s extraordinary achievement was to recover the epic landscapes of Anglo-Saxon myth, bring them back to life, and then to take us through them on foot, so we could see the details up close, at human scale.” Read more...
Lev Grossman, Novelist
The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings Box Set
by J R R Tolkien
If you're looking for a good, reasonably priced Lord of the Rings boxset, this is a good choice. The cover images of each book are by JRR Tolkien himself and the books include maps by Christopher Tolkien, his son. At the end of The Return of the King, there is also an index (useful as not only are there many characters in Lord of the Rings, but many have more than one name).
by Christopher Tolkien (editor) & J R R Tolkien
This paperback edition of The Silmarillion, published in 2001, features JRR Tolkien's drawing on the front cover and an extremely useful index of names at the back. You'll find yourself consulting it frequently.
The Lord of the Rings
by J R R Tolkien
Tolkien published The Lord of the Rings in three parts: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers (both in 1954) and The Return of the King (1955). This edition allows you to buy all three of them as a single volume. At more than 1,100 pages, it's a large book and perhaps easier to read on a Kindle. Perhaps even better is to buy the whole Lord of the Rings epic as a boxset, whether plain or one of the beautifully illustrated editions.
The Fellowship of the Ring (Lord of the Rings Part One)
by J R R Tolkien
This paperback edition of The Fellowship of the Ring includes not only the story and maps, but also an enlightening foreword by JRR Tolkien himself, which he wrote for the second edition.
The Two Towers (Lord of the Rings Part Two)
by J R R Tolkien
Starting out with a two-age synopsis of Part One (The Fellowship of the Ring) this paperback edition of The Two Towers includes 7 pages of maps which are very useful at this stage of the story, where the members of the fellowship split.
“Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J R R Tolkien’s children. The letters were from Father Christmas.” Read more...
“This is essentially the story of how Sigurd and Brynhild get together and are betrothed, but in various ways are tricked, so that Sigurd marries Gudrún instead. Brynhild in revenge arranges for Sigurd to be killed and then she commits suicide. We know the details of the story from various sources, but the sources conflict with each other, and Tolkien does his best to give them coherent form.” Read more...
The best books on Old Icelandic Culture
Rory McTurk, Theologians & Historians of Religion
The Return of the King (Lord of the Rings Part Three)
by J R R Tolkien
As in Part 2, this paperback edition of The Return of the King opens with a synopsis of what's happened previously. As well as maps (vital for understanding what's going on), at the back of the book are more than 100 pages of appendices, including two alphabets: one of letters, one of runes. There is also a handy index for the entire trilogy, divided up into "Songs and Verses","Persons Beasts and Monsters","Places" and "Things."
Interviews where books by J R R Tolkien were recommended
The best books on Old Icelandic Culture, recommended by Rory McTurk
Rory McTurk, Emeritus Professor of Icelandic Studies at the University of Leeds, introduces us to the landscape of old Icelandic culture, addressing the Icelandic sagas, medieval Nordic history, and links to Anglo-Saxon England.
The best books on Elves, recommended by Igreth the Elf
Elves are often misunderstood or misrepresented over the Christmas period – Christmas cracker jokes have never been kind to these tiny heroes of the festive season. Here Igreth the Elf, great-great-great-grandson of Ilbereth the Elf, sets the record straight and introduces five children’s books that celebrate the extraordinary contribution these diminutive creatures make to Christmas itself.
Best Science Fiction and Fantasy for Young Adults, recommended by Philip Reeve
Award-winning author Philip Reeve talks us through the science fiction and fantasy books that shaped him and his work in profound ways; among indubitable classics are vibrant lesser-known works awaiting our discovery.
Books Drawn From Myth and Fairy Tale, recommended by Alan Lee
Alan Lee, illustrator of such classics as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, talks to Five Books about his favourite stories drawn from myth and fairy tale, what they mean to him, and how important it is for young readers today to experience these ancient stories.
Cressida Cowell on Magical Stories for Kids
From wizards to alchemy and fairies to folklore, Cressida Cowell reveals the magical stories that were most important to her as a child (and which she now delights in sharing with her own children), and her own inspirations for writing about magic and magical worlds today.
The best books on Fantasy, recommended by Lev Grossman
We’re living through a golden age for fantasy fiction, says the author of The Magicians. Here, he tells us what makes for a good fantasy novel, and who’s staking out the future not just of fantasy but of fiction as a whole.
Children’s and Young Adult Fiction, recommended by Melvin Burgess
Melvin Burgess, author of Junk and Doing It tells us about the books that first inspired him and he picks the best thriller writing for young adults – along the way explaining why young people make the most demanding readers
Alan Lee on Books Drawn From Myth and Fairy Tale