J. R. R. Tolkien's most popular books are without a doubt The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. He wrote many other stories apart from these though. Some were set in Middle Earth and others were entirely separate stories. Many of the stories he wrote were edited and published after his death by his son Christopher Tolkien
This section of the site describes some of the books by and about Tolkien and gives an idea of what they are each about. For a great resource to find out about Tolkien books that may suit your tastes, I recommend the custom Tolkien book list from the Tolkien FAQs and Information website.
For most people, this is the best place to start on Tolkien's stories. The Hobbit has a much lighter tone than most of Tolkien's other books and is more suitable for younger readers than most of the others. Many adults actually like reading this book to their children, though it's also a favourite of millions of adults.
It tells the tale of the hobbit named Bilbo Baggins, and his unexpected journey. The adventures he experienced provided the main background for Lord of the Rings and introduced some of it's key characters such as Gandalf the wizard and Gollum.
Lord of the Rings
The most famous of Tolkien's works. The Lord of the Rings was originally published as three separate volumes (with two main sections in each). These volumes were Fellowship of the Rings (The Ring Sets Out, The Ring Goes South), Two Towers (The Treason of Isengard, The Ring Goes East), Return of the King (The War of the Ring, The End of the Third Age). These days they are often sold as one volume but can also still be bought as separate books. A collection of six appendices that add many interesting facts and insights to the story are usually also included.
This was written as a sequel to The Hobbit. It starts out in a similar tone to The Hobbit before changing to a much more epic tale. Bilbo Baggins takes on a more minor role in this story as it is concerned more with his nephew Frodo Baggins. The story's popularity is largely due to its broad appeal.
During Tolkien's lifetime, he often wrote tales about the history of his fictional world, Middle Earth. Some of these stories were referred to in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Tolkien had intended to publish these stories and worked on them for most of his life. Four years after his death, his son Christopher Tolkien compiled many of these stories, edited them and published them as The Silmarillion. This was greatly appreciate by fans of Tolkien's work who were eager to learn more about the world of Middle Earth.
The Silmarillion is not one story like the previous books, but instead is a collection of stories arranged in chronological order. The stories all relate to the distant history of Middle earth and the wars between the elves and the Dark Lord Morgoth. The older style of the writing makes it a little more difficult for some people to read. Those who do read it generally get a great deal of enjoyment out of its stories and the background it gives for the earlier books.
The content of this book is mostly similar to the content of The Silmarillion. The difference, as the name suggests, is that the stories compiled by Christopher Tolkien in this book were never finished by his father. They are still popular stories with Tolkien fans though. The book also contains some writings by J. R. R. Tolkien that provide some interesting information about topics such as the Istari and the Palantir.
History of Middle Earth
This series edited by Christopher Tolkien originally began as Book of Lost Tales volume 1 & 2. It has since grown in to twelve volumes. It is not so much a history of the world of Middle Earth but more a history of how J. R. R. Tolkien created that world. The books in this series contain many examples of earlier versions of the stories and show how they developed in to the finished form. They are often sold in sets of related volumes. Eg. Volumes 6 to 8 are sometimes sold as a set, since they deal with the writing of The Lord of the Rings and contain many different draft versions of the story (They often also include a smaller volume titled The End of the Third Age which completes the history of the writing of Lord of the Rings). The books are not for the casual reader and are more suited to the keen fan of Tolkien's work. The volumes in the series ar as follows:
- The book of lost tales, Part one
- The book of lost tales, Part two
- The Lays of Beleriand
- The Shaping of Middle Earth
- The Lost Road - And Other Writings
- The Return of the Shadow
- The Treason of Isengard
- The War of the Ring
- Sauron Defeated
- Morgoth's Ring
- The War of the Jewels
- The Peoples of Middle Earth
Tree And Leaf
This book is in two sections. The first part of the book contains an essay by J. R. R. Tolkien titled On Fairy-Stories. This essay provides Tolkien's views on what makes a great fairy tale and was written around the same time as he was writing his own great tale, Lord of the Rings. The second part of the book contains a short story called Leaf by Niggle that Tolkien also wrote about the same time. People who enjoyed Lord of the Rings would most likely appreciate this pleasant tale about a painter named Niggle.
Tolkien And The Critics
Essays on J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings - Edited by Neil D. Isaacs and Rose A. Zimbardo
First published in 1968, this book contains fifteen essays from various authors which give some serious critical insights in to the literary creation of J. R. R. Tolkien. The essays provide deep insights in to topics such as the influences, sources and relationships between Tolkien's stories and earlier sources (such as Norse mythology). The quote from C. S. Lewis on the main page of this site comes from his essay titled The Dethronement of Power, which is the second essay in the book.