Book Cover
Title The Hobbit
Author J.R.R. Tolkien
Cover Art John Howe
Publisher Grafton - 1991
First Printing George Allen & Unwin - 1937
Book Cover
Title The Fellowship of the Ring
Author J.R.R. Tolkien
Cover Art ---
Publisher Methuen Publications - 1975
First Printing 1954
Book Cover
Title The Two Towers
Author J.R.R. Tolkien
Cover Art ---
Publisher Unwin Paperbacks - 1977
First Printing 1954
Book Cover
Title The Return of the King
Author J.R.R. Tolkien
Cover Art ---
Publisher Methuen Publications - 1975
First Printing 1955
Book Cover
Title The Silmarillion
Author J.R.R. Tolkien
Cover Art J.R.R. Tolkien
Publisher Houghton Mifflin - 1977
First Printing 1977
Book Cover
Title The Book of Lost Tales Vol. 1
Author J.R.R. & Christopher Tolkien
Cover Art ---
Publisher Houghton Mifflin - 1984
First Printing 1983
Book Cover
Title A Tolkien Miscellany
Author J.R.R. Tolkien
Cover Art Gary Lippincott
Publisher SFBC - 2002
First Printing 2002
Book Cover
Title The Unfinished Tales of Numenor and Middle-Earth
Author J.R.R. & Christopher Tolkien
Cover Art J.R.R. Tolkien
Publisher Harper Collins - 2014
First Printing 1980
Book Cover
Title The Children of Hurin
Author J.R.R. & Christopher Tolkien
Cover Art J.R.R. Tolkien
Publisher Harper Collins - 2007
First Printing 2007
Book Cover
Title Meditations on Middle Earth
Editor Karen Haber
Illustrator John Howe
Publisher St. Martin's Press - 2001
First Printing 2001
Category Epic Fantasy
Warnings None
Main Characters Gandalf, Sauron, Saruman, Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, Sam, Meriadoc, Pippin, Legolas, Elrond, Galadriel, Feanor, Gimli, Thurin, Boromir, Aragorn, Gollum, Smaug, Turin, Tuor, Nienor, Glaurung
Main Elements Wizards, hobbits, elves, dwarves, orcs, dragons
Website ---

Click to read the summaryThe Hobbit

Click to read the summaryThe Fellowship of the Ring

Click to read the summaryThe Two Towers

Click to read the summaryThe Return of the King

Click to read the summaryThe Silmarillion

Click to read the summaryThe Book of Lost Tales Part I

Click to read the summaryA Tolkien Miscellany

Click to read the summaryThe Unfinished Tales of Numenor & Middle-Earth

Click to read the summaryThe Children of Hurin

The Hobbit:

Well I couldn't go out and watch the upcoming Hobbit movie without rereading the book now could I? This is one of the books that is sort of hard to review because it is one of fantasy's great classics. If you consider yourself a fan of fantasy you have to at least read this book once.

It makes for a great introduction into Tolkien's world of Middle Earth. This world is simply amazing, the author built it from the ground up, creating it, defining it's languages, its races, their histories, the lay of the land. There aren't many worlds as well developed as this one, if any.

But the Hobbit is this world seen from a very small perspective, from that of Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit. He spent most of his life in the Shire, quite comfortable in his hobbit hole, no adventures for him, thank you very much. But his life is turned upside down with a group of 13 dwarves and one wizard take him out of his sheltered life to help them retrieve a stolen treasure from a dragon. What is a poor Hobbit to do?

For the most part, this is a lighthearted adventure tale. Lots of singing (which I never really cared for, though they aren't silly jingles, they are epic histories). You meet trolls and elves, spiders and wargs, goblins and dragons. And of course, we find the One Ring, though no one knows that yet...

For many, the Hobbit is the children's version of Lord of the Rings, but for a fan of Middle Earth, this is a key piece of it's vast history. But a fun one to read just the same!

The Lord of the Rings:

How does one go about reviewing the Lord of the Rings? A core classic of fantasy literature it goes beyond the ability to be reviewed. The sheer depth of the world building is completely unmatched anywhere else. Sure you can read the trilogy on their own, but when you see the vast amounts of material that Christopher Tolkien has published (rightly or wrongly given their incomplete states) you comprehend that the history of Middle-Earth has been mapped out for millenia, from its creation to the fading of the Eldar and the rise of Man. Tolkien lived and breathed his creation and you feel it when you read the books and he draws you into his world, it feels real because of its depth and complexity, its history and cultures, languages and places.

I'd read them first back in grade school, and it was 20 years before I picked them up again. When I was younger, I loved the story. I even had a set of toy horses whom I named after the characters of the books and would have them act out the story. Now I appreciate the novels so much more than just their story but for the entire world (though that is all what Tolkien said he wrote, a story. Not an allegory, its not about the second world war with Sauron as Hitler, its not an environmental critique on the consequences of deforestation, its a story and all he claimed to have put into them, so enjoy it for what it is, don't pick it apart, if anything it was an excuse for him to develop the Elven tongues as he was a linguist at his core).

I you enjoyed the movies you must read the book. Peter Jackson did what he could to bring this to screen and it was an amazing accomplishment. But he had to change things around, cut pieces out, you miss glimpses into the world of Middle Earth (like Tom Bombadil) that Tolkien builds around the core story. It is a world to get lost in, one feels there is as much to know about Middle-Earth as their is to know about our own.

The Silmarillion:

Now, after I finished The Hobbit, I decided I'd give the Silmarillion a try. I'd heard all the companion books were dry an boring, so I never got around to reading it before. Well don't believe everything you're told, though tastes will vary.

The Silmarillion is the mythology of Middle Earth. The legends that the Elves recorded, in the songs they sing, and the tales they tell. From its creation by Illuvatar (sort of an equivalent of a god), to its near destruction by Melkor, we learn of the Valar (sort of the equivalent of angelic beings), the origins of the Elves and of Men. It is written in a grand and Biblical style, which is for all intents and purposes what it is for this world.

While I enjoyed the complex language, I could see a lot of people getting bored, it is a kind of history textbook after all. I think the hardest thing for me was keeping track of who was who (not only did they tend to have more than one name, but often changed them over time), and where was where (again, different languages, different names). But I found it fascinating nonetheless, especially the beginning, and the end, which ties into Lord of the Rings. We find out who, or should I say what, Gandalf, Sauron and Sarumann are. We learn the family trees of Galadriel, Elrond and Aragorn.

At this point I'm tempted to reread The Lord of the Rings again, with this new perspective on the places and characters in this epic saga. But maybe I'll save that for next year.

The Book of Lost Tales Part I:

Another year, another hobbit movie (2013) so thought I'd continue with the Middle-Earth theme. There are a lot of similarities between this one and The Silmarillion, with is not surprising since this one is the precursor, the difference being that most of what is in this book was never intended to be published, and not everything fits into the LotR lore in fact there are some outright conflicts. It also has a different feel to it, what with different terminology (gnome instead of elf) and a more fairy tale feeling rather than a grand epic. With every tale Christopher Tolkien included an analysis of the story, how it fit into the evolution of Middle-Earth (which wasn't even called that yet), how it differed from The Silmarillion, and since it wouldn't be a Tolkien book if we weren't dragged into linguistics, that as well (must admit I skipped the bits talking about word roots and pronounciations and variations). Not exactly a quick read and definitely not light, but if you're really a Tolkien fan I think it's worth a read. At the very least you have to appreciate the labour of love that was Christopher's project in bringing these writing to light, it could have been no easy task. It is questionable whose life was more affected by Middle-Earth, the man who created the world, or the son who was brought up in it.

A Tolkien Miscellany:

Includes 16 poems set in Middle-Earth, some starring Tom Bombadil. See my review HERE.

The Unfinished Tales:

I read this after a second reading of the Silmarillion. At first I was a bit dismayed at the fact that there is a lot of overlap and was afraid I'd be bored reading the same thing over again, but I wasn't really. Christopher Tolkien ensured that he presented new materials, whether a different version of a story, or a more detailed version of it. Where it overlapped with the Silmarillion he just make a reference to the other book rather than reprinting the content, mostly highlighting differences and sometimes contradictions between all the various works. It highlights that Middle-Earth didn't just jump into being, it was built, revised, rewritten, and some mysteries are never quite solved. Like who those two blue wizards were, where they went and what they did fact we never learn much about the East of Middle-Earth except that it seems to provide an endless source of evil men, but I'm sure there are stories there too, had Tolkien time to explore in that direction. Same with south into Harad. But if you were curious about little tidbits like the brief encounter with the Pukel-Men, or how the Riders of Rohan can to be, or the origins of the Dunedain, and of course, what the wizards are, then this is the book for you. I really enjoyed it. I spent a month reading the Hobbit, the trilogy, the Silmarillion and then finally this book. I would have continued with the Children of Hurin but I figured going over that story 3 times in one month might be too much! But Middle-Earth is so vast, so complex, I found that I discovered something new in each reading, learned a little more, remembered a few extra fascinating pieces of information. Stuff you don't need to enjoy The Lord of the Rings, but if you love world building as I do, I highly recommend this book (and I recommend reading the appendix to each section, a great wealth of information is included there, sometimes more than in the section itself)

Meditations on Middle Earth:

A collection of essays from various authors describing how Tolkien inspired them to write their own fantasy worlds. See my review HERE.

The Children of Hurin:

This tale is covered in both The Silmarillion and The Unfinished Tales, but here it is fleshed out into full novel length by Christopher Tolkien. His dedication to remain true to his father's work is clear as he strives to do a little to the original prose. And while Tolkien may not have been reading to publish this tale, as a reader, I'm glad his son took the initiative. Middle-earth is such a huge and vast world covering a great length of time, from the creation of the world till the passing of the Elves and the start of the Age of Man that I was desperate to have *more*. To have those epic gaps of history filled in. And this book fit the bill perfect. What a pleasure to return to the world of Middle-earth, even if one geographically different from the more famous Lord of the Rings (there is a great cataclysm that occurs in between, causing most of the land that the older tales take place in to be flooded by the have to get used to the what is the east in LotR to be the west here). And this tale is quite the epic one, of mistaken identities, miscommunications, a curse that could not be avoided no matter the convoluted path taken, an evil far more powerful than Sauron could ever hope to become. And of course the dragon Glaurung, far more vile than Smaug could ever aspire to. How I wish this could be turned into a movie, though I suspect it's not possible given the large time span covered, but how amazing would it to see the kingdom of the elves when it was at their peak and then their downfall.

Review by EmilyamI:

The Hobbit - This book is a classic, and I can honestly say that I feel poorly for those who haven't read it. The book is a staple and a foundation for the fantasy genre, as is the author. Tolkien paints a beautiful, detailed picture of his world in language that places the reader in the story, rather than as an observer. The races and species in the book are amazingly defined and each has their own quirks and characteristics. Tolkien even developed an entire set of languages for his elves! If social or cultural aspects of life interest you, this is a definite read. You will encounter numerous peoples that I personally found fascinating.

Individual character development (especially among the dwarves) can prove to be rather lacking. We learn more about the main character, Bilbo Baggins, the character of the dragon Smog, and the character of Gandolf the wizard enough to make them believable and touchable, but the dwarves are treated more as a single entity which could be due to their strong bond and their culture, which seems to insinuate that all dwarves act fairly similarly, and these dwarves have a Musketeer-like outlook of All for one, and one for all.

The pacing of the book could prove troublesome to some readers. There are amazing, thrilling moments of action and suspense. There is, however, a distinct amount of simply walking. Chances are you will still be completely immersed in the story, but you may not find trudging through the countryside to be particularly exciting. I know numerous people who have put this book down because they couldn't read through all of the walking scenes. I urge you to persevere. It's well worth it to get the full experience of Tolkien's masterpiece.

Posted: December 2012


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