compiled by David Bratman, October 2001
All are in print from Houghton Mifflin unless noted; many also in paperback from Ballantine.
Books of the Legendarium
(the Middle-earth/Arda history and mythos)
The Lord of the Rings
Sometimes published in 3 volumes: 1. The Fellowship of the Ring; 2. The Two Towers; 3. The Return of the King. Tolkien's masterwork. A sequel to The Hobbit, but much richer and deeper (and longer) than its predecessor. Bilbo's heir Frodo embarks on an epic quest to destroy the sinister Ring acquired on the earlier journey. Often named the greatest novel of the 20th century.
The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
Collection of poems and light verse supposedly written by hobbits, actually collected from Tolkien's papers of many years. Some also appear in The Lord of the Rings. This short book is included in the paperback omnibus volume The Tolkien Reader; it is also included in two now out-of-print omnibus volumes titled Poems and Stories and Tales from the Perilous Realm.
The Road Goes Ever On
Songbook of Donald Swann's musical settings of several Tolkien poems. Includes new calligraphy and some historical and linguistic notes by Tolkien. Out of print.
Best seen as the lore book of the Elves whom the hobbits meet on their journeys. In a high formal tone, it tells of the mythic creation of the world and the tragic wars of the Elves and the Valar against evil. This volume was compiled after Tolkien's death as a "snapshot" of the latest versions of legends he'd been working on all his life.
Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien
Large-sized reproductions of illustrations for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Many also appear in Hammond and Scull's J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator. Pictures is out of print.
The book with the answers to the questions posed by readers of The Lord of the Rings' appendices. Incomplete but polished stories and essays from all periods of Middle-earth's history.
Bilbo's Last Song
A short poem, published as a book with illustrations by Pauline Baynes. Out of print.
The History of Middle-earth
A twelve-volume series, edited and with commentary by Christopher Tolkien, covering the development of J.R.R. Tolkien's legendarium as he wrote it, including drafts and other manuscripts roughly in order of composition.
1-2. The Book of Lost Tales (2 vol.)
The earliest versions of the "Silmarillion" legends, written in the 1910s.
3. The Lays of Beleriand
Chiefly two long incomplete narrative poems retelling two of the principal "Silmarillion" stories, of Turambar and of Beren and Lúthien. Written in the 1920s.
4. The Shaping of Middle-earth
The early versions of the "Silmarillion" in its later form, written in the 1920s and 30s.
5. The Lost Road
The title story is the earlier version of Tolkien's Atlantis legend, the fall of Númenor. Also includes more early "Silmarillion" material and thorough Elvish language etymologies, all written in the 1930s.
6. The Return of the Shadow (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.1)
Drafts and early versions of the beginnings of The Lord of the Rings, written in the late 1930s and covering approximately the first half of volume 1 of the finished book.
7. The Treason of Isengard (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.2)
Continuing the drafts of The Lord of the Rings into the early 1940s and parts of volumes 1-2 of the finished book.
8. The War of the Ring (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.3)
Continuing the drafts of The Lord of the Rings into the mid 1940s and parts of volumes 2-3 of the finished book.
9. Sauron Defeated (The History of The Lord of the Rings v.4)
Part one, "The End of the Third Age" (also published separately), completes the drafts of The Lord of the Rings, covering the last half of volume 3. Also contains "The Notion Club Papers" and "The Drowning of Anadûnê", later versions of the fall of Númenor. All written in the later 1940s.
10. Morgoth's Ring (The Later Silmarillion v.1)
"Silmarillion" papers, not included in the book called The Silmarillion, dating from the 1940s and 50s, mostly dealing with events of the first half of the story, in Valinor and Tol Eressëa.
11. The War of the Jewels (The Later Silmarillion v.2)
More "Silmarillion" papers, from the same dates and chosen on the same basis as in Morgoth's Ring, but mostly taking place in the second half of the story, in Beleriand.
12. The Peoples of Middle-earth
Includes drafts and early versions of the Appendices to The Lord of the Rings and other late writings mostly of the 1950s and 60s, including a fragmentary sequel to The Lord of the Rings.
Other works by Tolkien
Farmer Giles of Ham
A short humorous account of an enterprising farmer in Anglo-Saxon times and his dealings with giants, dragons, knights, and other mythical beings. A hardcover edition includes introduction and annotations by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, plus a fragmentary sequel by the author. Without the extra material, the story is in the paperback omnibus The Tolkien Reader. Both editions in print have the splendid original illustrations by Pauline Baynes.
Tree and Leaf
An important essay "On Fairy-stories", plus a short story "Leaf by Niggle" making the same points in allegorical form. Both are included in the paperback omnibus The Tolkien Reader.
Smith of Wootton Major
A short elegiac fairy-tale set in Anglo-Saxon times, describing a man's desire for Faërie. The paperback edition is paired with Farmer Giles of Ham.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo
Tolkien's translations of three important 14th century Middle English poems.
Letters from Father Christmas (previously titled The Father Christmas Letters)
The letters supposedly written by the British equivalent of Santa Claus to the Tolkien children between the 1920s and 40s. All of the creative imagination that Tolkien used for more public works, and a good deal about elves and goblins, went into these.
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Correspondence with his family, publishers, and readers, showing the care Tolkien put into the writing and production of his books, giving further details of his intentions and the events of his sub-creation, and discussing his personal and moral philosophy.
A children's picture book recounting the adventures of a peculiar man, his strange pet the Girabbit, and the day he buys a car. Out of print.
The Monsters and the Critics
Collection of Tolkien's non-technical essays on language and literature. The title essay is his ground-breaking study of Beowulf. Out of print.
A children's novel not much shorter nor less elaborate than The Hobbit, but only published recently. Recounts the adventures of a wayward toy dog on the Moon and beneath the Sea. Includes introduction and annotations by Hammond and Scull.
Books currently in print October 2001 have publishers noted. Others may be found in used bookstores, out-of-print services, and some libraries.
Reference works and biographies
Jim Allan, ed. An Introduction to Elvish (Thornton Booksellers)
Only in print in the UK, but worth seeking for linguists. The definitive guide to the material published in Tolkien's lifetime on his Elvish and other invented languages. No comparable guide exists to the vast posthumous material: see the Elvish Linguistic Fellowship website for information. The Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth by Ruth Noel is Not Recommended.
Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography (Houghton Mifflin)
The indispensable biography of Tolkien, published in 1977 and only slightly outdated by newer research. Well-written, excellently organized, balanced, dependable, and clear on how his life and works interacted. Other biographies of Tolkien are Not Recommended, including The Biography of J.R.R. Tolkien by Daniel Grotta, The Life and Work of J.R.R. Tolkien by Michael White, and various children's biographies.
Karen Wynn Fonstad, The Atlas of Middle-earth (Houghton Mifflin)
Historical atlas, well annotated, of the events taking place in The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings, and the periods between them.
Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth (Ballantine)
An encyclopedia of the persons, places, and things in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion. The Tolkien Companion by J.E.A. Tyler excludes The Silmarillion in the edition in print, but is an acceptable substitute. Various books by David Day and the online Encyclopedia of Arda are Not Recommended.
Wayne G. Hammond, with Douglas A. Anderson, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography
Thorough catalog of all Tolkien's published work. Includes identification points for editions, changes in the texts, and essays recounting the editing and publishing process for each book.
Full-length critical studies
Verlyn Flieger, A Question of Time (Kent State University Press)
A close and careful study of Tolkien's use of time and dreaming as themes in his works, including his posthumous works. For advanced readers interested in the subtleties of Tolkien's achievement.
Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist & Illustrator (Houghton Mifflin)
Tolkien's artwork is an essential part of his creative genius. This well-illustrated study covers everything from his youthful abstracts to the heraldic patterns of his old age, including the illustrations he prepared for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Paul H. Kocher, Master of Middle-earth
The first full-length critical study of Tolkien, published 1972, and still one of the best. Discusses characterization in The Lord of the Rings, and also covers Tolkien's then-published lesser works.
Tom Shippey, J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century (Houghton Mifflin)
Makes the case for Tolkien: what is he trying to accomplish in his fiction, how does he succeed for so many readers, and why is he actually characteristic of his time? Many of Shippey's points were made in his earlier book, The Road to Middle-earth, out of print but Highly Recommended.
Collections of essays
George Clark and Daniel Timmons, ed. Tolkien and His Literary Resonances (Greenwood)
Recent collection of scholarly essays mostly on literary aspects of The Lord of the Rings.
Verlyn Flieger and Carl F. Hostetter, ed. Tolkien's Legendarium (Greenwood)
Recent collection of scholarly essays concentrating on The History of Middle-earth.
Karen Haber, ed. Meditations on Middle-earth (St. Martin's)
Distinguished fantasy authors discuss what Tolkien means to them. Of variable quality.
Joseph Pearce, ed. Tolkien: A Celebration (Trafalgar Square)
Collection of mostly reprinted essays on Tolkien, emphasizing the religious and spiritual nature of his work.
Even a good website is no substitute for a book, but they can be convenient and up-to-date. Links from these sites are the best way to find other good sites.
The Mythopoeic Society
Official information site for the leading Tolkien society in America. Includes contact and order info, conference info, samples from publications, and other material on Tolkien and his friends and fellow authors C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams.
The Tolkien Society
Official site of a British group, the oldest exclusively Tolkien society in the world. Includes news, much useful reference info including bibliographies, and many good links.
General and reference
Åke Bertenstam, A Chronological Bibliography of the Writings of J.R.R. Tolkien
Not as detailed as the Hammond bibliography, but it is a complete and accurate list of Tolkien's published works. Bertenstam also maintains A Chronological Bibliography of Books About Tolkien including also many books only tangentially about Tolkien.
William D.B. Loos, ed., Tolkien: Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ for several Tolkien newsgroups. A good first stop. There is also an accompanying Tolkien: Less Frequently Asked Questions. The Hypertextualized Tolkien FAQ is less complete but even better in what it does include.
Michael Martinez, J.R.R. Tolkien and Middle-earth
Collection of articles on various Tolkienian topics, particularly emphasizing the "historical" details of Middle-earth.
The Elvish Linguistic Fellowship
Site for the leading organization of Tolkienian linguists. Includes helpful info on studying the Elvish languages, order info on print publications (including material by Tolkien), and links to many other useful Elvish linguistics sites.
Lord of the Rings Fanatics Site
Among the better slick commercial sites. Includes some Middle-earth reference material with good graphics, and an excellent trivia quiz.
The Lord of the Rings
Official site for the Peter Jackson/New Line films. Includes streaming and downloadable trailers and short documentaries.
Best of the unofficial film sites. Includes much news on the film and related matters. Also has good articles on other aspects of Tolkien, especially in the "Green Books" section.
Harper Collins Publishers Ltd., J.R.R. Tolkien
Official Tolkien website of his British publisher. Includes listings of all their books by and about him, and much additional information.
Houghton Mifflin Co., The Lord of the Rings
Official Tolkien website of his U.S. publisher. Lists all their editions of books by and about him.
René van Rossenberg, The Tolkien Shop
The most complete and useful Tolkien specialty order site online.
O. Sharp, ed., The Tolkien Sarcasm Page
The best Tolkien humor site. Includes some semi-serious criticism too. Non-information from a parody Lord of the Rings synopsis here appeared as factual in a Times of London article on the upcoming film some time ago.