The best books on Tolkien that will astonish you with his genius

Richard Middleton Author Of The Wyrm Conspiracy
By Richard Middleton

Who am I?

I read The Hobbit when I was in primary school and was immediately captivated by the world of magic, dwarves, and dragons. Perhaps because in the North of England where I grew up, this world seemed often to be just around the next corner! I grew up writing, and as I learned my craft I naturally turned to books on Tolkien to see what inspired and drove him. I found that every writer on Tolkien brings a new and surprising perspective on his work, each revealing a little more of Tolkien’s genius, and inspiring me to demand ever more of myself as a writer.

I wrote...

The Wyrm Conspiracy

By Richard Middleton,

Book cover of The Wyrm Conspiracy

What is my book about?

The first book in a thrilling fantasy trilogy for older children. A thousand years have passed since the tyrant Wyrm King was defeated and imprisoned, and memories of him have faded to nothing more than folktales and nursery rhymes. But best friends Emily and Sam have uncovered a conspiracy amongst the most powerful people in Wormwell to free the tyrant and restore his reign of terror. The children’s quest to stop them will take every last measure of their courage, invention, and determination.

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The books I picked & why

The Hobbit Companion

By David Day, Lidia Postma (illustrator),

Book cover of The Hobbit Companion

Why did I love this book?

A great place to start if you’re new to books on Tolkien (as opposed to books by Tolkien!). David Day has written many books on Tolkien and always offers intelligent and informed insights. Although The Hobbit Companion looks rather like a children’s book, it’s really more of a profusely-illustrated exploration of, as Day says, “the power of language,” looking at the derivations of all the key names in The Hobbit and what they reveal about Tolkien and Middle-Earth. It’s a fun and surprisingly rewarding read.   

By David Day, Lidia Postma (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Hobbit Companion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Exploring the brilliant web of verbal hocus-pocus that J.R.R. Tolkien delightedly spun in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, master hobbit investigator David Day reveals the myriad crafty puns and riddles, hidden meanings, and mythical associations beneath the saga's thrilling surface.

Intriguing to the uninitiated, enchanting to the Tolkien enthusiast, The Hobbit Companion can only enhance our enjoyment of his dark, mysterious world.

The Hobbit is also the subject of a forthcoming two-part film adaptation; Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, is the director, producer and co-writer. The two parts were filmed in…

Book cover of The Road to Middle-Earth

Why did I love this book?

Professor Tom Shippey is one of the great Tolkien scholars, with the gift of being able to offer deep insight and analysis in an accessible way. In The Road to Middle-Earth he uses Tolkien’s academic life and interests to shed light on the development of his personal mythology, from the foundational History of Middle-Earth works through to Lord of The Rings. For me this is a ‘gateway’ book—if you enjoy what Shippey has to say and what he reveals about Tolkien’s work, then I suspect you’ll also like the remaining three books on this list.   

By Tom Shippey,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Road to Middle-Earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Uniquely qualified to explicate Tolkien’s worldview,” this journey into the roots of the Lord of the Rings is a classic in its own right (

From beloved epic fantasy classic to record-breaking cinematic success, J.R.R. Tolkien's story of four brave hobbits has enraptured the hearts and minds of generations. Now, readers can go deeper into this enchanting lore with a revised edition of Tom Shippey's classic exploration of Middle-earth.
From meditations on Tolkien's inspiration to analyses of the influences of his professional background, The Road to Middle-earth takes a closer look at the novels that made Tolkien a legend. Shippey…

Book cover of The Riddles of the Hobbit

Why did I love this book?

This is a great example of what I enjoy about books about Tolkien. Roberts focuses on a tiny element of one of Tolkien’s works (the riddles that Gollum and Bilbo trade in The Hobbit) and uses it as a lens not only to investigate Tolkien’s own love and appreciation of riddles, but to prompt a wider exploration as to the nature and importance of riddles in wider literature, culture, and society. It’s well-written, intriguing, and like all great books on Tolkien, leaves you astonished.       

By Adam Roberts,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Riddles of the Hobbit as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Riddles are threaded through The Hobbit , and are key to Tolkien's creative imagination. The Riddles of The Hobbit situates this novel and the rest of Tolkien's writing in the context of Old English riddling culture, and more modern day examples; it sets out to solve the many riddles of the novel in original and often surprising ways.

Book cover of The Battle for Middle-earth: Tolkien's Divine Design in The Lord of the Rings

Why did I love this book?

There’s a paradox at the heart of The Lord of The Rings. Tolkien wrote that it is “a fundamentally religious and Catholic work,” yet Middle-earth is pre-Christian and has little-to-no trace of religion evident within it. So how to reconcile the two? In The Battle for Middle-earth, Rutledge, a priest, brings his own knowledge and understanding of scripture to bear on The Lord of the Rings, to reveal how Tolkien’s plots, themes, and characters can be understood from a Catholic perspective. One thing shines clear from this book: just what a great storyteller Tolkien is. He never seeks to dictate or persuade (unlike C.S. Lewis in his Narnia series), but allows each reader to discover for themselves the treasures within his stories. 

By Fleming Rutledge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Battle for Middle-earth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings has long been acknowledged as the gold standard for fantasy fiction, and the recent Oscar-winning movie trilogy has brought forth a whole new generation of fans. Many Tolkien enthusiasts, however, are not aware of the profoundly religious dimension of the great Ring saga.

In The Battle for Middle-earth Fleming Rutledge employs a distinctive technique to uncover the theological currents that lie just under the surface of Tolkien's epic tale. Rutledge believes that the best way to understand this powerful "deep narrative" is to examine the story as it unfolds, preserving some of…

Book cover of Tolkien's Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth

Why did I love this book?

This one’s for the hardcore Tolkien reader, but it’s a gem. It’s a collection of academic essays on The History of Middle-earth, (the foundational stories that lie behind Tolkien’s more popular works, some of which made it into The Silmarillion). Flieger and Hostetter are giants of Tolkien academia, and their individual works are well worth seeking out. The essays cover language, theme, structure, mythology, and other areas of literary criticism. As a writer, one in particular struck a chord with me: Hammond’s A Continuing and Evolving Creation. This explores how Tolkien actively worked on his vast mythology his entire life, revising, adding, and even re-conceiving elements as his understanding of his own work changed, and it offers a flavour of how one man could transform his experience, imagination, and beliefs into a personal mythology that has captured and enraptured so many readers.   

By Verlyn Flieger, Carl Hostetter,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tolkien's Legendarium as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a scholar of medieval languages and literature, J.R.R. Tolkien brought to his fiction an intense interest in myth and legend. When he died in 1973, he left behind a vast body of unpublished material related to his fictive mythology. Now edited and published as The History of Middle-earth by his son and literary executor, Christopher Tolkien, these 12 volumes provide a record of the growth of J.R.R. Tolkien's mythology from its beginnings in 1917 to the time of his death more than 50 years later. The material in these volumes offers an unparalleled insight into Tolkien's process of myth-making…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Middle Earth, myth, and folklore?

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