Aside from the number of short ‘Guides’ to Tolkien and his works by publishers such as York Notes, Barron’s Book Notes, SparkNotes, and even Dummy’s Guide, there are also many excellent books that deal with his created works. However, as The Hobbit has been in print for over 75 years the list of possible titles, and the range of their quality, is naturally rather large. Here then is a list of critical works for new readers to help them expand on their reading of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and other works.
The list was compiled by Ian Collier, David Doughan and Troels Forchammer from an earlier list by Charles E. Noad. It is also available as a PDF.
Best to have:
Tolkien: A Biography. Humphrey Carpenter. Allen and Unwin, London, 1977.
Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Ed. Humphrey Carpenter with Christopher Tolkien. George Allen and Unwin, London, 1981.
Tolkien and the Great War. John Garth. HarperCollins, London, 2002.
J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull. HarperCollins, London, 1995.
The Lord of the Rings a Reader’s Companion. Wayne Hammond & Christina Scull. HarperCollins, London, 2005.
The Road to Middle-earth. T.A. Shippey. Allen and Unwin, London, 1982 (2 editions since).
J.R.R. Tolkien Author of the Century. T.A. Shippey. HarperCollins, London, 2000.
The Tolkien Scrapbook. Ed. Alida Becker. Running Press, Philadelphia, 1978. Reprinted as The Tolkien Treasury, Courage Books, Running Press, 1989.
The Roots of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Robert S. Blackham. The History Press Ltd, 2006.
Tolkien’s Oxford. Robert S. Blackham. The History Press Ltd, 2008.
Tolkien and the Peril of War. Robert S. Blackham. The History Press Ltd, 2011.
The Annotated Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien & Douglas A Anderson. 2nd edition, HarperCollins, London, 2003.
The Inklings: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, and their Friends. Humphrey Carpenter. Allen and Unwin, London, 1977.
Tolkien the Medievalist. Ed. Jane Chance. Routledge, New York, 2003.
Tolkien and the Invention of Myth: A Reader. Ed. Jane Chance. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, 2004.
The Tolkien and Middle-earth Handbook. Colin Duriez. Monarch, Tunbridge Wells, 1992.
The Atlas of Middle-earth. Karen Wynn Fonstad. Revised edition, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1992; HarperCollins, London, 1992.
The Complete Guide to Middle-earth: from The Hobbit to The Silmarillion. Robert Foster. Ballantine Books, New York, 1978; Allen and Unwin, London, 1978.
The Ring of Words: Tolkien and the Oxford English Dictionary. Peter Gilliver, Jeremy Marshall, Edmund Weiner. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006.
Meditations on Middle-earth. Ed. Karen Haber. Earthlight, 2003. Contains contributions by the famous, e.g. Le Guin, Martin, Pratchett.
The Art of the Hobbit by Tolkien. Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull, HarperCollins, London 2011.
Tolkien’s Gedling 1914. Andrew H. Morton & John Hayes. Brewin Books, Studley, 2008.
Tolkien’s Bag End. Andrew H. Morton. Brewin Books, Studley, 2009.
The Maps of Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Brian Sibley & John Howe. HarperCollins, London, 2003.
Journeys of Frodo: An Atlas of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Barbara Strachey. Unwin Paperbacks, London, 1981.
A Tolkien Compass. Ed. Jared Lobdell. Open Court Publishing, La Sale, Illinois, 1975; Ballantine Books, New York, 1980.
Tolkien: Man and Myth. Joseph Pearce. HarperCollins, London, 1998.
J.R.R. Tolkien. Deborah Webster Rogers, and Ivor A. Rogers. Twayne’s English Author series 304. Twayne Publishers, Boston, 1980.
The Tolkien Family Album. John and Priscilla Tolkien, HarperCollins, London, 1992.
More academic works of Tolkien studies many of which are still open to the general reader but require some knowledge of Tolkien’s biography, and the histories of his created works. Some of these are harder to find, or more expensive, academic works on Tolkien often from the field of Literary Criticism.
Collections of papers and conference proceedings:
Tolkien Studies. Eds. Douglas A. Anderson (from 2012 David Bratman), Michael D. C. Drout, & Verlyn Flieger. West Virginia University Press, Morgantown, 2004 onwards. An annual scholarly publication of Tolkien scholarship that includes a summary or reviews of papers and books published on Tolkien’s fiction and his academic work. (Note some of the essays in these volumes are very academic, whilst others are easily read. There are occasional instances of Tolkien’s own work included).
Hither Shore. Collected workshop and Seminar papers from the German Tolkien Society with papers in English and German.
Peter Roe Booklets. Collected workshop and Seminar papers from Tolkien Society Seminars, short articles, and AGM Guest Speaker’s speeches. E.g. Leaves from the Tree: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Shorter Fiction. The 4th Tolkien Society Workshop. T.A. Shippey et al. The Tolkien Society, London, 1981.
Walking Tree Press. Collections of papers and studies (especially their Cormare series) including collections by Tom Shippey e.g. Roots and Branches: Selected Papers on Tolkien. T.A. Shippey. Walking Tree Publishers, Zürich & Jena, 2007.
The Lord of the Rings 1954 – 2004: Scholarship in Honor of Richard E. Blackwelder. Wayne G. Hammond & Christina Scull (eds). Marquette University Press, Marquette, 2006.
J.R.R. Tolkien Centenary Conference: Keble College, Oxford, 1992. (eds) Patricia Reynolds & Glen Goodknight. The Tolkien Society & The Mythopoeic Society, Milton Keynes & Altadena, 1995.
Tolkien 2005: The Ring Goes Ever On, Celebrating 50 Years of The Lord of the Rings. (ed) Sarah Wells. The Tolkien Society, Coventry, 2008.
The Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power. Jane Chance. Twayne, New York, 1992
Tolkien’s Art: A Mythology for England. Jane Chance. University Press of Kentucky, Lexington, 2001.
J.R.R. Tolkien and his Literary resonances. (eds) George Clark and Daniel Timmons. Greenwood Press, Westport, 2000.
Defending Middle-earth. Patrick Curry. Floris Books, Edinburgh, 1977.
Tolkien, Race and Cultural History: From Fairies to Hobbits. Dimitra Fimi. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2008.
Tolkien and the study of his sources: critical essays. (ed) Jason Fisher. McFarland, 2010.
Splintered Light: Logos and Languages in Tolkien’s World. Verlyn Flieger. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1983.
A Question of Time: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Road to Faërie. Verlyn Flieger. Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio, 1997.
Tolkien’s Legendarium. Verlyn Flieger & Carl Hostetter. Greenwood Press, Westport, 2001.
Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien’s Mythology. Verlyn Flieger. Kent State University Press, Kent & London, 2005.
Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien. Verlyn Flieger. Kent State University Press, Kent & London, 2012.
J.R.R. Tolkien: A Descriptive Bibliography. Wayne G. Hammond with Douglas A. Anderson. St Paul’s Bibliographies, Winchester, 1993.
J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide (2 vols Chronology & Guide). Wayne Hammond & Christina Scull. HarperCollins, London, 2006.
The Song of Middle-earth: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Themes, Symbols and Myths. David Harvey. Allen and Unwin, London, 1981.
Tolkien’s World. Randel Helms. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1974; Panther paperback (Myth, Magic and Meaning in Tolkien’s World), 1976.
Tolkien and the Silmarils. Randel Helms. Thames and Hudson, London, 1981.
Tolkien and Welsh: Tolkien a Chymraeg. Mark T. Hooker. Llyfrawr, 2012.
Tolkien and the Critics. Ed. Neil D. Isaacs and Rose A. Zimbardo. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dames and London, 1968.
Tolkien: New Critical Perspectives. Ed. Neil D. Isaacs and Rose A. Zimbardo. University of Kentucky, 1981.
Tolkien and The Silmarillion. Clyde S. Kilby. Harold Shaw, Wheaton, Illinois, 1976; Lion Pubishing, Berkhamstead. Herts, 1977.
Master of Middle-earth: the fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien. Paul H. Kocher. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1972; Thames and Hudson, London, 1973; Penguin, 1974.
The Keys of Middle-Earth: Discovering Medieval Literature Through the Fiction of J.R.R. Tolkien. Stuart D. Lee and Elizabeth Solopova. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2005.
England and Always: Tolkien’s World of the Rings. Jared Lobdell. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1981.
Tolkien and Wales: Language, Literature and Identity. Carl Phelpstead. University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2011.
J.R.R. Tolkien: Myth, Morality and Religion. Richard L. Purtill. Harper & Row, San Francisco, 1984.
The Individuated Hobbit: Jung, Tolkien and the Archetypes of Middle-earth. Timothy R. O’Neill. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1979; Thames and Hudson, London, 1979.
The History of the Hobbit (2 vols). John Rateliff. HarperCollins, London, 2007.
Romantic Religion: A Study of Barfield, Lewis, Williams and Tolkien. Robert J. Reilly. University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia, 1971.
Tolkien: a cultural phenomenon. Brian Rosebury. Palgrave Macmillian, 2003 (superseding his Tolkien: A Critical Assessment. Brian Rosebury. Macmillan/St. Martin’s Press, London, 1992).
The Shaping of Middle-earth’s Maker. J.S. Ryan. American Tolkien Society, 1992.
J.R.R. Tolkien, Scholar and Storyteller: Essays in Memoriam. Ed. Mary Salu and Robert T. Farrell. Cornell University Press, Ithica and London, 1979.
Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Fiction. Elizabeth Solopova. North Landing Books, New York, 2009.