A Reader's Guide to Unfamiliar Literature
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A Good Place To Start

The Hobbit: or, There and Back Again 9
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 3

A Bad Place To Start

The Silmarillion 6
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 1
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 1


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Categorization is odious. There is tremendous overlap among genres. These pigeonholes are offered only as a convenience.

J. R. R. Tolkien (1892 - 1973)

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Please consider recommending where to begin reading this author, or where not to. A few words about your experiences reading this author and why you make the recommendations you do will be helpful to other users. If you are the author or have studied this author extensively, please say so.

Marian October 14th, 2006 09:30 AM PST

Tolkien was a life-long academic and published lots of books on scholarly subjects ... a translation of Beowulf, studies of Norse mythology, of Middle English...

Go here: http://www.tolkienbooks.net/html/index1.htm

for one list of his publications that is not entirely Hobbit oriented.

tim helck March 11th, 2007 06:11 PM PST

Start with The Hobbit, not because it's a prequel to the extremely popular trilogy, but because it's a better book. It's funnier and the style is more down to earth. In contrast, The Lord of the Rings is a bit stilted at times and takes itself too seriously -- though I admit, that hasn't stopped me from reading it five times!

And...if you love Tolkien, you might enjoy Beowulf. I know, I know ... it's one of those books you think you should read but find it way too intimidating. That's why it took me several decades to get around to it. I recommend the recent translation by Sean Heaney. It's very accessible, there's loads of action and reading it was quite a lot of fun. I really enjoyed seeing how much of Middle Earth was inspired by this ancient tale.


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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien CBE (January 3, 1892 September 2, 1973) is best known as the author of The Hobbit and its sequel The Lord of the Rings. He was a professor of Anglo-Saxon language at Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and of English language and literature, also at Oxford, from 1945 to 1959. He was a strongly committed Roman Catholic. Tolkien was a close friend of C. S. Lewis, with whom he shared membership in the literary discussion group the Inklings.

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