John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born this date in 1892. It seems as if the entire world is familiar with at least his two most popular works, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, if only imperfectly through the films; and it’s far beyond my scope here, at any rate, either to synopsize the books or to critique the movies. What I’d like to do instead is share some of my favorite Tolkien-related books.
In my opinion, the best biography is Joseph Pearce’s Tolkien: Man and Myth. My review was posted here a few months ago.
The most engaging account of Tolkien’s writing process, to my thinking, is Tom Shippey’s J.R.R. Tolkien, Author of the Century. This book examines the linguistic and cultural elements of Tolkien’s writings, focusing on The Lord of the Rings as an epic response to the meaning of myth.
Matthew Dickerson’s Following Gandalf is an excellent analysis of the epic battles and moral victories in The Lord of the Rings. The recently-released A Hobbit Journey is a revised and expanded edition, which is high on my reading list for this year.
Tolkien’s Ordinary Virtues by Mark Eddy Smith is a beautifully simple but profound exploration of the spiritual themes found in The Lord of the Rings. This book has also been reviewed here.
Finally, Diana Glyer's The Company They Keep, also previously reviewed, provides a great deal of insight into the workings of the Inklings and the impact of community on the writings of Tolkien and the others.
Here’s to The Professor!