Tom Shippey, a scholar of medieval literature and modern SF/fantasy at St Louis University’s College of Arts and Sciences, and one of the leading scholars on J. R. R. Tolkien, recently listed his top ten books on Tolkien for The Guardian. The Lord of the Rings is paradigmatic in modern fantasy (you might almost say that much of what occupies the “Fantasy” shelves in bookstores are footnotes to Tolkien), but the hexalogy received mixed reviews in the decades subsequent to its release. Shippey, especially in The Road to Middle Earth and Tolkien: Author of the Century, has sought to recuperate Tolkien’s literary status, though obviously the jury is still out on whether he has succeeded.
In any case, here’s the list:
- The Silmarillion, edited by Christopher Tolkien.
- The Annotated Hobbit, with notes by Douglas A. Anderson.
- J. R. R. Tolkien: a Biography by Humphrey Carpenter.
- Pictures by J. R. R. Tolkien.
- The Road Goes Ever On: a Song Cycle by J. R. R. Tolkien.
- An Introduction to Elvish by Jim Allan et al.
- The Book of Lost Tales by J. R. R. Tolkien.
- The Lost Road by J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien.
- Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth, edited by Verlyn Flieger and Carl F Hostetter.
- Meditations on Middle-earth, edited by Karen Haber.
I’m about as big a Tolkien fan as they come, but it appears I have some reading to do, including Shippey’s books. From what i have read, I would recommend Karen Wynn Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle Earth, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Letters and Unfinished Tales, Robert Foster’s Complete Guide to Middle Earth, J. E. A. Tyler’s Complete Tolkien Companion, and Robert Giddings and Elizabeth Holland’s The Shores of Middle Earth.