Nonfiction November Week 4: Be the Expert – Reading Lord of the Rings

This week’s Nonfiction November discussion prompt is hosted by Julz:

Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

One type of nonfiction that I love to read are companion books that help me get into fictional worlds more completely. The books I’m recommending this week have all enhanced my reading and rereading of J.R.R. Tolkien’s  The Lord of the Rings. If you want to delve deeper into Middle-earth, then these are the books for you. If you have a Tolkien aficionado in your life, any of them would make great Christmas gifts (Links below are Amazon associate links).

Atlas of Middle-earth

The Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad: An outstanding resource by a professional cartographer. Follow the journeys of Frodo and Sam or Bilbo and the dwarves. In addition to maps, the book also includes diagrams of dwellings and cities from The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. I always have this handy when I’m reading anything by Tolkien.

Languages of Tolkien's Middle-earth

The Languages of Tolkien’s Middle-earth: A Complete Guide to All Fourteen of the Languages Tolkien Invented by Ruth Noel: More of a dictionary than a comprehensive treatise on the languages, but very useful. From the publisher:

“This is the book on all of Tolkien’s invented languages, spoken by hobbits, elves, and men of Middle-earth — a dictionary of fourteen languages, an English-Elvish glossary, all the runes and alphabets, and material on Tolkien the linguist.”

Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-earth by Bradley J. Birzer: Of all the books I’ve read that attempt to explain the deeper meaning of Tolkien’s works, this one is the best. Birzer understands that Tolkien’s Catholic faith is key for interpreting is works, and he does an excellent job in laying it out for the reader.

Meditations on Middle-earth

Meditations on Middle-earth: New Writing on the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien edited by Karen Haber: An outstanding collection of essays on Tolkien by writers like George R.R. Martin, Orson Scott Card, Ursula LeGuin, Terry Pratchett, Robin Hobb, and many more.

J.R.R. Tolkien Artist and Illustrator

J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator edited by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull – One of Tolkien’s under appreciated gifts his is artwork. This book displays his considerable artistic talent.

Tolkien Ensemble Box Set

Bonus: Lord of the Rings Box Set by the Tolkien Ensemble – This is an absolute gem. I listen to these whenever I reread The Lord of the Rings, in the order in which they appear in the books. From the publisher:

This 4 CD-box contains the world’s first complete musical interpretation of all the poems in the J.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece ‘The Lord of the Rings’ set to music by Caspar Reiff & Peter Hall. 14 soloists, among these the world-famous actor Christopher Lee, and more that 150 professional musicians, have taken part in the ambitious project, which took 10 years to complete.

The songs help one relive ‘The Lord of the Rings’ in an entirely new way, as they range from happy and funny hobbit folk-songs in the beginning of the book, to evocative and dramatic highlights towards the end.

Do you know of any other great Tolkien-related resources? Do you use companion resources when you read? Why or why not?

Deacon Nick

Nick Senger is a husband, a father of four, and a Catholic school teacher, vice principal and technology coordinator. He taught junior high literature and writing for over 25 years, and has been a Catholic school educator since 1990. In 2001 he was named a Distinguished Teacher of the Year by the National Catholic Education Association.

11 Responses

  1. These sound yummy! I’d especially love to read “Meditations on Middle Earth,” and have a look at “Artist and Illustrator.”

  2. Oh, my, now I have to admit that I’ve never read Tolkien. I’ve always meant to, and the set is on my bookshelf. But . . .

  3. looloolooweez says:

    Ah, this is such a great topic! ‘Sanctifying Myth’ looks especially interesting to me. Have you read ‘The Art of The Hobbit’ ed. by Wayne G. Hammond? It’s absolutely lovely, you should definitely check it out if you haven’t already.

    • Deacon Nick says:

      No, I hadn’t heard of The Art of the Hobbit. But Hammond is also the editor of J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator, so I can believe that the Hobbit book is also excellent. Your comment helped me realize I left Hammond’s and Scull’s names off of my original post. I’ve fixed it now. Thanks!

  4. I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy way back in my senior year of high school… would have loved to have these books, too!

  5. N@ncy says:

    Bradley Bizer’s book looks interesting to find the underlying message of Tolkien. Never knew Tolkien was artistic as well!
    The book with his is artwork….again very tempting!

  6. N@ncy says:

    I’m joining a Tolkien read-a-long in 2017 and need some help.
    I’m going to buy the Atlas of Middle Earth (Fonstad) that you suggested….but which version of The Hobbit should I buy. Is one better than another?
    Here is the link to my sign up post for Tolkien…you can find all the info there if you want to join some enthusiasts reading (…in our case re-reading 🙂

    • Deacon Nick says:

      Wow, a Tolkien read-a-long! I’ll definitely check it out. All the editions of The Hobbit should be the same. However, there is an edition called The Annotated Hobbit, edited by Douglas A. Anderson that has some great margin notes, if you want to delve a little more deeper into the story and its history.

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