Roads Go Ever On: A Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Readalong

Lord of the Rings Millennium Edition with Gandalf

Gandalf and Treebeard pose by the Millennium Edition of The Lord of the Rings

This year as I enter the world of reading challenges, I’ve also jumped into my first readalong: Brona’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Readalong 2017. It didn’t take much deliberation to decide to join. Since first reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in 1979, I’ve probably reread them a good ten times or more. I think it’s pretty safe to say that The Lord of the Rings and J.R.R. Tolkien have had a profound influence on my life. In fact, my very first blog post ever, way back in 2006, was about Tolkien’s influence in my life.

I still have the books I bought with my paper route money in that magical summer of 1978 when I devoured them back to back to back to back on my dad’s brown leather La-Z-Boy:

Lord of the Rings Tolkien Covers

My original copies of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

After my initial reading in 1978, I reread them in high school, again in college, and twice more after getting married. I taught The Hobbit to eighth graders for seven years, starting in 2001, just before Peter Jackson’s movies came out, so I read them again at that time. I started keeping formal track of my books read in January of 2003, and since then I’ve read Tolkien’s Middle-earth books twice: in 2007 I listened to the excellent unabridged audio recording by Rob Inglis, and in 2011 I read them on a Kindle for the first time. I’ve also read and loved The Silmarillion, Children of Hurin, and many other books by and about Tolkien and his works.

So I’m definitely all in on a Tolkien readalong.

What makes this readalong special for me is that I’ve just acquired a set of the Millennium Edition of The Lord of the Rings. The Millennium Edition was a one-time set published in 1999 by Houghton Mifflin that divides the books into seven volumes with Tolkien’s original titles:

  • Lord of the Rings Millennium Edition CoversThe Ring Sets Out
  • The Ring Goes South
  • The Treason of Isengard
  • The Ring Goes East
  • The War of the Ring
  • The End of the Third Age
  • The Appendices

The text is exactly the same, but the trilogy has been set in a new typeface for this edition, split into the seven books, and bound in comfortably-sized hardcovers with the eye of Sauron on the front.

I remember seeing this set back in 1999, but it was priced at $70, and that was beyond our means at the time. Miraculously, a few weeks ago I found a used set on Amazon for $71 that was in fantastic condition–probably as good a condition as mine would have been if I had bought it in 1999. So this is the set I’ll be reading for the readalong.

I’ll try and follow Brona’s schedule as much as possible, reading one volume per month from February to August. If I stick with that schedule, this will be my most leisurely reading of the series ever.

To add more depth and enjoyment to my reading, I’ll be once again using Karen Wynn Fonstad’s Atlas of Middle-earth to trace the journeys of the various characters, and I’ll be listening to the Tolkien Ensemble’s recordings of all the poems and songs from The Lord of the Rings.

With this past January 3rd being the 125th anniversary of Tolkien’s birth, I’m going to make it a point to reread the trilogy every five years until 2042, when I’ll be 76 years old and Tolkien would have been 150.

Thanks to N@ncy at ipsofactodotme for telling me about the readalong, and thanks again to Brona for sponsoring it and giving me a new excuse to read Tolkien!


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.

9 Responses

  1. N@ncy says:

    Nick….you are a super fan of Tolkien! I love the photo’s of all your books and especially the originals from 1978! You have inspiried met to try, really try to love the books.
    ps thanks for the ‘link’ to blog….much appreciated!

  2. Brona says:

    Delighted to have you join us Nick. Your extended knowledge will be much appreciated as we go along.

    As you know, I’ve read the series several times, but I have never gone any further with my Tolkien reading or delved deeper into Middle Earth via the companion book route, like you have. I suspect you will be able to fill in some of the gaps or answer some of the trickier questions as they arise with other readers.

    I’m also curious to learn what you discover, rediscover or see differently with your rereads.
    I used to reread all the time, but since working in an Indy bookshop (after an early retirement from teaching) I have found it difficult to factor in rereading (I have so many new releases to keep track of – not a bad problem to have, mind you!) But during 2017 I’ve decided I want to bring rereading back into my life – hence the #HLOTRreadalong
    (I’m also jumping onto a rereading of Herodotus’ The Histories and Thucydides’ Peloponnesian Wars).

    • Deacon Nick says:

      I’ve always thought it would be great to work in a book store. My wife and I even flirted with the idea of buying a used bookstore in the area when it went up for sale a few years ago. Alas, it was not the right time for us, and I was also worried that I would spent more time doing administrative tasks than talking with people about books.

      I’ll happily fill in whatever I can, and I look forward to reading what everyone else has to say about the books.

      Rereading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings gives me a chance to see old friends between the pages, and this readalong gives me a chance to meet new friends via the web.

      Good luck on your rereading of Herodotus and Thucydides. I read them both in 2004, but it was my first and only reading, and I’m sure I only scratched the surface of all they have to say. I’d like to get back to them both again some day.

  3. Nick! I can’t believe you have the Millenium Edition! Can’t describe my jealousy right now 🙂

    Excited to be reading along with you!

    • Deacon Nick says:

      Thanks, Rick! Yes, I feel pretty fortunate to have found the Millennium Edition at such a good price and in such good condition. I’ve kicked myself for years for not springing for them when I first saw them in the store back in 1999!

      • I have the 50th anniversary edition. It’s beautiful, but it’s all in one single volume. Hefty read. I love when large books are split into smaller volumes (Skippy Dies, 2666, etc.). I’d take my chances and roll the dice on an $80 used version of the Millennium Edition on Amazon, but I already spent a pretty penny on the 50th anniversary one. Oh well. I shouldn’t complain hahaha.

        • Brona says:

          My edition of The Hobbit is Alan Lee’s hardback illustrated 60th anniversary one.
          And my LOTR books are the 2002 hardback illustrated editions (I think they’re reissues of the centenary editions? Or maybe ones reproduced thanks to the success of the movies?)

          I’m really looking forward to reading them with Lee’s illustrations for the first time (my old paperbacks from the 1990’s fell apart years ago).

          • Deacon Nick says:

            I’d love to read the Alan Lee illustrated editions! Alan Lee was always my favorite Tolkien illustrator. I love John Howe, too, but Lee’s pictures always seemed more real to me, like he was painting real people and places. Very gritty and mysterious. I think one of the most important choices Peter Jackson made was hiring Lee and Howe as visual consultants to the LOTR movies. Maybe between now and 2022, when I read them again, I’ll be able to get my hands on the illustrated editions. 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: