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J.R.R. Tolkien Biography and Commentary

Here are books of J.R.R. Tolkien biography and commentary on the ethical and Christian underpinnings of the Lord of the Rings and also the mythic and historic bases of his inspirations for Middle Earth.

There are innumerable books about Tolkien in print at the moment; we've selected a few of the better ones to feature here.

Buy Biographies and Commentaries about J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien : A Biography
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J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography
by Humphrey Carpenter

This is the definitive biography to date. Carpenter had complete access to all of Tolkien's papers (he also edited the book of Tolkien's letters listed on the prior page). Tolkien triumphed over a rough childhood of poverty and the loss of both parents to become a devout Catholic, devoted husband and father, loyal friend, and highly respected academic. Oh, and incidentally, he wrote the most beloved fantasy books of all time.
J.R.R. Tolkien
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J.R.R. Tolkien: The Man Who Created the Lord of the Rings (Scholastic Biography)
by Michael Coren

"Michael Coren offers a thought-provoking and entertaining story of the fascinating life of J.R.R. Tolkien. Readers will learn about the author¹s childhood in South Africa, his youth and adulthood in Great Britain, his experience in World War 1, and his professorship at Oxford University, where Tolkien had thought he had reached the pinnacle of his career. Little did he know that was just the beginning, for it was there that Tolkien began to write THE HOBBIT, the story that started it all." book description. While written for young adults, this is an informative and enjoyable book for anyone.
Tolkien and C.S. Lewis
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Tolkien and C.S. Lewis: The Gift of Friendship
by Colin Duriez

"Both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are literary superstars, known around the world as the creators of Middle-earth and Narnia. But few of their readers and fans know about the important and complex friendship between Tolkien and his fellow Oxford academic C.S. Lewis. Without the persistent encouragement of his friend, Tolkien would never have completed The Lord of the Rings. Likewise, all of Lewis' fiction, after the two met at Oxford University in 1926, bears the mark of Tolkien's influence, whether in names he used or in the creation of convincing fantasy worlds. This book explores their lives, unfolding the extraordinary story of their complex friendship that lasted, with its ups and downs, until Lewis's death in 1963." book description.

C.S. Lewis is another Christian author well worth reading (and now to be as widely known as Tolkien, with the advent of the Narnia movies). He and Tolkien were members of an informal literary group, The Inklings, that also included Charles Williams.
The Road to Middle-earth
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The Road to Middle-earth : Revised and Expanded Edition
by Tom Shippey

"The Road to Middle-earth, Tom Shippey"s classic work, now revised in paperback, explores J.R.R. Tolkien"s creativity and the sources of his inspiration. Shippey shows in detail how Tolkien"s professional background led him to write The Hobbit and how he created a timeless charm for millions of readers. Examining the foundation of Tolkien"s most popular work, The Lord of the Rings, Shippey also discusses the contribution of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales to Tolkien"s great myth cycle, showing how Tolkien"s more "difficult" books can be fully appreciated.

He goes on to examine the remarkable twelve-volume History of Middle-earth, written by Tolkien's son and literary heir Christopher Tolkien, which traces the creative and technical processes by which Middle-earth evolved." from the book description.
Tolkien in the Land of Heroes
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Tolkien in the Land of Heroes : Discovering the Human Spirit
by Anne C. Petty (Author), J. Stein (Editor)

"What you have in your hands is a book about ideas and attitudes. Specifically, it's a collection of related essays about the grand themes that run though the works of J.R.R. Tolkien - the nature of evil, the use and abuse of power, the joys and sorrows of living, the need for heroes both great and small.

In these pages we'll have a look at what was on Tolkien's mind during his productive years as a fiction writer - no small task - but by organizing the book around these few large "umbrella" themes, the job becomes more manageable. The major themes of society are all there, traced across the topography of Middle-earth and its connected environments." from the cover. Well-written, very knowledgeable, excellent reviews. Recommended.
Following Gandalf
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Following Gandalf: Epic Battles and Moral Victory in the Lord of the Rings
by Matthew T. Dickerson

"Following Gandalf offers fans of The Lord of the Rings a deeper understanding of the sharp contrast between Tolkien's Christian worldview and that of our current culture. Dickerson digs deep into why Tolkien's work is widely read and appreciated, and suggests that our lives are enriched by the wisdom and ethics of Gandalf, the hobbits, and their companions. Dickerson uses these characters to explore the wisdom of Middle-earth where moral and spiritual victory, rather than military success, is the real story." from the publisher.
J.R.R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth
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J. R. R. Tolkien's Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-Earth
by Bradley J. Birzer, Joseph Pearce

"Peter Jackson’s film version of the Lord of the Rings trilogy...has once again brought the work of J. R. R. Tolkien to a popular audience. There are, however, few full and accessible treatments of the religious vision permeating Tolkien’s influential works. Bradley Birzer has remedied that with his fresh study, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Sanctifying Myth: Understanding Middle-earth.

In it, Birzer explicates the religious symbolism and significance of Tolkien’s Middle-earth stories. More broadly, Birzer situates Tolkien within the Christian humanist tradition represented by Thomas More and T. S. Eliot, Dante and C. S. Lewis. He argues that through the genre of myth Tolkien is able to provide a sophisticated—and appealing—social and ethical worldview." from the publisher.
The Real Middle Earth
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The Real Middle Earth : Exploring the Magic and Mystery of the Middle Ages, J.R.R. Tolkien, and "The Lord of the Rings"
by Brian Bates

"J.R.R. Tolkien claimed that he based the land of Middle Earth on a real place. The Real Middle Earth brings alive, for the first time, the very real civilization in which those who lived had a vision of life animated by beings beyond the material world. Magic was real to them and they believed their universe was held together by an interlaced web of golden threads visible only to wizards.

At its center was Middle Earth, a place peopled by humans, but imbued with spiritual power. It was a real realm that stretched from Old England to Scandinavia and across to western Europe, encompassing Celts, Anglo Saxons and Vikings. Looking first at the rich and varied tribes who made up the populace of this mystical land, Bates looks at how the people lived their daily lives in a world of magic and mystery. Using archaeological, historical, and psychological research, Brian Bates breathes life into this civilization of two thousand years ago in a book that every Tolkien fan will want." from the publisher.