John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973) was one of the most beloved authors of the twentieth century and is widely considered to be the father of modern fantasy literature. This is primarily because of his magnificent invention of the imagination, Middle-earth. Interest in this magical world of elves and dwarves and hobbits has renewed in the last fifteen years thanks to Peter Jackson’s big screen adaptations of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
I. The Hobbit
If you haven’t yet read The Hobbit, or if it was read to you as a child and you have forgotten most of it, you should definitely start there. It’s the best gateway drug to the world of Middle-earth and, at about three hundred pages, a much smaller commitment than its sequel. Tolkien originally wrote The Hobbit without the intention of publishing it, but he did give copies to a few friends and colleagues. One of the people he gave it to, a student of his at Oxford, passed it on to a friend who worked at the publisher George Allen & Unwin. Its sales soared and the publisher requested a sequel. Hence, The Lord of the Rings was born.