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Complete List of Jrr Tolkien Books in Order

J.R.R. Tolkien is what many writers dream of becoming—he was a successful author, poet, university professor, and philologist.

The English author is best known for his high fantasy novels including The Hobbit (a children’s book) and The Lord of the Rings (a three-volume novel cycle), but apart from writing his middle-earth related books, Tolkien wrote essays, made contributions to philological works, and translated or contributed to over 30 books among other things.

Saying that J.R.R was a good writer is as fraudulent as saying that he was a great writer. He was a god!

He is, after all, the creator of middle earth, Hobbits, and other mystical figures. 

Tolkien is the most renowned fantasy writer ever, a pioneer who must be regarded as the godfather of the fantasy genre and one of the greatest authors of the 20th century.

But why are Tolkien’s works well known and loved? And, which of his books are the most famous? Find out the answers to these questions as you read on.

complete list of jrr tolkien books in order

At A Glance: Our Top 5 Picks for J.R.R Tolkien Books:

J.R.R Tolkien: The Greatest Ever!

j.r.r tolkien

J.R.R. Tolkien’s full name is John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and he was born on January 3, 1892, in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

He was an English writer, poet, and scholar and is hailed as the greatest fantasy writer of all time but is less known for his nonfiction works and illustrations. As a scholar, Tolkien is well-regarded for his translations of Old and Middle English verse, and for fiction-loving readers, he is the godfather of the contemporary fantasy genre.

He first achieved fame with his children’s book: The Hobbit which came out in 1937 and cemented his maestro status with a rich and epic fantasy series: The Lord of the Rings.

He wrote dozens of books, most of which were published posthumously.

Why We Love J.R.R Tolkien

1. Simplicity

the hobbit jrr tolkien
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien. (Image credit: “100 Books Famous in Children’s Literature” by Herry Lawford on Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Tolkien’s first stories including The Hobbit were written for his children and he didn’t exactly write them for the general public. The style in which he wrote them was simple, and the stories were easy to read and follow, elegant, and beautiful. This is the same simplicity he used for The Lord of the Rings and other stories, winning him a lot of fans—both young and old.

2. Originality and Creativity

Creativity is something Tolkien didn’t lack, and he gave middle earth and all its mythical creatures. Now, having made it onto the screens, this world is so believable that you tend to wonder if such a world—full of wonder and magic—never existed.

3. Attention to Detail

To tell the stories that he told, Tolkien had to take his effort and determination to a new level.

He did just that!  

The level of detail in his stories instantly induces sparks of imagination and swallows the reader into a world full of mystique, horror, and wonders.

the one ring
The one ring is an ancient item featured prominently in J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (1954–55).

The Complete List of J.R.R Tolkien’s Books in Chronological Order of Publication

  1. English Vocabulary (1922)
  2. Songs for the Philologist (1936)
  3. The Hobbit (1937)
  4. On Fairy Stories (1947)
  5. Farmer Giles of Ham (1949)
  6. The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)
  7. The Two Towers (1954)
  8. The Return of the King (1955)
  9. The Adventures of Tom Bombadil (1961)
  10. The Tolkien Reader (1966)
  11. Smith of Wootton Major (1967)
  12. The Road Goes Ever On (1967)
  13. Leaf By Niggle (1969)
  14. Bilbo’s Last Song (1974)
  15. Sir Gawain, Pearl and Sir Orfeo (1975)
  16. The Homecoming of Beorhtnoth (1975)
  17. The Father Christmas Letters (1976)
  18. The Silmarillion (1977)
  19. Pictures by JRR Tolkien (1979)
  20. Poems and Stories (1980)
  21. Unfinished Tales (1980)
  22. The Letters of JRR Tolkien (1981)
  23. The Old English Exodus (1981)
  24. Mr. Bliss (1982)
  25. Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics and Other Essays (1983)
  26. Finn and Hengest (1983)
  27. The Book of Lost Tales 1 (1983)
  28. The Book of Lost Tales 2 (1984)
  29. The Lays of Beleriand (1985)
  30. The Shaping of Middle Earth (1986)
  31. The Lost Road and Other Writings (1987)
  32. The Return of the Shadow (1988)
  33. The Treason of Isengard (1989)
  34. The War of the Ring (1990)
  35. Sauron Deafeated (1992)
  36. Morgoth’s Ring (1993)
  37. The War of the Jewels (1994)
  38. The Peoples of Middle Earth (1996)
  39. Roverandom (1998)
  40. Beowulf and the Critics (2002)

The Best J.R.R Tolkien Books

1. The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings No.1)

The Fellowship of the Ring

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This is the first in the Lord of the Rings series and the story begins about 80 years after the stories in The Hobbit. The Fellowship of the Ring follows Frodo, the Ringbearer, as he embarks on a journey to deliver the One Ring to the only force capable of destroying it: the first of Mount Doom.

The novel was first published in 1954 and had its film version released in 2001. The novel introduced some very important characters including Merry, Sam, and Pippin played—in the 2001 movie—by Dominic Monaghan, Sean Astin, and Billy Boyd, respectively.


2. The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings, No. 3)

The Return of the King

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The Return of the King is the final installment in the three-novel Lord of the Rings series. It also served to bring to a conclusion some of the major plotlines in the series that began in The Fellowship of the Ringing. A couple of battles take place to determine the fate of Middle Earth; the story culminates in the destruction of the One Ring and the crowning of Gondor as the new King.

The book was first published in 1955, and its film version was released in 2003.


3. The Hobbit

The Hobbit

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The first of Tolkien’s books to be published, The Hobbit, introduced Middle Earth and within this world were Hobbits, orcs, and other beings.

This classic was initially written for Tolkien’s children, so it instantly became a fan-favorite among the younger, fantasy-loving readers. This fantastical story also introduced Bilbo Baggins to the world. Bilbo, a Hobbit, and a couple of dwarves go on an adventure-filled mission to reclaim their homeland from Smaug, a dragon whose only desire is to guard the treasure he stole from the dwarves.

The Hobbit was published in 1937, then adapted as a trilogy, with An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Desolation of Smaug (2013), and The Battle of the Five Armies (2014), making up the series.


J.R.R Tolkien Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Tolkien so popular?

Tolkien was an excellent writer who had a good comprehension of how language works. Tolkien bore gifts to both readers and writers; he wrote his stories in such detail and created a believable world, plus… he was inspired by settings and situations from his life.

Most interesting facts about J.R.R. Tolkien’s life.

In which order should I read J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle-earth books?

I do not think that even J.R.R Tolkien himself prescribed any order that his Middle-earth-related works should be read. But I believe that there are a couple of things to be taken into context when reading the books—the reader’s age is one good example. If the reader happens to be a child under the age of 12, The Hobbit would be a perfect story to start. Stories like The Silmarillion are usually ‘shoes too big’ for the average preteen’s feet, so they might not be the best book to start with. Another context we can consider is the style of writing that the reader enjoys the most. For example, if you enjoy epic poetry, you may want to read The Lays of Beleriand first just to savor the deliciousness of verse.

the silmarillon
J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion is a collection of mythological stories collected and released by his son Christopher Tolkien in 1977.

However, I believe that, mostly, it’s an issue of choice. According to the Tolkien Society, there are two ways you can go about reading the Middle Earth books.

If you’d like to read the Middle-earth books in the order they were published, this is how you would read the books:

  • The Hobbit
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book
  • The Silmarillion
  • Unfinished Tales
  • The History of Middle-earth series
  • The Children of Húrin
  • Beren and Lúthien
  • The Fall of Gondolin

However, if you wish to read the Middle-earth works in the order Tolkien wrote them, this is how you’d go about it:

  • The Book of Lost Tales
  • The Lays of Beleriand
  • The Shaping of Middle-earth
  • The Lost Road
  • The Hobbit
  • The Return of the Shadow
  • The Treason of Isengard
  • The War of the Ring
  • Sauron Defeated [first part]
  • The Peoples of Middle-earth [first part]
  • [The Lord of the Rings]
  • The Notion Club Papers [in Sauron Defeated]
  • Unfinished Tales [omit Narn i Hîn Húrin]
  • The Children of Húrin
  • Beren and Lúthien
  • The Fall of Gondolin
  • Morgoth’s Ring
  • The War of the Jewels
  • [The Silmarillion]
  • The Peoples of Middle-earth [last part]
tolkien book collection
Tolkien Collection. (Image credit: “IMG_4431” by Robert on Flickr CC BY 2.0)

Did J.R.R. Tolkien’s win any awards?

Yes, Tolkien did win a few awards during his lifetime.

The Hobbit won the best juvenile story of the season prize awarded by the New York Herald Tribune in 1938.  

The Lord of the Rings won the International Fantasy Award In 1957.

Tolkien’s stories have continued to earn him praise and awards even after his death, and in 2000, The Hobbit was awarded the Keith Barker Millennium Book Award Winner 2000, an award presented by the Youth Libraries Group, School Library Association, and Library Association Schools Library Group “for the most significant children’s book published between 1920 and 1939.“

And… according to a poll by the US publication Books for Keeps, The Hobbit is the “Most Important 20th-Century Novel (for Older Readers).”

Other books earned Tolkien posthumous awards; for example, in 1997, The Silmarillion won the Locus Award.

Do Hobbits have big feet? Are they fat?

hobbit drawing from lucie schrimpf
Hobbit drawing from lucie schrimpf. (Image credit: Charliewendiga on Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0)

No, they generally don’t have big feet. But, Mr. Proudfoot and his family have large feet (for a Hobbit that is), and there’s no other mention of Hobbits as beings that have big feet.

Tolkien mentioned that the Hobbits love eating and drinking, maybe because they are hardworking and they have to replenish their bodies after the hard physical work. So, they might consume just enough food to sort of “break-even” and may not necessarily be fat. However, Tolkien tells us the average adult Hobbit is “Fattish in the stomach, shortish in the leg.”

That sounds stout to me, er… to everyone that is stout.

Do Tolkien’s Elves and Hobbits have pointed ears?

They do, actually. Tolkien—in a 1938 letter (No. 27, p. 35)—described the Hobbits to his American as having “a round, jovial face; ears only slightly pointed and ‘elvish.’”

He pointed out the similarity between the Hobbit’s and Elvish ears: they were both pointed, with the elvish ears being unmistakably pointed.

Is the Glorfindel in The Lord of the Rings the same as the one in Silmarillion?

Yes, actually, Tolkien wrote two essays on Glorfindel, in which he concluded that the two Glorfindels were the same person. He said that after death, Glorfindel’s spirit went to the Halls of Mandos where he was healed, re-embodied, and returned to Middle-earth.

Where can I find maps of Middle-earth?

map of middle earth
Map of Middle Earth.

The first edition of The Lord of the Rings had a map of middle earth in it, but various other maps have also been published over the years.

Some of these were produced with the collaboration and blessing from Tolkien and are not easy to get hold of nowadays— A Map of Middle-earth by Pauline Baynes, which was first published in 1970, being one of them.

There and Back Again: The Map of Tolkien’s Hobbit – for The Hobbit, The Maps of Tolkien’s Middle-earth – for The Lord of the Ring, The Map of Tolkien’s Beleriand: and the Lands to the North – for The Silmarillion, are some of the books featuring illustrations by John Howe and a booklet by Brian Sibley.

Some works have maps of Middle Earth and I simply couldn’t write all of them down, but through search might lead you to these works.

Which books inspired Tolkien?

I cannot say for sure, but there are types of books that we may assume inspired Tolkien. Beowulf is one of the literary pieces that influenced Tolkien; in fact, his translations and commentary have been packaged into a book and it is available even today. Check it here.

Beowulf

Here is a list of titles that might interest you if you’re looking for Tolkien’s inspirations:

  • Beowulf – a verse translation by Michael Alexander
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – translated by Bernard O’Donoghue
  • The Saga of the Volsungs – translated by Jesse L. Byock
  • The Wanderer: Elegies, Epics, Riddles – translated by Michael Alexander
  • The Elder Edda – translated by Andy Orchard

Final Words

There are many books with the J.R.R Tolkien name attached to them. This is because Tolkien’s works are continually being adapted, re-edited, and reproduced by others, including his son.

Plus… Tolkien didn’t only write novels, he also wrote poetry, essays, short stories, and novellas. Many of these pieces have made it into multiple publications and are found under different titles, meaning there are more books with Tolkien in them than most of us know.

So we can’t really be sure about how many of J.R.R Tolkien’s works have been published, but one thing is for sure: Whatever his pen touched, turned to gold!

About Jessica Majewski

Jessica started off as an avid book reader. After reading one too many romance novels (really... is it ever really enough?), she decided to jump to the other side and started writing her own stories.

She now shares what she has learned (the good and the not so good) here at When You Write, hoping she can inspire more up and coming wordsmiths to take the leap and share their own stories with the world.