You might have watched The Rings of Power or The Hobbit and become interested in the source material that inspired these stories. In some cases, what you see on the screen is manufactured; in others, it is adapted.
Either way, reading the books gives you a richer experience with more depth and nuance. Reading The Lord of the Rings books is recommended for anyone who has an interest in high fantasy in general and Tolkien’s fiction in particular.
Lord of The Rings is a series that influenced modern and contemporary fiction, including the likes of Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones). It is considered a must-read for those interested in writing fantasy as well as those who want to enjoy a myth-adjacent high-fantasy adventure.
The series was written by J.R.R. Tolkien, who is considered the father of worldbuilding and is revered by most living fantasy and adventure fiction writers. We will discuss the author in-depth, along with his best work from the series. But first, let’s look at the best Lord of The Rings books.
Our best The Lord of The Rings Books at a glance:
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hero Behind The LOTR Books
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings. He was a WWI British veteran, and it was there that he started writing high-fantasy fiction, which would then become the world of The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien was an Oxford professor, and his day job was linked to linguistics and language. In penning the story of The Lord of the Rings, he created not just a mythological world but also developed 15 new languages that were spoken in his mythology.
Tolkien’s books, as detailed as they were, were an afterthought compared to the level of action and intention he put into constructing languages.
Tolkien first encountered manufactured languages as a kid when his cousins introduced him to a secret language they had made. It wasn’t as sophisticated as the languages that he built later in his life.
Tolkien got The Hobbit published without any expectation of success. The book was meant to be a children’s adventure book that allowed the professor to publish some of his constructed languages.
He was surprised by how popular the book got. Even after the following trilogy inspired a fandom in his lifetime, he remained skeptical of the depth of their passion.
Tolkien was trying to capture a grander world of mythology in the written word and believed that the readers of the LOTR books might be titillated by shallower aspects of the books. As a linguist, he saw the plot as secondary to worldbuilding.
With the information revolution that came with the internet, millions of people eventually got into Lord of the Rings lore, thanks to wikis and blogs that made that information accessible.
Tolkien, however, didn’t live long enough to see that day. He died on September 2, 1973, leaving behind a collection of unpublished works and a canon that inspired a multimillion-dollar franchise.
Tolkien and his wife’s shared gravestone reads “Beren” and “Luthien,” which is a reference to the two star-crossed lovers in one of the stories set in his fictional world. Tolkien was a romantic who was advised against pursuing Edith, the girl he fell in love with.
Edith was three years his senior and a protestant. Tolkien’s guardian, a Catholic priest, stopped him from talking to her until he turned 21. When he did turn 21, he went straight to Edith Bratt with a marriage proposal that made her Edith Tolkien.
The Lord of The Rings Books In order of publication
The Original Trilogy
Books set in the Lord of the Rings Universe
Best Lord of the Rings Books
1. The Return of The King
While it constitutes the closing chapter of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Return of the King is the best-received book by J.R.R. Tolkien. It is perhaps due to the conclusion and catharsis of one of the most elaborate mythological fiction works in recent memory.
The Return of the King follows the events of The Two Towers as the fellowship continues its journey to destroy the ring that can make evil powerful and corrupt the one wearing it. Specifics of who does what would spoil the plot, but what can be discussed is the pacing and the unanimous praise given to the way Tolkien lands the ship of this narrative.
Where the Two Towers slows down in the middle, this maintains a great pace and even contains twists. If you’ve read fiction from Tolkein’s period, you know that twists weren’t very common.
It cannot be consumed as a standalone or introductory volume. As great a payoff as its conclusion is, you cannot get the same release without reading the first and second volumes.
You will like this book if you like the Hobbit, primarily because both books have strong conclusions with the hope for happily ever after. Ultimately, The Return of the King is Tolkein’s second and better attempt at recreating the magic of The Hobbit. And this time, it is targeted toward a grown-up audience.
2. The Fellowship of The Ring
The second best-received Lord of the Rings book is The Fellowship of the Ring. It introduces us to Middle-Earth, Mordor, and a host of species briefly touched upon in The Hobbit.
The Fellowship of the Ring is a more serious and in-depth take on Tolkien’s mythological world. It is far from its beginning, which is why it doesn’t have an awkward or slow start.
The Fellowship of the Ring follows Frodo Baggins, who unexpectedly comes into possession of a ring that he learns can make him invisible.
The ring, however, has a strong corrupting power and has to be destroyed. But the place where it can be destroyed is surrounded by evil, which is why Frodo needs the fellowship of the strongest from different species.
The Fellowship of the Ring is formed to see this journey through. Accompanying Frodo are characters from each of the species that had an indirect hand in making the ring. Outside threats, as well as internal tensions, create points of interest in the narrative.
While some highs and lows produce a satisfying narrative in this book, it is not a good standalone read. You have to read the next book to get a better sense of what’s happening in Middle Earth and how things turn out for the fellowship.
3. The Two Towers
This is the second book in the Lord of the Rings chronology (the third if you consider The Hobbit). But when it comes to individual volumes’ approval, it often ranks third. And that is understandable because it is the middle of the adventure. It lacks the beginner’s enthusiasm that fuels the approval of the first volume and the cathartic conclusion of the final book.
But still, it is very crucial to the overall narrative. You need to read this book to make sense of the series. Tolkien’s writing doesn’t change much because he wrote the three books in a single effort to produce “The New Hobbit.” He took 15 years to write the books and didn’t publish any volume individually without having written what came afterward.
As a result, the book reads as a natural continuation of the previous volume. However, if you judge it based on the first to last chapter of the book alone, it seems to be missing a strong conclusion, even though its opening is pretty solid, even as a standalone volume.
The ending of The Two Towers leaves you yearning for a tighter conclusion, which may be by design because the next volume delivers on that demand quite masterfully.
It’s a must-read for any Lord of the Rings fan who has read the first volume. However, all the LOTR volumes don’t have standalone value, so I wouldn’t recommend reading this as a standalone.
The Lord of the Rings FAQs:
How Many Books Are There In The Lord Of The Rings?
There are three books in the Lord of the Rings series, and four if you count The Hobbit, which is a standalone fantasy novel set before the events of the first Lord of the Rings book.
Whether The Hobbit is a Lord of the Rings book or not depends on how you define the book series. You can read The Hobbit as a standalone volume without reading The Lord of the Rings. You can also read the LOTR books without reading the Hobbit.
And because of that, more people consider these to be separate adventures that are part of a single continuity but not a single story.
Is The Lord Of The Rings A Trilogy?
The Lord of the Rings is a trilogy in that its single adventure takes place in three books. There is one book in the same continuity that is set before the events of The Lord of the Rings and one collection of stories that is set even before the prequel.
The chronology of the Lord of the Rings continuity is as follows:
- The Silmarillion – The creation myth of the world of Tolkien.
- The Hobbit – The standalone adventure that came first in the publication chronology.
- The Lord of The Rings (trilogy) – The trilogy of books that form a single adventure
Which Book Is Rings Of Power Based On?
The Rings of Power is based on the characters in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit but is written anew with an original story by Patrick McKay, Stephany Folsom, John D. Payne, and Nicholas Adams. The story doesn’t adapt to The Silmarillion, as its rights were never sold.
Is Gandalf In The Rings Of Power?
Gandalf is not confirmed in The Rings of Power, but a character is speculated to be Gandalf. Whether this is the case is yet to be seen.
Is Amazon Remaking Lord Of The Rings?
Amazon is telling a story set in the world of The Lord of the Rings featuring characters that appear in Tolkien’s novels. However, the story doesn’t retell any story originally written by the author of The Lord of the Rings.
Wrapping It Up:
Tolkien has a very tight bibliography, featuring four of the books that he published in his lifetime and a posthumous collection edited by his son and finished by an assisting writer. So, when you get into The Lord of the Rings books, you have no choice but to start with Volume 1 (the second most popular book) and continue reading until Volume 3 (the most popular book).