Tolkien Books I HAVE NOT read (yet)

booksTolkien

Though this might not trouble some of you, I believe I’m letting down my own Tolkien self and feel the need to share.

Whilst the author’s works are too extensive to be read within the relatively brief amount of time I’ve been an ardent reader of Tolkien (15 years give or take), there are some books — written by or about him — that I feel disappointed at not having yet tackled them.

This post might be just one big excuse, but here we go …

Beowulf: A Translation & Commentary

In a not-so-shocking revelation, my copy of Beowulf: A Translation & Commentary has been resting on my shelf for a couple of years now. Every time my eyes settle on its lovely green cover and lavish dragon illustration, I feel a pang of guilt and shame at not yet having read this.

Beowulf as a poem is a work of literature close to my heart. My anticipations at this book’s release were high and I actually had made it past the first 50 pages or so … once. One day I just stopped for some reason and never picked it up again.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to finish one or two (or three) books I’m currently reading to attempt this a second time. Fingers crossed…

The History of Middle-earth (All 12 Volumes)

The excitement of getting through this mammoth task is intense, but I’m overwhelmed by the length and presumed difficulty of the writing.

I did in fact begin reading The Book of Lost Tales: Volume I and actually manage to complete most of it. Though Tolkien’s original tales are written in an extremely archaic style, I fell in love with certain passages. Christopher’s commentary was extremely helpful but, again, I abandoned the rest of the reading for some obscure reason.

I’m determined that if I am to read the entire series, it must be chronologically, and that I shall do some time soon.

The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays

Yet another one of those books that I’ve restarted reading three or four times but always stop after the second or third essay. It’s nothing to do with whether the content is engaging or not.

It seems that every time I pick up this book, I arrive at a point when I soon forget I’m reading it and turn to something else. When I try to return to the page I had last read, the argument before me is too complex to understand without having to re-read the whole thing again to make sense of it.

Yet, I have hope that one day I’ll get through this one …

The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien

Alas! Yes. I admit I’m one of those.

Although well-thumbed due to research purposes on numerous occasions, where I would analyse the index pages for specific references and guide myself to particular letters, I have yet to sit down and read the entire book.

There’s treasure in here that I feel I must discover.

The Story of Kullervo

I’m not well-versed in the Kalevala, the Finnish epic, and the fact that this is yet another unfinished work is not very encouraging. I’ve been told it is not an easy read, but I shall have to discover that for myself.

***

Are there any Tolkien books you have not yet read, are planning to read, or just can’t get round to finishing them? Let us know below! 🙂

Till next time…

 

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23 thoughts on “Tolkien Books I HAVE NOT read (yet)

  1. I read the “Letters” this summer and while it made me feel better informed about Tolkien, it also made me like him less, fwiw. He had all the prejudices of an Englishman of his age and then some.

      • yeah, I wasn’t really surprised either. (IRL I used to be a professional historian and I’m accustomed to reading people I admire making statements I don’t. Who you are is where you were, when, and so on.) And I’d read the famous biography (the same guy wrote it who edited the letters). But the biography sort of rounded off his edges a lot — whereas here you get it straight from the horse’s mouth.

  2. Hilarious! I’m a beginner, obviously coming from the other side. I’m 1/2way through letters, and have read all the shorter books, Beowulf, the essays, plus the hot points of the History (which I’m sure we both read). This is my first time working through Silmarillion fully.
    Are you going to read the History in order, like one each season or something?

    • Hi Brenton, that is my plan at the moment. For some reason, BoLT I and II have a summery vibe to them so I’m hoping I’ll read those by August. Hopefully I’ll proceed to Volume 3 from then on …

  3. I had the same experience with the Tolkien’s Beowulf. I started and never finished. I really should, just so that I have a greater part of his literary corpus at my command.

  4. Several years ago I set a goal for myself of finishing all of the Histories in one year. I made it with days to spare and commemorated the event by getting the first of many tattoos; that one was his sigil, and I later surrounded it with a half-sleeve with elements of all of the stories I’d read to date – stuff from the Hobbit, LOTR, Silmarillion, and the Histories. Couldn’t love it more, and every time I see it I remember all of the scholarly fun from that year.

  5. James, what it’s worth, I found the Unfinished Tales to be far more accessible and enjoyable (to just straight read through) than the Book of Lost Tales 1-2. The History of the Lord of the Rings 1-3 was a summer reading project. I just decided I was going to get through it over the course of one summer. I’m glad I did, as it gave me a much deeper insight into the Lord of the Rings.

  6. I recommend listening to the Mythgard academy lectures as you make your way through HoMe. They really helped me by providing some context and illuminated some of the more obscure or difficult passages plus giving me new insights into our favorite writer. They’re towards the bottom of this page and you can also find them on iTunes https://mythgard.org/academy/past-classes/

    I haven’t read much of his non-middle-earth stuff except for the Fall of Arthur, which was fantastic! Gotta get busy with the rest

  7. It seems to me that the Histories of Middle Earth are really hard to find these days as they aren’t in print any more. (Please correct me if I’m wrong!) I’ve got a few of the Ballantine Books editions (which I read several years ago), but I really would like the Houghton Mifflin editions. Feels more official.

    Anyways, happy reading James! I loved his translation of Beowulf. I had never read the whole poem before. His translation should be the standard academic textbook read in schools, in my opinion.

    • Thanks Bryan! As far as I’m concerned the paperback editions of HoME should still be around somewhere … I believe there are hardback editions available by demand on the official tolkien bookshop. They’re lovely, but expensive :/

      • I checked my bookshelf in the basement, and I discovered I have number XII in hardback. I think it was one of the rare ones I found at a great price on Amazon. I’ve got books everywhere so I forget where half of my crap is. Ha.

        Sadly, I never seem to find Tolkien books in used bookstores, unless it is ratty old paperbacks.

  8. I’m missing all of these and a few others too, so I completely understand how you feel. Of course, I’ve felt that way about the other Inklings which is why I’m working on reading through them now. So many things to read, so little time. : )

  9. The only one from your list that I have read is Letters, haha. I’ve read it twice through, which I never expected I would do – there’s just so many interesting tidbits right from the man himself! My personal ’embarrassment’ is that I haven’t yet finished The Silmarillion, having started it (finallllllly) about a year ago. I just don’t want that ‘first time read’ to be over! (Or so I tell myself, haha.) Another one that I was so excited to get a hold of when it was reprinted a few years back is On Fairy Stories, but haven’t read it yet either…

    • Hi Jenna! I agree about the Silmarillion – if only I could go back to experience reading it for the first time …

      As for On Fairy Stories, I confess my first read was confusing but as I re-read it, I fell in love with Tolkien writing, and the way he proposes his arguments so efficiently is incredible 🙂

  10. Working my way through the Silimarillion and have both vol’s of BoLT and found all 12 books of HoME (on eBay mostly – 3 on way from England) few are hard back. Also hardback of the letters. Some from Thriftbooks and some from library’s. I’m just taking my time enjoy every moment.

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