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The Lord of the Rings

[The Lord of the Rings] The Lord of the Rings
by J.R.R. Tolkien
1954
Amazon.co.uk: hardcover boxed set, hardcover omnibus, paperback boxed set, paperback omnibus, audio CD, audio cassette
Amazon.ca: hardcover omnibus, paperback boxed set, paperback omnibus, audio CD, audio cassette
Amazon.com: hardcover omnibus, paperback boxed set, paperback omnibus, audio cassette
ChristianBook.com: hardcover boxed set, hardcover omnibus, paperback boxed set, paperback omnibus
Recommended by: Greg Slade

The Lord of the Rings is one of the books "everybody knows." Tolkien brought back the fantasy genre almost single-handedly. Some may not regard that as a Good Thing, since rather a lot of modern fantasy is little more than bad attempts to duplicate Tolkien's style. However, poor imitations should not be allowed to ruin our enjoyment of the original. The fact is that Tolkien stands up to repeated re-reading, and has delighted and entertained generations of readers.

I first discovered Tolkien in the stacks of my high school library, and it seemed like a delicious secret. Since then, there was a huge wave of interest in Tolkien in the 70's, and even my home church's coffee house was named "Hobbit House." Interest seemed fade a bit until the release of the movie versions, but now it seems certain that a new generation of readers will catch on, and we'll be deluged with Middle Earth bric-a-brac once again.

The boxed set currently available includes The Lord of the Rings (consisting of The Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) and The Hobbit. The Hobbit is also available separately, as is The Silmarillion. Taken together, the books form a sort of legendary alternate history of Earth, up to a time prior to the beginning of written history. Those who know their history (and prehistory) will recognise that things could not have happened the way Tolkien relates, yet the stories have a ring of truth to them, as if they should have happened. How is that? Tolkien's technique was to work out a huge and detailed backstory. In fact, the books themselves are merely an adjunct to Tolkien's hobby of constructing this immense and detailed world of his. (Tolkien was a friend of C.S. Lewis, and Lewis wrote that Tolkien would criticise Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia for not having enough background detail.) So, every time Tolkien mentions a place or a character, he has in his mind a detailed history or genealogy, going right back to creation. People and places feel real in Tolkien's work, because they all have a setting and a history, rather than being simply necessary plot elements the author thought up on the spur of the moment.

If you've read and liked Tolkien, but don't have your own copy, a boxed set should make a nice addition to your bookshelf. If you haven't read Tolkien, you might want to start off easy with The Hobbit, then graduate to The Lord of the Rings, and then move on to The Silmarillion. That will be out of order with the internal chronology, but Tolkien's books are large, and fairly demanding compared to a lot of the fluff on the shelves these days, so it's best to take things a step at a time until you're sure you like them.

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[Audio] [Books] [Film] [Stories]