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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Main:
When recommending Tolkien's works to a friend, which book would you recommend be read first?

Ringil Ice
Registered User

Jun 19 2013, 7:52pm

Post #1 of 14 (317 views)
When recommending Tolkien's works to a friend, which book would you recommend be read first? Can't Post

I've had this debate with myself many a time. The Hobbit, first written? LOTR, the best known? The Silmarillion, the beginning of it all?

Forum Admin / Moderator

Jun 19 2013, 8:06pm

Post #2 of 14 (228 views)
Depends on the friend, I think. [In reply to] Can't Post

Are they are slow reader, or do they prefer simple things and like to get straight to the action?
The Hobbit.

Do they love long, detailed books and getting immersed in another place while reading, but would be put off by a children's book?
The Lord of the Rings

Do they read everything they can get their hands on?
Tell them to start with The Hobbit and carry on immediately through LOTR...and then on to the Sil and HOME and....Wink

Do they really love mythology or philosophy and read history for fun?
Possibly The Silmarillion, though I think it would be a rare person who should actually start with this. It's such an unconventional book that I think it holds more interest for those who have already encountered Middle-earth. Most people would bog down and lose interest if they read it first.


"Dark is the water of Kheled-zâram, and cold are the springs of Kibil-nâla, and fair were the many-pillared halls of Khazad-dűm in Elder Days before the fall of mighty kings beneath the stone."


Jun 19 2013, 8:41pm

Post #3 of 14 (195 views)
Welcome Ringil Ice! [In reply to] Can't Post

I agree with Silverlode on all points - for most people I think LOTR might be the best place to start overall, though TH is not a bad place either. I tried to get my husband into ME by reading TH - sadly the journey stopped there!

Manwe, when asked a simple "Yes" or "No" question, contemplated, and responded "the middle one."

Tol Eressea

Jun 19 2013, 8:56pm

Post #4 of 14 (197 views)
Neither, spare your friend all those boring books [In reply to] Can't Post

Farmer Giles of Ham: And Other Stories is the way to start on Tolkien.

Vous commencez ŕ m'ennuyer avec le port!!!

Forum Admin / Moderator

Jun 19 2013, 9:08pm

Post #5 of 14 (196 views)
Here's a couple links [In reply to] Can't Post

We get this question occasionally, and several people have provided suggestions. Of course, you know your friend the best, so the answer may vary depending on their particular likes and dislikes.

This is from our old Green Books site: Turgon's suggestions

David Bratman suggests this order

Here's another suggestion

I read The Hobbit first, and it's still my favorite. I would not recommend The Sil first since it's not really a finished work but rather a collection of stories that were intended to eventually form a narrative.

Probably either The Hobbit or LOTR first, depending on what you think your friend would like. The Hobbit is more child-like, so some people might think it's too simplistic. But I think it's the most approachable for anyone who doesn't know Tolkien.

Another option is to see if your friend likes the movies. Now that the first Hobbit movie has been released, it's possible to try both AUJ and FOTR and see which captures his or her interest.


Jun 20 2013, 3:43am

Post #6 of 14 (157 views)
Dpentds on the age and mental maturity of the friend... [In reply to] Can't Post

Probably not The Silmarillion, though. That is for someone who has already read The Lord of the Rings and wants to delve deeper into the history of Middle-earth.

'There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.' - Gandalf the Grey, The Fellowship of the Ring


Jun 20 2013, 8:15am

Post #7 of 14 (159 views)
Depends on the friend's age. [In reply to] Can't Post

The Hobbit would be a real turnoff to most adults who haven't been exposed to Tolkien, but of course it's great for kids. LotR is the best starting point for most adults, because it's a well-formed story told in a mature style. If they fall in love with it, they will have the motivation to read TH.

The Sil is so abstract, complex, and mythic that it will not appeal to a lot of readers, even those who love LotR. The true test is whether the reader dove into LotR appendices (at least A and B) with relish and delight -- if so, the Sil should work fine!

(This post was edited by Elizabeth on Jun 20 2013, 8:17am)

Grey Havens

Jun 20 2013, 2:57pm

Post #8 of 14 (144 views)
Depends upon the friend's preferences and Tolkien background knowledge [In reply to] Can't Post

The Hobbit is written in that avuncular tone that just irritates some people (I shudder at those instances it shows up in CSLewis' work as well) and has a decidedly "childish" tone.

LOTR though has a lot of poetry that movie firsters are not expecting, but it is the best intro to Middle Earth.

The Silmarillion is not a book I would recommend for an intro to Middle Earth. There are parts that are wonderfully cohesive, but it's too "scholarly" for the average reader.

Fourth Age Adventures at the Inn of the Burping Troll http://burpingtroll.com


Jun 20 2013, 5:13pm

Post #9 of 14 (138 views)
Welcome, Ringil. I agree with everything Silverlode said. [In reply to] Can't Post

Just curious: which books have you read, and in what order? For me it was traditional: Hobbit > LOTR > Silmarillion, etc.


Jun 20 2013, 5:36pm

Post #10 of 14 (140 views)
This is how I made the decision [In reply to] Can't Post

to go with "Children of Hurin", a story with a slightly darker edge to it, for a friend.

There is everything from light-hearted poetry, the philosophical musings on faerie-stories, and the darker and more dramatic to choose from.

Ringil Ice
Registered User

Jun 20 2013, 5:52pm

Post #11 of 14 (131 views)
Hey Curious G, I also agree with Silverlode. [In reply to] Can't Post

All of these considerations sound like wise ideas. Part of the reason I asked the question is because I first read LOTR proper when I was 9 and don't remember that much from the first reading because I have read them many times since. I've also read the Sil, TH, Unfinished Tales, and the first 4 books in the History of Middle Earth in that order. And a few Tolkien biographies.

Ringil Ice
Registered User

Jun 20 2013, 5:58pm

Post #12 of 14 (138 views)
I like this idea a lot. [In reply to] Can't Post

Children of Hurin feels more down to the root of Tolkien to me, because it is part of the history of the world he loved while also being a story that he seemed to have wrote with similarities to those he read and revised as a scholar of Anglo-Saxon literature. Cool idea. Also Beleg Cuthalion was awesome.


Jun 25 2013, 10:03pm

Post #13 of 14 (78 views)
I would say... [In reply to] Can't Post

...The Hobbit first since its the easiest to get into in terms of story and grammatical structure. But I always follow up with the fact that The Children of Hurin is my favorite of Tolkien's works.

"Welcome to Novogard – Where lands have been shattered from racial division. Where a powerful government has begun its encroachment onto unwilling societies. Where the magical and the technological collide." - ERIC ELMOOR AND THE GAUNTLET OF GODRIC

"One final word……….. Tolkien and Rowling’s [books] will be family favourites for years to come and if book one of Tommy's [series], Eric Elmoor and the Gauntlet of Godric, is anything to go by he will be joining these great authors!" - comment by Orchard Book Club

Book 2 of the Eric Elmoor Saga, "Eric Elmoor and The Chalice of Cameron," is coming soon!


Jun 26 2013, 2:08am

Post #14 of 14 (86 views)
The Hobbit :) [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it's a great one to introduce people to Middle-earth, Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves... and everything inbetween ;)

4th draft of TH:AUJ Geeky Observation List - May 1, 2013


"There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West."

I'm SO HAPPY these new films take me back to that magical world!!

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