By Alex Dalenberg
January 21, 2013
We’re a bit late to the Unexpected Party on this post. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has been in theaters since mid-December. But we’re committed Tolkien-philes here at the blog. I can still clearly remember Dad blew my mind in the fourth grade when he told me that the Hobbit had a sequel. So I thought I’d briefly give a shout out to some vintage Tolkien works, as well as a few other good reads.
We have several interesting Tolkien-related books, including an American first edition of The Silmarillion from when it was first published. Dad bought it new at the time, but it has been well-thumbed since. You can find these floating around the Web for a decent price — usually a hundred dollars or so, with some mint editions going for more.
Of course, The Silmarillion is probably the most difficult of Tolkien’s works. Think of it as The Bible of Middle Earth, but still worth a read. Although probably not collectible, I gave my friend a copy of a Ted Nasmith illustrated edition a few years back, although I think he ended up listening to an audio version during his commutes.
We also recommend Humphrey Carpenter’s very good Tolkien biography. Tolkien’s Letters are also worth a look. On the more obscure end of things, Tolkien also wrote several children’s books, which were mostly abortive attempts by Tolkien to appease his publishers in the wake of the success of the The Hobbit in the late ’30s, or private stories. Although these, including Mr. Bliss, Roverandom and The Father Christmas Letters weren’t published until after Tolkien’s death. Then there is the wonderful parody paperback Bored of the Rings by the Harvard Lampoon.
We have a couple different paperback editions, our favorite being the classic Ballantine paperbacks with the Tolkien drawings as covers. For real connoisseurs, The Tolkien Collector’s Guide has an excellent roundup not only of English and international first editions as well as other collector’s items, scholarly works and ephemera.
Last but not least, for hardcore Hobbit fans, it’s not vintage, but I would recommend The Annotated Hobbit. It’s not only packed with Tolkien trivia, but provides insight into his creative process, including how he author drew from his scholarship on faerie stories to create his famous Legendarium.