Additional Tolkien publications - Where to start?


New Member
Hey everyone! I've been listening to Exploring the LOTR podcast for about a month now (on episode 65) and super excited to discover this community. Can't wait to join the live discussions!

I'm really interested by references in the podcast to material found in additional Tolkien publications like Unfinished Tales and The History of Middle Earth series. I would love to dive into some of these myself but I was quickly confused & overwhelmed when looking into the list of Tolkien publications. Having only read The Hobbit, LOTR, & The Silmarillion yet myself, does anyone have any guidance on the best place to start?

As for me, I'm a community organizer based in the northeastern US. Literature wise, I love fantasy & magical realism and just started getting into science fiction. I admit to being a LOTR snob in that I can't help but feel disappointed by my Harry Potter-loving friends ;) (They have no idea what they're missing, right?) With every read of LOTR I tend to find more insights / connections to community organizing & social justice work in general & would love to connect to others doing similar work!

(Btw, shout out to The Friendship Onion & their Stephen Colbert interview in particular for introducing me to Exploring the LOTR. Highly recommended - Billy Boyd & Dom Monaghan are delightful!)


Active Member
If you are interested in the history of how Middle-earth developed, I would dive into the History of Middle-earth series. But do be warned, if you're at all put off by the Silmarillion, the HoME series can be a slog. For me, I have never just sat and read them, front to back (and I believe the TP had not done so himself until the started the Mythgard series doing so) and generally just go to the stuff I want to know about at the time. Also, HoME (and most CRT edited books) have a plethora of notes and such. Like some of them consist of half the book.

They are mostly chronological in nature, progressing from the beginnings of the Silmarillion stories in the 1910s, up to the very latest writing before his death. The first 5 books cover the years of the beginning of the tales up to LotR. 6-9 cover the writing of LotR, while 10-12 (or is it 13?) cover from LotR until Tolkien's death.

Some will suggest starting with Unfinished Tales. You cant really go wrong there, but it is exactly as it says: a collection of tales that were never properly finished (including the multiple versions of Galadriel, one of my favorite Numenor stories, The Mariners Wife, and many more.

Either way, if you havent read the Children of Hurin novel version, do that first. It's one of my favorite novels, period.

(And the friendship onion is great! I love it as well)

Martin N

New Member
Hi Miichhelle! In addition Octoburn's recommendations, you might also try the earlier Mythgard Academy classes on the History of Middle Earth series. They are available in podcast form on the Mythgard Academy feed, all the way from the start through to volume X and only now interrupted to cover the newly published Nature of Middle Earth. The format is not too different from Exploring LOTRO (though less detailed of course), it's super fun and with deep discussion.

Jim Deutch

Well-Known Member
try the earlier Mythgard Academy classes on the History of Middle Earth series
I would just like to add that you can go through these podcasts/videos (I'm finishing up the Morgoth's Ring sessions right now myself) without actually buying or reading the books. Of course, you'll get more out of it if you read the materials (ideally, read before listening, and then re-read after!), but I've gotten quite a lot out of the HOME sessions with Professor Olsen without ever having read the original materials. It's a compromise, but with limited available time, I've found it an excellent way to become familiar with HOME.

And I do recommend you read Unfinished Tales. If you like The Silmarillion, these will be very interesting indeed to you. One of these days I must get my hands on the novel-length Children of Hurin. . .

Rachel Port

Well-Known Member
I started with the Lord of the Rings volumes of the History of Middle-earth - Return of the Shadow, The Treason of Isengard, The War of the Ring, and the first part of Sauron Defeated. As you read, you can listen to the classes on the series. It's amazing to see Tolkien's creative process, and is full of surprises (and fun). Then you can decide how much and which of the other books interest you.