The Lord of the Rings Books in Order: Chronologically and by Release Date

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Whether you're thinking of reading more of Tolkien's work in preparation for Amazon's The Lord of the Rings or The War of the Rohirrim, or, ideally, just because you love the Professor's world, you might not be sure where to start. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are quite obvious, but beyond that, reading Tolkien can feel a little intimidating for some - and it shouldn't be! Below, we share the order in which to read J. R. R. Tolkien's books; just bear in mind there's no single recipe for successful reading, so it might not be as straightforward as you think!

Tolkien's Books by Publication Date

The question of which book to start with when it comes to Lord of the Rings and Tolkien's other works might be different for each reader. The one thing that cannot be debated is the books' publication dates. Here's are Tolkien's books by publication order:

  • The Hobbit (1937)
  • The Lord of the Rings (1954)
  • The Adventures of Tom Bombadil and Other Verses from the Red Book (1962) - For the uninitiated, this is a poetry collection containing 16 poems. Two of them feature Tom Bombadil, one of Tolkien's most enigmatic characters.
  • The Silmarillion (1977)
  • Unfinished Tales (1980)
  • The History of Middle-earth (1983-1996) - In case you haven't heard of it before, this 12-volume series has been compiled and edited by Christopher Tolkien and it analyses Tolkien's Legendarium, rather than strictly recounting events that altered the history of Middle Earth from an in-universe perspective.
  • The Children of Húrin (2007) - This story, an incomplete version of which is found in Unfinished Tales, came out in 2007 as a book in its own right.
  • Beren and Lúthien (2017) - A version of this story is also found in the Silmarillion, while Aragorn also recounts it in The Lord of the Rings.
  • The Fall of Gondolin (2018) - Before the story became standalone, parts could be found in Unfinished Tales.

Tolkien's Books Chronologically

If you were to read Tolkien's book strictly chronologically, here's how you would go about it:

  • The Silmarillion (1977)
  • The Children of Hurin (2007)
  • Beren and Luthién (2017)
  • The Fall of Gondolin (2018)
  • Unfinished Tales (1980)
  • The Hobbit (Book, 1937)
  • The Lord of the Rings (1954)

Is that the best way to read Tolkien's books though? That's where things get a bit complicated.

Related: Who is the Director of Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim?

In What Order to Read Tolkien's Books?

There is no right or wrong order to read Tolkien's books. Rather, it's best to consider what works for each reader, and what will get them excited to read further. As the Tolkien Society indicates, there is no perfect recipe. For very young readers, The Hobbit is most likely a good place to start, followed by The Lord of the Rings which can be enjoyed by pre-teens and teenagers.

For adults, Lord of the Rings might be the best starting, although it would be a pity to omit The Hobbit. While it's considered a children's book, many adults find it enjoyable, and some happen to think it's one of Tolkien's best if not the best.

The Children of Hurin and Beren and Luthien are fan-favorite stories so they might be good to readjust after The Lord of the Rings. Many people leave Simarillion for last, as it's generally considered to be the most difficult amongst Tolkien's work.