Listed here are books relevant for the concerns of the course, but that you do not need to have on hand, at least not right away. If your goal is to become a Tolkien scholar, you will eventually need all of them.
I. A Few Books on (not by) Tolkien of Particularly Usefulness
I confess that I am not well versed in Tolkien criticism. We can hope that at some point I will put some work in to this area and, having improved my knowledge, post something on the matter.
Nevertheless I will recommend here a few items, not so much interpretations of Tolkien as (in my opinion) extremely useful, possibly even approaching indispensable, aids to the reading of Tolkien.
- Humphrey Carpenter. J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography. Houghton Mifflin, 1977. (The still definitive life, containing the essential biographical data relevant for a proper assessment of Tolkien.)
- Karen Wynn Fonstad. The Atlas of Middle-Earth (Revised Edition). Houghton Mifflin, 2001 (3rd edition). ISBN: 0618126996. (A professional geographer’s presentation of Tolkien’s world, extrapolating “scientifically” from the data supplied by T.)
- Tom Shippey. The Road to Middle-Earth. Revised and expanded edition. Houghton Mifflin, (1981, 1992) 2003. isbn 0618257608. (A philologist’s approach to Tolkien, containing fundamental insights into the relationship of Tolkien’s creative works to the texts he studied [and the way he studied them].)
- Christina Skull & Wayne G. Hammond. The JRR Tolkien Companion and Guide. 2 vol. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006, isbn 0618391134, 978-0618391134. (A very full complement to Humphrey Carpenter’s Biography.)
II. Yet More Posthumous Tolkien Titles
Tolkien’s son Christopher continues to publish alternate and additional texts by his father; scarcely a year goes by without a new volume. Other scholars have also pitched in.
- Beowulf and the Critics. Edited by Michael D.C. Drout. Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2002; Revised edition 2011. (The lecture notes from which Tolkien culled his famous Beowulf essay.)
- The Annotated Hobbit. Edited by Douglas A. Anderson. “Revised and Expanded Edition,” HarperCollins, 2003.
- The History of The Hobbit. John D. Rateliff. 2 vol. Houghton Mifflin, 2007. (As its title indicates. It includes Tolkien’s attempt to The Hobbit in the style of the LotR.)
- The Children of Hurin. Edited by CT. Houghton Mifflin, 2007.
- Tolkien on Fairy-Stories. Edited by Douglas A. Anderson and Verlyn Flieger. HarperCollins, 2008.
- Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary. Edited by CT. Houghton Mifflin, 2014.
- The Story of Kullervo. Edited by Verlyn Flieger. Houghton Mifflin 2016.