This week’s book recommendation is J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter. This is the first biography that’s made it onto my book recommendations list and I feel it is a good alternative to outright recommending The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, or any of his other tremendous works. I say this because anyone who knows me knows that I have a slight obsession with Tolkien’s works, which in turn made me feel like recommending his work was a cop-out as far as a book recommendation goes since his magnum opus is so popular.
So instead of writing a very lengthy recommendation on LotR, I am going to discuss the man himself. Humphrey Carpenter is an excellent biographer and definitely did his homework. He is also the only biographer (that I know of) to have gotten permission from J.R.R. Tolkien himself to write it. He therefore had access to a lot of material any other biographer then or since wouldn’t, making this biography one of the best out there about this man. It covers nearly the entirety of Tolkien’s life. From birth, into the wonders of childhood, through the Great War, and beyond into academia and fatherhood (not to mention the parts about writing a few books that caught the world’s attention). I found the time at Oxford the most interesting, but I’m biased toward academia myself. And despite being a non-theologian, I did find Tolkien’s faith and resolve toward it a bit inspiring considering the conflicts it caused among family.
I won’t cover any details because I don’t want to spoil anything in this great insight into the man behind the epic, but there is a good deal about his friendship with C.S. Lewis. I have no doubt that you will learn more than just about Tolkien from this book. So if you like Tolkien, or just like biographies/history, give this one some consideration. It’s good to read a little history from time to time. It’s like a glimpse into the past.