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Book Review – Tolkien: How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century

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Tolkien: How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century by Devin Brown – Out today, October 21st from Abingdon Press

J.R.R. Tolkien transformed his love for arcane linguistic studies into a fantastic world of Middle Earth, a world filled with characters that readers the world over have loved and learned from for generations.

Devin Brown focuses on the story behind how Tolkien became one of the best-known writers in the history of literature, a tale as fascinating and as inspiring as any of the fictional ones he would go on to write. Weaving in the major aspects of the author’s life, career, and faith, Brown shares how Tolkien’s beloved works came to be written.

This book is a good place to start if you’re looking for a concise account of Tolkien’s life and the creation of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  It hits the important notes: childhood, education, interests, faith, relationships, and scholarship.  However, it never delves too deeply into any of them.

This might be its selling point.  Tolkien isn’t explained so much as presented.  Neither he nor his work is dissected or investigated.  This short biography takes the reader on Tolkien’s journey, stopping along the way to note how this or that might have contributed to his world famous epic.  These stops aren’t speculation.  They’re often supported by Tolkien’s own words to family, friends, or fans.

What Tolkien: How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote The Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century offers is an excellent resource for new and casual readers.  If you’re not interested in a more exhaustively detailed examination of life and literature, this is probably a good choice.  And who knows?  Perhaps it will spark further interest.

The reader learns how capricious the publishing industry was when The Hobbit rested in the hands of a ten year old boy and how that boy, seventeen years later, took a risk on a long delayed sequel.  Tolkien’s long struggle to follow it puts contemporary clamoring for the next book from Martin or Rothfuss in perspective.

The final sections of the book include “did you know that…?” which pulls some of the interesting trivia from the text and presents it as a bullet pointed list and “Fourteen Tolkien Sites to Visit without Ever Leaving Your Armchair” which lists the important geographical locations of the biography in chronological order.  The former is a handy resource for the second time one picks up the book While the latter is almost a review of the text.

All in all, this is an eminently user-friendly biography that’s professional and informative.  It’s an introductory text founded on and indebted to the work that’s come before it.

Recommended for fans of the films, readers new to Tolkien, and the mildly curious.


Author: Cassandra

mom, wife, accounts payable, serial dropout, theory bitch, anarcho-idunno-syndicalist, literary alchemy enthusiast

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