The Lord of the Rings is a popular series by J.R.R. Tolkien set in the fictional world of Middle Earth. It features various races, including men, elves, dwarves, hobbits, and more, and the world-building is extensive. Surprisingly, though, there aren’t a ton of books in the series.
There are three books in The Lord of the Rings series, but others are set in the same world. The Hobbit features many of the same characters and is set before the events of The Lord of the Rings. Other Tolkien books, like The Silmarillion and The Children of Hurin, also take place in Middle Earth.
This article will discuss the three books in The Lord of the Rings canon and The Hobbit. It will also outline other books set in Tolkien’s fantastical world of Middle Earth. Keep reading to learn more, and be aware that there will be spoilers for those who haven’t yet read the books.
The Three True Lord of the Rings Books
The three books actually considered part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy include:
- The Fellowship of the Ring
- The Two Towers
- The Return of the King
However, each of these books contains two “books” in each volume, for a total of six.
The following sections will feature a brief synopsis of the books, their ratings on Goodreads and Amazon, and the six books that comprise them.
The Fellowship of the Ring
Goodreads rating: 4.38 out of 5
Amazon rating: 4.8 out of 5
- Book one: The Ring Sets Out
- Book two: The Ring Goes South
The first book in the series starts with a prologue that discusses the race of hobbits – what they’re like, how they live, and their natures and dispositions. Then, it turns around and talks about one hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who was utterly different from all the other hobbits in the Shire.
The prologue briefly summarizes the events in The Hobbit, specifically how Bilbo acquired the Ring of Power.
Chapter one jumps directly into the present and Bilbo’s “eleventy-first” birthday. Gandalf, who also appeared in The Hobbit, arrives to celebrate and finds that Bilbo has had the Ring of Power for several years and recently left it to his cousin Frodo.
Because the evil lord Sauron is searching for the ring to regain his power, Gandalf tasks Frodo with keeping it safe. Along with his friends Sam, Pippin, and Merry, Frodo travels to Rivendell, the home of the elves. There, the Fellowship of the Ring is formed.
The Fellowship consists of the following members:
- The four hobbits (Frodo, Sam, Pippin, and Merry)
- The wizard, Gandalf
- Two men (Aragorn and Boromir)
- An elf, Legolas
- A dwarf, Gimli
Together they set out for Mordor, experiencing many mishaps and adventures. Death takes one member of the Fellowship, and the ring corrupts another. After that, Frodo decides to continue on his own. However, he cannot break away from Sam, who sticks by his side even when Frodo tells him to leave. The book ends with the two hobbits setting off alone on the way to Mordor.
The Two Towers
Goodreads rating: 4.46 out of 5
Amazon rating: 4.8 out of 5
- Book three: The Treason Of Isengard
- Book four: The Ring Goes East
The second book in the series continues the story, with Sam and Frodo still heading towards Mordor. Orcs have captured Merry and Pippin, and the surviving members of the Fellowship go after them.
This book takes the characters on different journeys of their own. Merry and Pippin meet the Ents, while Aragorn and the other members of the Fellowship meet the riders of Rohan. The two groups are reunited after both decide to attack Saruman at Isengard.
Sam and Frodo meet Gollum on their journey and force him to lead them to Mordor. They also meet the men of Gondor, led by Boromir’s brother Faramir. The book ends with orcs imprisoning Frodo and separating him from Sam, who now has the ring.
The Return of the King
Goodreads rating: 4.54 out of 5
Amazon rating: 4.8 out of 5
- Book five: The War of the Ring
- Book six: The End of the Third Age
The final book in the series opens with Middle Earth being cloaked in darkness spreading from Mordor. It features a significant battle between good and evil at Minas Tirith, which good almost loses. The riders of Rohan come in at the last minute, as do Aragorn and the army of the dead.
After they win the battle at Minas Tirith, the men and elves of the West decide to attack Mordor directly to pull focus from Sam and Frodo, who are still trying to make their way to the heart of Mount Doom.
Eventually, good triumphs over evil, and the ring is cast into the fires of Mount Doom (though not in the way most people might think).
Everyone returns home, with Aragorn taking his rightful place as the King of Gondor and the hobbits returning to the shire. All the remaining heroes get their happily ever after, though it comes in different forms for each of them.
Although The Hobbit isn’t technically part of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it’s the book that starts everything. It isn’t exactly a prequel since Tolkien wrote it before writing The Lord of the Rings. However, its events do precede the events of the trilogy.
In it, Bilbo Baggins goes on an adventure with Gandalf and a group of dwarves to help them reclaim their homeland. While traveling with them, Bilbo meets a creature named Gollum and finds the Ring of Power, which is central to the story of The Lord of the Rings.
Other Books Set in Middle Earth
Tolkien also has plenty of other books set in Middle Earth. Some are full-length novels, while others are collections of short stories or “history” books. Many were published posthumously, and Tolkien’s son had to finish a few.
Some of Tolkien’s other Middle Earth books include:
- The Silmarillion
- The Adventures of Tom Bombadil
- The Children of Húrin
- The History of Middle-earth
- Unfinished Tales
There are three books in The Lord of the Rings canon, though each contains two books in one. For that reason, some people claim there are six books in the series. Others also count The Hobbit as part of the series.
Other Middle Earth books also exist, but people don’t include them as part of The Lord the Rings story.