Several years back I read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

I recently discovered (when going through some old boxes I hadn't unpacked after moving house) that I've got a few additional books which I've never read, mainly The Silmarillion and The Book of Lost Tales Pt. 1 + 2.

Is there any order to these? Which should I read first? Or doesn't it matter?

  • Those are all very good clear answers. I would def agree with reading the Silmarillion first, unfinished tales second followed by lost tales. Encyclopedia of arda or tolkein gateway are essentials as mentioned.
    – user15173
    Commented Jun 11, 2013 at 18:34

4 Answers 4


I asked a similar, more general question on Literature.SE about the reading order of all of Tolkien's works. The consensus was that The Silmarillion should come before the less mature HoME. The Silmarillion is a few well-developed stories about the First Age, while The Book of Lost Tales is a collection of story fragments and edited notes covering some of the same content. By reading The Silmarillion first you will have a better understanding of the history as Tolkien intended us to read it (though even The Silmarillion was not complete at the time of his death), then you can go back to Lost Tales and see how the stories developed from earlier notes.

  • Thanks for this, I had never thought about the literature site ...
    – takrl
    Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 10:48
  • 1
    That question is now here: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/15534/…
    – Wade
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 22:37
  • @Wade And mine is now a duplicate of one that didn't exist when I wrote it.
    – takrl
    Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 11:26
  • 1
    @takrl And mine is now migrated from a site that exists again where it would still be on topic. What a tangled interweb we weave. Commented Sep 8, 2017 at 20:55

I would recommend reading The Silmarillion first. That's the order of publication, and The Book of Lost Tales contains only fragments of stories that will act as spoilers for the more coherent story contained in The Silmarillion.


I'd agree that you should read The Silmarillion first, but would just add that you should probably read Unfinished Tales next, before the two BoLT volumes. UT includes additional versions of several of the stories from the Silmarillion, as well as a whole lot of extra information about Tolkien's world (including who the Wizards really were).

  • Strongly Agree -- Unfinished Tales should be considered HOME vol 0. Read it before any of the Official HOME books. Commented Oct 14, 2011 at 13:36

Besides the order everyone suggests, if you've never read the lorebooks, I would suggest you have a browser handy with the Encyclopedia of Arda on it...because you likely WILL get lost in the names and details.

  • Two bookmarks: one in the text, and one in the index, will generally work just as well. The index in The Silmarillion is really good, and also includes a little potted biography or description with all the entries.
    – TRiG
    Commented Sep 30, 2012 at 20:51

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