Book Review: An Atlas of Tolkien (David Day)

Book Review: An Atlas of Tolkien (David Day)

J.R.R. Tolkien

Let’s start right out of the gate on this book review and go right into it – this is not by J.R.R. Tolkien or his son Christopher Tolkien. I’m just pointing this out right out of the gate to let everyone know its more of a compendium piece than anything else. There is no fiction in this book, its a ‘look at the map and history of Middle-Earth’.

J.R.R. Tolkien was a one of a kind writer, linguist, scholar, and world builder. Obviously most known for his Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Middle-Earth books, he’s written lots of other scholar pieces on English and British literature and folklore. He also worked on the original Oxford Encyclopedia Dictionary.

From Wikipedia:

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien CBE FRSL (/ˈruːl ˈtɒlkiːn/, ROOL TOL-keen;[a] 3 January 1892 – 2 September 1973) was an English writer, poet, philologist, and academic, best known as the author of the high fantasy works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

From 1925 to 1945, Tolkien was the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and a Fellow of Pembroke College, both at the University of Oxford. He then moved within the same university, to become the Merton Professor of English Language and Literature and Fellow of Merton College, positions he held from 1945 until his retirement in 1959. Tolkien was a close friend of C. S. Lewis, a co-member of the informal literary discussion group The Inklings. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on 28 March 1972.

After Tolkien’s death, his son Christopher published a series of works based on his father’s extensive notes and unpublished manuscripts, including The Silmarillion. These, together with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, form a connected body of tales, poems, fictional histories, invented languages, and literary essays about a fantasy world called Arda and, within it, Middle-earth.[b] Between 1951 and 1955, Tolkien applied the term legendarium to the larger part of these writings.

While many other authors had published works of fantasy before Tolkien, the great success of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings led directly to a popular resurgence of the genre. This has caused Tolkien to be popularly identified as the “father” of modern fantasy literature—or, more precisely, of high fantasy.

J.R.R. Tolkien (Wikipedia)
J.R.R. Tolkien from the 1920s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can read more about Tolkien himself, and his book – The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun in my book review that can be found here: Book Review: The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun (J.R.R. Tolkien).


Middle-Earth is one of the most iconic fantasy worlds. Right there with Narnia, Hogwarts, Westeros, Oz, Midgard, Asgard, The Continent, Azeroth, the various Star Wars planets (Tatooine, Coruscant, Naboo, Yavin IV, Endor, etc.), etc, etc.

So its only obvious that people would have a very vested interest in it and want to learn more about the world of Middle-Earth. So thats where this compendium comes in handy. It is a wonderful look at the world that Tolkien created and how it evolved from the beginning (both in universe and out of universe) to where it is at the end of the Lord of the Rings.

This book does take a look at the world of Middle-Earth from its earliest creation days, from the very act of its creation all the way until the sailing off of the Elves and Frodo at the end of the Lord of the Rings. This covers the texts themselves (Silmarillion, Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, etc.) as well as notes and other copies and texts from Christopher Tolkien.

Book Review

Let’s jump into the book review proper now. This is a good compendium book. Its a super quick read, with most entries being one page blurbs. There are articles for the ages, with inforgraphics and charts, there are geographical and town articles, and there are people and monster articles.

The pages are mostly intercut with wonderful artwork from a variety of different fans and groups. The artwork is really wonderful if not fully refined. You can tell that its mostly artwork already made, and then the book publisher / writer / group approached them for the work, rather than a polished bought set piece.

The articles about the ages are informative and give you a good synopsis of what happened, the events, what led to what, the way and how of the land. Its not an extremely in depth geographical account, and doesn’t give you a true lay of the lands however. The one page interludes about various characters and monsters are nice, but are such quick blurbs that it feels like their just space fillers. (And a way to get more artwork and pages into the book.)

While the book is informative, it does gloss over many things, and with it being such a quick read, it should only take two or three days to read this. The book is a good lead in or refresher for the upcoming Amazon Prime show, but for a true super hardcore Tolkien / Lord of the Rings / Middle-Earth nerd, this won’t go as far (mileage may vary).

The book’s design, appearance, craftsmanship is nice. The artwork is good, and the writing isn’t vanilla bland, but nothing extraordinary. It does a wonderful job acting as a primer or refresher, but other than that, its not quite the greatest.

GoodReads blurb:

This lavish, colour atlas is a complete guide to the weird and wonderful geography of Tolkien’s world. Packed with full page maps and illustrations of events in the annals of Middle-earth, it is the perfect companion to the bestselling A Dictionary of Tolkien. This book is unofficial and is not authorised by the Tolkien Estate or HarperCollins Publishers.

An Atlas of Tolkien (David Day) (GoodReads)

My Rating

My ratings:

  • My GoodReads: ***
  • Global Average GoodReads Rating: 4.12 (as of 4.20.22)
  • My LibraryThing: ***


Thanks For Reading

Thanks for reading everyone! As always stay tuned for more brewfests, beer reviews, brewery trips, hike reviews, book reviews, interviews, and more! Thanks for checking us out!

Cheers all!

-B. Kline

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