Piles of Books

How to Use the Middle-earth Reading Plan

*** Please note: This plan is under construction in 2021. It is current, but not complete: you may follow it, but you will not be able to work ahead.

The readings in this plan are arranged chronologically within the framework of The Silmarillion, so you will not be reading each book cover-to-cover, but rather according to the order of events within the mythology. 

This reading plan has several components, which you can pick and choose according to your interests. I have included the dates for each book so that you can request them from your library or otherwise acquire them accordingly. 
Any time there are Notes or Commentary following a section, those are included in the reading selection for that day. They will not be listed separately.

Basic Reading: 

    This is the complete story of Middle-earth. Designed to take about 15 minutes per day, reading this section will take you through the following books during the year:

  • The Silmarillion (January 1 - April 27 & December 25 - 28)

  • The Children of Hurin (February 8 - March 25)

  • Unfinished Tales (Except The Tale of the Children of Hurin) (April 2 - May 15 & September 14 - December 15)

  • The Hobbit (May 17 - July 5)

  • The Fellowship of the Ring (July 8 - September 12)

  • The Two Towers (September 13 - November 2)

  • The Return of the King (April 14 - December 31)

    This basic reading section omits most of the Forewords, Introductions, Appendices, etc. 

Supplementary Reading:

    This includes material largely comprised of earlier versions of the published texts, as well as all the material omitted from the books in the basic plan. Sometimes the reading will be brief, and sometimes quite lengthy, depending on the chronology of the content. These are the books included:

  • Unfinished Tales (Including The Tale of the Children of Hurin) (February 11 - March 25)

  • The History of Middle-earth, Volume I: The Book of Lost Tales 1 (January 2 - 19)

  • The History of Middle-earth, Volume II: The Book of Lost Tales 2 (January 31 - April 14)

  • The History of Middle-earth, Volume III: The Lays of Beleriand (January 14 - April 11)

  • The History of Middle-earth, Volume IV: The Shaping of Middle-Earth (January 4 - April 24)

  • The History of Middle-earth, Volume V: The Lost Road and Other Writings (January 3 - April 28)

  • The History of Middle-earth, Volume VI: The Return of the Shadow (July 11 - August 29)

  • The History of Middle-earth, Volume VII: The Treason of Isengard (July 15 - December 31)

  • The History of Middle-earth, Volume VIII: The War of the Ring (August 14 - December 31)

  • The History of Middle-earth, Volume IX: Sauron Defeated (April 19 - December 31)

  • The History of Middle-earth, Volume X: Morgoth’s Ring (January 3 - 21)

  • The History of Middle-earth, Volume XI: The War of the Jewels (January 7 - April 1)

  • The History of Middle-earth, Volume XII: The Peoples of Middle-earth (January 11 - December 31)

  • Beren and Lúthien (January 29 - April 11)

  • The Fall of Gondolin (April 2 - April 12)

  • The History of the Hobbit, Part 1: Mr. Baggins (April 30 - June 20)

  • The History of the Hobbit, Part 2: Return to Bag-End (May 20 - July 9)    

The Supplementary Reading is broken down into several categories, so you can select pieces that interest you.

  • Expanded Story: These selections contain story elements that are not included in the Basic Reading.

  • Background: This provides information about the mythology and its compilation.

  • Prior Versions: Earlier drafts of the text, usually containing extensive notes on revisions. Many people find these tedious.

Enrichment Activities:

  • Maps: I have listed the locations from the Basic Reading for each day. You may want to mark these locations on a map before you begin reading so that you can easily refer to them. I have included links to online maps, but you will probably find it easier to consult a paper map, usually included at the end of each book. Note that not all versions of each map include all the locations listed, so you may have to do some searching to find more obscure locations.

  • Character Cards: I will list the significant characters as they are introduced in the Basic Reading, and I will include photos of my own Character Cards each day. You may want to look up illustrations (or draw your own!) of each character’s portrait and create a baseball-card style reference for each character, or simply list their name(s) and a few quick facts. You may want to create cards for all the major characters, or just a few. These cards are especially helpful for characters who go by multiple names. You may want to store your cards alphabetically on a keyring, or in an index card file box. I have chosen to color-coordinate my Character Cards by race:

    • Valar/Maiar: Purple

    • Elves: Blue

    • Men: Yellow

    • Hobbits: Green

    • Dwarves: Red

    • Animals: White

        Note:  all the illustrations included on my example Character Cards were made by

       Madison Sustman (Instagram: @maddiesustman)

  • Timeline: Time in Middle-earth spans seven ages:

    • The Years of Music

    • The Years of the Lamps

    • The Years of the Trees

    • The First Age

    • The Second Age

    • The Third Age

    • The Fourth Age

         I have provided the dates which correspond to the events in each day’s Basic Reading. You might want to create a digital timeline in a list format, a horizontal paper timeline with vertical fold-outs for years with many events, or some other type of timeline - whatever you will find most helpful.

  • Other: This section will often include links to illustrations, interesting videos related to the Basic Reading, or other enrichment activities. 

Discussion Questions:

    Each day includes three discussion questions, usually based on the Basic Reading. These are designed for book groups or personal consideration; there are no right or wrong answers.