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The Real J.R.R. Tolkien (Hardback)

The Man Who Created Middle-Earth

P&S History Social History Biographies White Owl

By Jesse Xander
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 184
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526765154
Published: 28th February 2021

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RRP £19.99

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The Real J.R.R. Tolkien: The Man Who Created Middle Earth is a comprehensive biography of the linguist and writer; taking the reader from his formative years of home-schooling, through the spires of Oxford, to his romance with his wife-to-be on the brink of war, and onwards into his phenomenal academic success and his creation of the seminal high fantasy world of Middle Earth. "The Real J.R.R. Tolkien" delves into his influences, places, friendships, triumphs and tragedies, with particular emphasis on how his remarkable life and loves forged the worlds of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Using contemporary sources and comprehensive research, "The Real J.R.R. Tolkien" offers a unique insight into the life and times of one of Britain's greatest authors, from cradle to grave to legacy.

If you are a fan of Middle Earth and wish to learn more about the man behind the words, then you cannot go past Jesse Xander’s book. It is sure to provide fresh insights into the places, people and events that shaped the man that made the legend.

NetGalley, Helen Hancock

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


This was a fantastic biography! I knew a little of Tolkien prior- Lord of the Rings, Oxford, etc. However, this compact but thorough biography looks at Tolkien's entire life. I appreciated that it didn't gloss over the darker moments/periods in his life, as many shorter biographies tend to do. There is more of an academic tone to this book, but as someone who prefers an academic tone, it was perfect for me!

NetGalley, Jessica Storoschuk

An incredibly well researched, well-written and well-balanced biography!
Highly recommended for all who love Tolkien's books - one totally sees how it was all but inevitable for him to create a whole world and languages in the books!

NetGalley, Katy R

This made me extremely happy to read. I really enjoyed Jesse Xander’s unfiltered take on Tolkien and their ability to be unbiased when it came to discussing Tolkien’s more problematic views. I really enjoyed the writing style and the “plot” or the way the story of Tolkien’s life was pieced together. I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read this book!

NetGalley, Helen (pagesandpeaches)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

If you read a really good biography, you realise how little you knew about the person concerned. "The Real J.R.R. Tolkien" by Jesse Xander packs in a whole heap of information that was new to me - a surprising amount considering the length of the book. Part story, part essay, this is a fascinating and really easy to read. I'll be reading Tolkien's work with a new perspective in the future.

NetGalley, Dawn Lewis

I was incredibly excited to read this as I am a huge fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and it certainly did not disappoint. There was so much information packed into this relatively short book.

NetGalley, Heather Russell

Reading author biographies is one of the things I like to do and especially if they are about an author I like. That is the case with this book. Jesse Xander has done an incredible research about J.R.R. Tolkien and that shows in his writing.
I learned many things about Tolkien regarding his family and career that shaped him and his work. I liked that the author didn't show us only the good things in Tolkien's life but also the darker part of it. That way we learned more about his personality and his relationship with his wife and his friends.

Highly recommend it to any Tolkien and Middle - Earth fan.

NetGalley, Athina Semertzaki

Fantastic biography of J.R.R. Tolkien that did not shy away from the darker side of Tolkien's personality. This short read is recommended for any Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit fan who wants to know more about Middle Earth's creator.

NetGalley, Teresa Grabs

The Real J.R.R. Tolkien is a must read for every Tolkien fan. It's very detailed and it goes from his youth to his adulthood. We know more about Tolkien's character and personality, we can see his relationship with Edith, and with other writers and academics. This biography will give you a new insight into his incredible life.

NetGalley, Veronica Mancini

Author Jesse Xander wrote an interesting biography of J.R.R. Tolkien. Those moments when he likens Tolkien’s life to his books aren’t on the surface level or obvious - they’re in depth but easy to understand, so I love that.

I appreciate how Xander doesn’t shy away from difficult topics of machismo, racism and prejudice. Xander makes a point of saying that biographies can often gloss over the faults of a person, but this one will not, in the interest of showing the subject as a whole.


I would recommend this book to Tolkien fans.

NetGalley, Jaimie C.

I am a huge fan of both The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy so The Real J.R.R. Tolkien was right up my alley. I really enjoyed the biography, it is truly a great in-depth look at J.R.R. Tolkien’s life.

NetGalley, Steph Elias

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating man. I never grow tired of reading his works and have been enthralled with his life and career for decades. His world building is genius, as was his master of linguistics. This is a wonderful and concise biography that I believe his fans will enjoy. Well researched and well written, it is a joy to read.

NetGalley, Catherine Hankins

This autobiographical account of Tolkien's life packs a lot in even though its not a long book but it is detailed and keeps the reader informed and interested throughout and adds greatly to the books already written by Tolkien.

NetGalley, Stephen Hutchison

I enjoyed this biography that was very informative and included so many elements of J.R.R. Tolkien’s life. While at times the allusions to his work went over my head as I am only a light fan of the epic trilogy, I enjoyed learning about his family and life. I thought it was a skilled expose that was rather unbiased and included some of the unsavory parts of his personality as well as the more honorable parts which was refreshing.

NetGalley, Jillian Coleman

When we were in Oxford a few years back, I made it a point to visit the pub where JRR Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to hang out. I am more familiar with the life of CS Lewis and so thought it was high time I know a bit more about Tolkien with this book.

You know how sometimes a biography can become a bore and a chore to read because the narrative just doesn't flow well and there's nothing but quotes. Well, I was so happy to discover that Jesse Xander is a good biography writer. I enjoyed reading about Tolkien's life from birth to death.

I would recommend this title for fans of Tolkien's books.

NetGalley, Flora Fung

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I am a big fan of The Lord of the Rings and have read most of Tolkien's works. I always thought I knew a lot about him, but I learned so much about his personal life and childhood in ways that I am utterly delighted by. his was obviously written by a fan of Tolkien's works, which is key. I really appreciated how unbias the author explores Tolkien - his relationship with his wife, Edith, and his friendships but also his possible antisemitic and racist views.

A must-read for all true Tolkien fans!

NetGalley, Marialuisa Monda

Precise, detailed, in-depth, this biography allows you to get to know Tolkien as a scholar and as a man, before as the creator of fantastic worlds.
An excellent starting point for those who want to go beyond the works, towards the person.

NetGalley, Sara Piras

I really liked this biography! It was incredibly thorough for such a short book. I am a big fan of The Lord of the Rings and have read most of Tolkien's works. I also thought that I knew a lot about his life already; he was a linguist like me, so I always admired him (yes, I am one of those fans who's spent hours studying Sindarin and Quenyan). But I learned a lot about Tolkien's childhood and personal life. This was obviously written by a fan of Tolkien's works, which makes a big difference in my opinion. It was simultaneously respectful towards Tolkien and his creations while also taking a not-often seen view of some of Tolkien's less-desirable qualities, such as possible antisemitism and racism. I also really appreciated the details about his wife Edith and friendships with other writers and academics. A great book that I highly recommend.

NetGalley, Annie McNulty

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

As someone who is a huge fan of the Hobbit and Lord of the Ring trilogy books and movies and Samurian, I had to request and the read this! This is more than a biography of JRR Tolkien, it is also about his innermost thinking about the worlds in these books. I hope he would have been proud of the movie adaptations because Peter Jackson tried to hold true the books as much as possible.

This is a must read for any fan of his books regardless of you liked in them I was unable to put this down because of all the above reasons. I highly recommend this to bring magic and fantasy back in to the reading of these books. I liked this so much, I am getting a hard copy at publishing.

NetGalley, Lisa Konet

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I've read biographies of a few writers and whilst they've been enjoyable they've also been long and occasionally dry. In comparison, I found this biography refreshingly succinct and a page turner.

Jesse Xander explores Ronald Tolkien's life and legacy in detail whilst drawing convincing and thought-provoking parallels with characters and storylines from his work. I would highly recommend this biography to any Tolkien fan as it will give you a new insight into his fascinating life.

NetGalley, Rebecca Kearon-Wiles

About Jesse Xander

Jesse Xander is a queer non-binary writer and biological anthropologist who was born in 1991 in Kendal, Cumbria, and moved around the UK a lot in their early years before settling in Cambridgeshire. They discovered Tolkien whilst they were studying Archaeology and Anthropology at Homerton College, Cambridge, thus beginning their ongoing independent research into Middle Earth and its languages by applying anthropological tools to Tolkien's world, with particular focus on the oft-neglected orcs. They have directed multiple plays and short films, and have written everything from academic articles for Beyond The Binary to comedy plays, but this is their first book. Aside from Tolkien and other high fantasy, their pet passions include gothic, sci-fi and psychological horror, noir and superheroes. They live and work in Cambridge with their partner and their partner's sibling, and would very much like to be one of those authors who owns a cat or three.

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