An oh-so very helpful reference book for those who want to become a Middle Earth historian or perhaps an etymologist focusing on the Undying Lands......maybe a specialist in Numenor studies?
Robert Foster's The Complete Guide to Middle Earth: From The Hobbit to the Silmarillion
will give you just that, a comprehensive compilation of the people, places, events, etc as created by J.R.R. Tolkien. This is very helpful for the reader who can't retain every single detail Tolkien packed into his books. I think there's only a few people on Earth who can, a small tribe of large-brained semi-humans inhabiting Oxford.
Though encyclopedic in nature, The Complete Guide
reads more like a dictionary (which means you don't actually read
it) with its alphabetical listing and relatively short entries. Short though they may be, generally they don't omit information. After all, in many cases there wasn't a lot of information to go on, so why skip any of it? Example:PERIANNATH
(S: 'halflings') Hobbits (q.v.). (III 510; R 67)
On the other hand, Tolkien being the incredible world-builder that he was, relatively speaking there is copious amounts of info on fairly unimportant characters:MIRABELLA BRANDYBUCK
(TA 2860-2960) Hobbit of the Shire, youngest daughter of Gerontius Took. She married Gorbadoc Brandybuck and had seven children by him. (III 475, 476)
Mirabella doesn't even appear in The Lord of the Rings
! She's only a bleedin' footnote!
Generally, the entries are fuller and quite helpful, at least wherever they can be, and seldom do they exhaust a word when they shouldn't. For instance, a page or two on Frodo is good, but his whole story replete with every detail would take up books' worth of pages...three books to be precise.
Occasionally entries will send you on an endless quest for the answer. For instance, "Ngoldo" essentially tells you to see "Noldo," which points you to "Tengwa," and "Tengwa" isn't in the book! However, there is something called "Tengwar," which apparently is a writing system. So in the end you'll get there, and this little annoyance isn't the book's fault. Blame it on the boss of nova, Tolkien, that generative blast that had a great hand in creating today's fantasy world as we know it.