There's not really anybody I'd rather read a biography of than J.R.R. Tolkien. I'm not sure what this says about me, but there you have it. There's something about the idea of a mild-mannered Oxford don writing the epic adventures and complex world of The Lord of the Rings that has always intrigued me, and this paradox is exactly what Humphery Carpenter explores, respectfully and very well, in his BIOGRAPHY.
The book is admirably thorough, for Carpenter sets up each chapter as a slightly different take on Tolkien's life--in one chapter, we examine photographs of Tolkien for clues to his character. In another, we study his writing habits, his love of language, or a day in his life at Oxford. Or, a day in his wife's life in Oxford. The format itself is fascinating, and for somebody so seemingly difficult to study (outwardly, his life was quite uneventful) Carpenter presented his charge in a such a way that I felt wholly satisfied that all my questions about Tolkien, the writing of the Rings and the Inklings (of course the Inklings) had been answered. In fact, most of them had a chapter unto themselves.
If you read The Silmarillion and liked it, this one is for you.