J. R. R. Tolkien is an amazing writer. There are not many people that have the immense imagination needed to create a comprehensive fantasy world such as he did. The Silmarillion was the first book he started, but the last to finish. The “Silmarillion” literally means the history of the Silmarils, the gems created by Fëanor in Valinor (the land of the gods who created the world) and how these gems intertwined into the fate of the Elves. The book is mostly about the history of the different Elf kindreds, but also discusses the history of Morgoth, Dwarves, and Men, and the Rings of Power.
At times the book can be hard to follow because it covers thousands of years of history (the first, second, and third ages) very briefly with what seems like hundreds of characters. Quite often elves of the same kindred have similar names which makes it more difficult to remember exactly who is who. Luckily all Tolkien books that I have read contain an index of names and place names at the back of the book. Without anyone telling me, I’m sure that I’m an uber Tolkien dork. I have The Atlas of Middle Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad, which is a book of amazingly detailed maps of the terrain of Tolkien’s world, this book I read concurrent to the Silmarillion for a better understanding of the place names and how they were in location to each other. I also have Tolkien’s World A to Z: The complete guide to Middle-Earth, which is a complete dictionary of names from all of Tolkien’s books. This is a great book to have to cross reference different stories together.
Tolkiens stories are fantastically complex. I have read the Hobbit and all three of the Lord of the Rings series. Reading some of the back history really put a lot of things into place. The more you read and understand about Middle Earth, the easier it becomes to remember who’s who, and where they came from.