[The first in what could very well be a multipart series in which I, in my sadly infinite wisdom on such matters, provide you, the socially well-adjusted public, with the insights necessary to understand those geeks around you and the tools to better speak their language.]The Lord of the Rings is not a trilogy. Douglas A. Anderson writes in his opening note on the text of the 1987 revised American edition: "J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings is often erroneously called a trilogy, when is in fact a single novel, consisting of six books plus appendices, sometimes published in three volumes." The book's acceptance among wider audiences, due to the overwhelming popularity of the hacky and derivative film series adapted from the book by director Peter Jackson, has furthered the spread of the incorrect terminology. Jackson's films could more correctly be called a triptych, as opposed to more classically recognized film trilogies as the original Star Wars triology, or the Godfather cycle, or even the Scream films. But the novel? One story. One book. It was originally published in three volumes because of post-war paper shortages in the U.K. and to help keep costs down, and it's still often packaged and sold that way out of convenience. It's easier to carry one of the individual thirds than to lug around the entire epic. But it is one continuous story, and it's impossible — and foolish — to attempt to simply read one of the volumes, or to refer to one as "better" than the other two, as if the stories are part of a series and not one cohesive whole. It's one book. Not a trilogy. Thanks for your time.