Considering the fact that Tolkien abhorred the idea of someone writing a biography on him, considering the fact he thought it ridiculous that someone should read a biography on a writer, and considering his sentiment that the best biography on an author is his works of fiction, calling this book the 'authorized' account is pretty presumptuous.
Still, Carpenter manages the subject very well, chronicling Tolkien's life from his early years throughout his life, with a special amount of attention given to the period in which he was creating his 'hobbit' stories. This is as much a look inside Tolkien's literary mind as a look at his life, and one of the most fascinating aspects of this work is that the reader is able to follow the development of Tolkien's creative genius and see the very elements that inspired him to write his masterpieces "The Hobbit," "The Lord of the Rings," and "The Silmarillion."
For his biography, Carpenter was able to meet personally with Tolkien before his death. He also had full access to all of Tolkien's papers and letters at Oxford. He was able to talk with many of Tolkien's friends and family. Because of this, Carpenter is able to present a very accurate, extremely reliable, and very personal biography. He is very fair with his subject, and treats Tolkien neither as a deity nor an eccentric old man. The man who created Middle Earth was human, and Carpenter captures this brilliantly.
This work on Tolkien is very highly recommended to any fan of his work who wants a peek inside the life of this remarkable man.