Born in Cardiff, Wales, Ready studied bibliography in England and Wales, and after the Second World War he became an acquisitions librarian at Stanford University. Between 1956 to 1963 he was Director of Libraries at Marquette University.
Ready foresaw the cultural value of Tolkien's writings and, while at Marquette University, he managed to purchase a large selection of original literary manuscripts by Tolkien in 1956-57, including manuscripts of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
According to his own account, Ready had arranged a lecture tour for Tolkien at American universities, but Tolkien was forced to decline because of illness. In order to make amends, Tolkien therefore offered Ready to buy his manuscripts. However, Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond have stated (deriving from archived correspondence) that Tolkien "was directly approached to sell his papers, and did not himself suggest their sale."
- 1958: The Poor Hater
- 1968: The Tolkien Relation
- 1971: The Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit Notes. Toronto: Coles Publishing Co. Ltd.
- 1982: Files on Parade (autobiography)
- Letter to William Ready (February 1959)
- Letter to William Ready (5 March 1959)
- Letter to Dick Plotz (8 April 1968)
- Locus 1
- "William Ready fonds. 1948-1982", McMaster University Library (accessed 12 February 2012)
- William Ready, The Tolkien Relation (dustjacket description)
- Paul Grescoe, "William Ready is Cunning, Devious, Relentless, Ruthless (and sneaky)" dated 24 April 1971, The Montreal Gazette (Google News Archive) (accessed 12 February 2012)
- Christina Scull and Wayne G. Hammond (2006), The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide: II. Reader's Guide, pp. 513-3
- Douglas A. Anderson, "The Mainstreaming of Fantasy and the Legacy of The Lord of the Rings", in The Lord of the Rings 1954-2004, p. 313 (note 29)
- "William Ready fonds. 1948-1982 (Box 1-64)", McMaster University Library (accessed 12 February 2012)
- "William Ready Silmarillion review", google.com Google] (accessed 24 April 2014)