We read The Hobbit in my English novel class this semester. I, sadly, have never read anything by Tolkien before. This book was a lot of fun.
It follows the adventures of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins as he travels with some dwarves in search of their old treasure that has been guarded by a dragon named Smaug for years. They encounter goblins, elves, eagles, wolves, giant spiders, and thanks to Bilbo's secret ring and the wizard Gandalf , most of them survive the journey.
The writing style is very much like storytelling. The narrator takes on this paternal tone and even intercedes with explanations to teach the reader. I thought that was unique and seemed to fit Tolkien really well. I do not think the novel would do so well if it was published today, though. We have too many faster-paced novels available now and taste has changed. I think people would find it juvenile.
I really enjoyed this novel. It was fun, well-written, and unique. Tolkien didn't steal ideas for his made-up worlds or his creatures - he is basically the first fantasy writer ever. Side track! I actually think J.K. Rowling was a big Tolkien fan. I have not looked into that at all, but she also uses crazy-powerful objects (the Deathly Hallows), she has giant spiders, she has a super powerful father-figure wizard, and the objects are what can be used to defeat the ultimate bad guy...and now I'm going into Lord of the Rings as well. I warned you about the side track.
Anyways, I really enjoyed The Hobbit and I highly recommend it. For my English novel class I had to make a blog about The Hobbit and Tolkien (with a classmate, not on my own). You can read more about these ideas and other more in-depth thoughts at that blog: Journeys with Tolkien.