What can I say about this book that hasn’t been said yet? Maybe this: I read it when I was nine, all in one go. I was visiting my grandparents and my uncle had lent me his books. I fell. I fell for them, I fell into them. They were exactly what I needed. I saw Middle Earth, I travelled with the companions, I pictured them vividly. I imagined myself with them, dreamt up original characters (that was years before I ever heard of fanfics). I rode with the Rohirrim and saw the mighty Minas Tirith.
I had read the Hobbit before, and made the connection – this was the first time I had encountered such a loose connection between books, and I was excited that I knew it and recognised it. Everything about these books excited me. The beautiful language (thankfully my uncle had the old translation), the poems and songs, the dry sense of epos lurking in the background. The next year, a different uncle (yes, my family rocks) got me the audio book and a big map, and so I listened to the story I knew already, followed along on the map, and dreamed more dreams of Middle Earth. Another year later, yet another uncle lent me his copies of the Silmarillion and all those Christopher Tolkien books that contain more commentary than actual stories. The whole Middle Earth universe gave me a sense of scale and quality that has served me very well.
That said: I usually don’t recommend this book to friends. I read it at the right time, in the right frame of mind, and I still love it a lot. But it is often dry and tedious, it is slow and distracted, its characters belong in an epos and, as such, have little nuance and even less character development. You read the book for the scale, the worldbuilding, and you will enjoy the narration only if you’d also enjoy Beowulf or the Nibelung saga.