Once there was a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who was very respectable, at least until a wizard named Gandalf tricked him into going on an adventure with a bunch of dwarves to steal a dragon's treasure.
This was my first time reading The Hobbit. Remember that ugly-ass cartoon based on the The Hobbit that they used to show sometimes on Saturday mornings? Yeah, that removed any desire I might have had to read the books. Ever. (It's kind of weird how awful those cartoons were--I think there was a LotR one, too--because they actually seemed to follow the books pretty closely. But without any artistry or interpretation.) Anyway, I didn't intend to read The Hobbit now; however, I was googling something--I forget what--and came across the audiobook on YouTube (fun fact: The Hobbit was in the public domain in the US until January of this year, which means you can still find the audiobook and eBook versions for free online). I hit play just out of curiosity and was totally sucked into the story.
Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed The Hobbit--in fact, I would say it's impossible not to like this book. There's something very innocent and disarming about it. I absolutely fell in love with Bilbo; he is an awesome character. And the stand-out scenes in The Hobbit absolutely sparkle. I loved the beginning where the dwarfs come to Bilbo's house, when he trades riddles with Gollum, and when he steals from Smaug. Smaug was awesome as well!
That being said, I do have one major beef and few minor ones with this book. I'm not sure I would have gotten through it if I had read it rather than listened to it. I mean, for one there are NO WOMEN anywhere in this novel. All the main characters are men. And even the minor characters. I mean, I've read books from the 19th century that were written by men, take place almost entirely on a battlefield, have five characters, and they still manage to fit a female character in there. So how about a shout out for the ladies, JRR? I really wonder how any of the peoples in his novels manage to self-populate considering the ratio of women to men. Maybe we should have put some more thought into that and less thought into how the Elves talk, hmmmm? Why on earth would I be interested in a book with no women in it? Answer: I wouldn't. Secondly, The Hobbit feels uneven at times (especially at the end, which seems to go on and on). Then Tolkien goes into a political rant wherein Smaug is equated to a dictator whose death brings instability and infighting to the region, and the book gets slightly academic. Read: boring.
The no women thing aside, though, The Hobbit was a fast, fun read. Unless of course you start to think about what it all sets into motion in Lord of the Rings, in which case it's actually kind of chilling. But try not to think about that.