(I can never remember the proper order of the i and e in Tolkien's name!)
Tolkien's description of the novel:
If you care for journeys there and back, out of the comfortable Western world, over the edge of the Wild, and home again, and can take an interest in a humble hero (blessed with a little wisdom and a little courage and considerable good luck), here is a record of such a journey and such a traveler. The period is the ancient time between the age of Faerie and the dominion of men, when the famous forest of Mirkwood was still standing, and the mountains were full of danger. In following the path of this humble adventurer, you will learn by the way (as he did) -- if you do not already know all about these things -- much about trolls, goblins, dwarves, and elves, and get some glimpses into the history and politics of a neglected but important period. For Mr. Bilbo Baggins visited various notable persons; conversed with the dragon, Smaug the Magnificent; and was present, rather unwillingly, at the Battle of the Five Armies. This is all the more remarkable, since he was a hobbit. Hobbits have hitherto been passed over in history and legend, perhaps because they as a rule preferred comfort to excitement. But this account, based on his personal memoirs, of the one exciting year in the otherwise quiet life of Mr. Baggins will give you a fair idea of the estimable people now (it is said) becoming rather rare. They do not like noise.Donald and I read this together in anticipation of the film version that will be released later this year. Donald had read it before (years ago), but though I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was in middle school, I don't think I'd ever read The Hobbit.
As usual with books read jointly, I didn't take notes, so I only have general impressions to mention.
-- The story was (mostly) much more lighthearted than the LotR trilogy (even though there was plenty of adventure and many life-threatening situations).
-- Most of the book felt like it was written with a younger audience in mind (again, compared to the LotR).
-- The songs are just as boring as I remember the ones in LotR being. Boring! Keep the amateurish poetry out of my prose, please.
-- Gandalf seemed kind of useless, for most of the book. What good is having a wizard along if all he can offer is the occasional fireworks display? ;o)
-- I thought the book got dull once the dragon was defeated. From that point on, I just wanted it to be over. (And descriptions of battles are not my favorite things to read at all.)
-- Where were some of these characters in the LotR books? Beorn, for instance. I don't have a very clear picture/map of Middle Earth in my mind-- much less the details of the books-- so maybe they are mentioned, and I've just forgotten. (Or maybe they're in a totally different part of the world and weren't involved simply because of distance and lack of liaison.)
-- I'll be curious to see how the book is adapted for film and how closely it resembles the other movies in tone.