Its no accident that Lord of the Rings did hit it big. It is excellent. The world has an air of verisimilitude to it because Tolkien spent decades developing the history of Middle-earth. The people and relationships work because he had figured out what happened both before and after the narrative that he wanted to tell. With that kind of background everything fits together and you get characters and places that feel real with a rich history and even a language and way of talking that fits who they are and where they're from.
Knowing all of this, I wanted to share it with my wife as well so over the past several months I have been reading Lord of the Rings to her to help her to sleep. One of the things that hit me yet again is how much better this version is from the movies made by Peter Jackson. Some edits for time I can understand. Tom Bombadil is an easy omission (although there's still a part of me that would have liked to have seen Robin Williams as Bombadil). I'm fairly onboard with what they did with Fellowship of the Ring and I think that Fellowship remains the best of the movies because it makes sense, it keeps the sense of doom and dread, and it does all of that because it adheres to the original storyline. Once we get into The Two Towers we go off into lala land. We have the character assassination of Faramir and a whole bunch of filler. Why did we waste all that time when we could have just ended the movie either at Sam taking the ring from Frodo and making it look like Frodo's dead or having Sam overhear that Frodo is alive as the orcs capture him. Either would have been better than just Gollum talking ominously after they'd gone way out of their way from a story perspective. Then Return of the King is really weird. Why do we get 1 hour of ending and not get the Scouring of the Shire? The whole point of the scouring is to show that Pippin and Merry are no longer just the little squires anymore. They've leveled and are now heroes in their own right. Its also a more satisfying end for Sauruman who metaphorically fell from a great height not the crass, literal fall that the extended edition movie gives us. By the way, the theatrical edit of that is just stupid. They spend all that time trying to get to Sauruman only to have Gandalf declare as soon as they arrive that Sauruman is defeated and they can leave.
I'm really happy that I got to revisit these books recently and I'm also glad that they're just as good as I remember. Even my wife kept mentioning that the book version was way better than what had happened in the movie versions. Tolkien is great and I want to keep spreading the word because there are a lot of people who keep getting told that its dry and boring but it really isn't. It's an epic, so it's long but its also some of the best time that you'll spend reading a book or some books ever.