I tore through The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings this past semester. I finished ROTK just about a couple weeks ago over spring break, finishing my paper on the trilogy now...
Figure since this was bumped and I actually was reading something that wasn't a text, I'd chime in.
The Silmarillion was a rough book to start with I felt, and really kicked the semester off on a bad note. I'm not fond of the style that Tolkien wrote it in, and I feel it's a little too close to reading the bible for my liking... Other students were gung-ho on it, but not me. I barely lagged through it, and really only found the final portion of it truly interesting.
The Hobbit's the easiest of the group of course, and one I already had read. Still a great story, even if it's not the most complex, and a fun lead-in to a story riddled with themes and undertones...
The Lord of the Rings is what it is... Most in this thread have probably read it, and it's regarded by many as one of the modern-day classics. I've gotten to see a lot of praise and criticism for this story though, and some interesting points of view. I find often times critics are more offended at the thought of this story being compared to Shakespeare or Dickens rather than having objectively looked at the story for what it is.
It's a great read, difficult to pick everything up on the first go-through unless you have an inkling of the story, but not too difficult that the majority can't pick it up and get immersed in it. Picking the story apart every week in analytical round-table discussion was a highlight while reading through all these books though. Always great to sit aorund with fans and brain-storm. The material's are involved so it's a lot of work, but it's been one of the more eye-opening experiences I've had in school (that didn't pertain to my dull major anyway).
Even Star Wars parallel's being drawn... What a class.