I revisit the novels because they are one of the few where I fall in love each and every time. The characters never fail to delight and inspire, the story is always engaging, and the prose is elegant. This is masterful story-telling, an epic myth or mythic epic par excellence. And this is one of the first times that the Banned Books Group has chosen a book I've already read that I was eager to read. (Truth is, the group didn't choose so much as it came up in discussion and, since there are three books in The Lord of the Rings it made sense to read them over the summer--June, July, August. Naturally, I began by reading the prequel.)
When my children were young, I read this novel to them, hoping they would be inspired to read The Lord of the Rings. Although my son only remembers my reading this novel and vaguely remembers my reading one other, none of them read the trilogy. They did see the movies, however, so they know, give or take some variations, how the story goes.
And now The Hobbit is coming to the big screen.
Still, there's no debating that Bilbo is a hero, flawed though he may be. He isn't noble nor brave. He is relatably typical, average, and yet he is living in extraordinary times and if he mostly stumbles his way into doing the right thing at least he does something. Which is why this novel, and the others, stand up to repeated readings. What is most admirable about Bilbo is not how remarkable he is but how unremarkable and yet he is a hero in the end.
Edit: Since writing this review months ago, it has been announced that instead of two movies there will be three and since this announcement, my enthusiasm has diminished exponentially.