The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien: I loved it, though it was a slow starter.
I dutifully read the introduction which was supposed to be a helpful aid, but was instead a mind-numbing litany of lineages and alliances, none of which stuck in my head. With relief I finally started Chapter One and was bored to death for the first 50-60 pages, reading on only because I had spent my husband's hard-earned money on the book.
Then the story started, and it was a right good one. I fell asleep with visions of dragons and orcs and ill-fated maidens and valiant-but-flawed heroes. It was a grand adventure and I do indeed recommend it. Just skip the intro, slog through the first bit, and brace yourself for the Shakespearian ending.
Did you know that the Elven language that Tolkien created is one of the only two fully functional created languages? The other is Esperanto. To be fully functional, a language has to have devices that show time, plurality, etc. English uses verbs for time (I eat, I ate) and the letter s for plurals (one cat, two cats). Anyway, Tolkien created an entire working language (this staggers me -- like he didn't have enough to do writing the novels?) for the elves to speak in his novels.
The Wikipedia entry on J R R Tolkien is a nice quick read, if you would like to know more about him. Otherwise I will leave you with one last nugget of Tolkienism. When Seamus Heaney, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, was crafting his beautiful dual-language work, Beowulf: A New Translation, (review coming soon to a blog near you) he tipped his hat in his introduction to one -- and only one -- other Beowulf scholar: J.R.R. Tolkien. Here is Wikipedia (yes, I know, how scholarly of me) summation of relationship twixt Tolkien and Beowulf:
Beowulf exercised an important influence on J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote the landmark essay Beowulf: the Monsters and the Critics while a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University. Significantly, the word orc-neas is used to describe Grendel's race. Many parallels can also be drawn between Beowulf and The Hobbit.All of this is to say that if you enjoyed the LOTR books, you can add two books to your "To Read" pile. The Children of Hurin and Beowulf: A New Verse Translation.