I read this for the first time in 2004 and several times since then. What can be said about this epic tale that has not been already said many times over? The Professor is a master story-teller, loving the world of nature as much as the world of Men, Hobbits, Elves and Dwarves. He is also a master of suspense in heating that kettle just a little a time, hinting at threats that may or may not be imaginary, as in Frodo's uncertainty whether he really sees and hears someone following them or not and the sound of a hammer that may or may not have to do with Pippin throwing down a stone in Moria.
Middle-earth is a real place because it is our world. The people who inhabit it have so much to teach us. The lessons begin here with Merry and Pippin's beautiful words about their love and friendship for Frodo and what lengths they are willing to go because of it, Frodo's fearful and courageous embrace of his terrible calling and the grace that sustains him and his companions, Sam dogged faithfulness and support and his wonder to see the Elves, and so very much more.