In one sentence: A solid introduction to Middle-Earth and fantasy literature, but not quite at the level of The Lord of the Rings.
This review will contain spoilers!
In many sentences:
It has been years since I read The Hobbit, so there were many things about the book I had forgotten. What stood out immediately, was the more whimsical nature of this book compared to the full Lord of the Rings Trilogy. This isn't surprising, as this was Tolkien's attempt at a story for children, but I had completely forgotten. In many ways it reminded me of his short story "Farmer Giles of Ham".
I also read the book prior to seeing the movie that was recently released, and was annoyed by several of the things they added/changed with the story. For example, the movie features a "pale faced" orc that is never once mentioned in the book. Moreover, they imply that Bilbo saw the ring fall from Gollum's pocket, rather than being something he fortuitously found. They also added a bizarre "white council" meeting in Rivendell in which it is already clear that Saruman is a bad guy. These were all unfortunate, but not particularly shocking changes, and the movie was still enjoyable despite them.
Of all the things I've read by Tolkien, however, this book is probably one of my least favorites. It's good, and I certainly recommend it, but it lacks the depth of the other Middle-Earth books (not just the Lord of the Rings, but also works like The Children of Hurin). In the future, if I want to re-read a Middle-Earth book, I will not be inclined to pick up The Hobbit again.
While it certainly gains something by being set in Middle-Earth, it also means there are higher expectations for the book as a result, which is why some of his non-Middle-Earth stories hold up better in comparison. They are something different, without the baggage of being set in a known place, so they hold up independently better than The Hobbit does.
Honestly, considering the enjoyment I get out of the Lord of the Rings series in general, I was surprised by my lack of enthusiasm while reading this book. I don't think it's bad, by any means, but I realized Tolkien has done so much better than this more simple book that I could not help but compare it negatively as a result. Still, I think it's a fun read, with many funny and interesting moments that I would easily recommend as an introduction to the Lord of the Rings, or fantasy in general. For those who are already entrenched in the series, however, you've probably moved on to bigger and better things by now.
J.R.R. Tolkien the First Line of The Hobbit
J.R.R. Tolkien the Last Line of in The Hobbit