I have never read LoTR but vaguely remember reading The Hobbit in year 5, so when I was about 10. I did have the movie version running through my head rather than any memories of reading it the first time, so things did get a little puzzling.
Bilbo is somewhat manipulated into an adventure, to join the dwarves on their quest to their old home of the Lonely Mountain and win back their treasure from the dragon, Smaug. Everyone should know this already but I think I was expecting too much from the movie; the book is much simpler. It is very much a children's story - nothing's too graphic or brutal, things move along at a steady pace and nothing is left too open.
Having said that, I did still enjoy it. Maybe a bit different to what I expected, but it's still a good story, easily recognisable, and very nice to read. Definitely a modern classic.
Published 2nd November 1998 by Harper Collins. First published 1937.