Quincy Wheeler– Tolkien Experience Project (192)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.

To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!

Now, on to  Quincy Wheeler’s responses:


1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

When I was 10 years old, I was given a copy of The Hobbit by our dad. (Our dad had received a copy from his oldest brother when he was around that same age). I was immediately hooked and spent days just reading through all of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and talking to my dad about every new event in the books. I then immediately shared it with my siblings, eventually encouraging my 5 younger sisters and 1 younger brother to love them in turn.

2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

I love the ability of Tolkien to create characters that both delight and inspire, or both horrify and challenge me. His carefully-crafted world-building leads to endless fodder for the imagination, and I deeply appreciate his ability to share wisdom and humor in the midst of telling an epic story.

3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

From the days I spent devouring every page to first finish The Lord of the Rings in book form, to attending the midnight showing of The Fellowship of the Ring film the night of its release, Tolkien’s work always reminds me of family and a shared adventure to stand up for what is good in this world.

4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?

I have been challenged to see how Tolkien’s work is perceived by people from different cultural, racial and life-experience backgrounds, and I have learned to appreciate deeply the needed efforts by so many talented artists, scholars and fans to make Tolkien more accessible to everyone.

5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?

Yes, of course! While not everyone likes the kind of literature Tolkien writes, I want everyone to at least try to engage with his world because it is a place where we have found love, hope, and encouragement – and everyone needs a little more of that in their lives!

If you would enjoy hearing seven siblings talk about Tolkien’s work, you can check out our monthly podcast, “Seven Stars, Seven Siblings, and One White Tree” on whatever podcast service you prefer, and find our Twitter page at @7stars7siblings


You can find more from Quincy on his podcast’s Twitter or Facebook accounts!

Nadia Wheeler’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (191)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.

To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!

Now, on to  Nadia Wheeler’s responses:


1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

My Dad and older brother read the books and talked about them to me as their favorite books. We also watched the animated Hobbit movie and Return of the King. When I was 10 I was allowed to read the books myself, which I did, and they became my favorite fiction books.

2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

I love the epic and hopeful tone of the work as well as the hilarious and true to life characters. I appreciate the challenges it offers to me to live better and seek for more truth and justice.

3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

I have a memory of finishing “The Fields of Cormallen,” the chapter where they are celebrating the ring being destroyed, and closing the book because I didn’t want it to end. The words in that chapter still make me cry and feel as real as anything in life to me.

4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?

Seeing the films as they came out and having the rest of the world enjoy something which had been more of a niche and a “test” for kindred spirits who also liked them has changed my perspective a bit. I love that Gollum is in everyone’s lexicon now and that people appreciate the brilliance of Tolkien, it’s been fun to share it with the world.

5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?

Absolutely, and I would also recommend reading over watching it if you can. I also do a podcast with my seven siblings about Tolkien and our perspectives on the works having grown up in a Tolkien loving family and been part of the excitement as the films came out. You can find “Seven Stars, Seven Siblings, and One White Tree” on podbean, or whatever podcast service you prefer, and find our Twitter page at @7stars7siblings.


You can find more from Nadia on her podcast or her Amazon author page!

Elizabeth H.M. Wheeler’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (190)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.

To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!

Now, on to  Elizabeth H.M. Wheeler’s responses:


1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

My father was a huge fan, and had already introduced all four of my older siblings to the books, so I knew the story and all the characters before I was ever old enough to read it. I was so excited to finally be able to read well enough to get through the books (albeit slowly) and I finished reading them alongside the movies coming out, so it was just peak Tolkien time.

2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

I love that every character is important and given attention. And for individual part, the Houses of Healing in the Return of the King. “The hands of a king are the hands of a healer”, and the culmination of Éowyn, Faramir, and Merry’s character arcs, all during a very important break in the action before the end of the book.

3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

I know it’s controversial, but for me it was The Hobbit movies coming out. As I said, I grew up with the books and alongside the movies coming out but I was too young to see the movies in theaters. When The Hobbit movies came out, I got to experience seeing Tolkien characters come to life alongside other fans and celebrate that with them.

4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?

I’ve learned to accept that everyone appreciates it differently. When I was younger I was all about everyone having to read the book first, because I wanted them to have all of the world before seeing the movies. But everyone takes in and appreciates fiction differently and however they learn to love the stories, they’re still such a great thing to experience.

5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?

I always recommend Tolkien’s work when I have a chance, I’ve just learned to be understanding and recommend it in a way that people can appreciate on an individual level, rather than hardcore enforcing “You HAVE to experience Tolkien and you HAVE to experience it the same way I did.”

If you would like to hear more about how all six of my siblings and I continue to analyze Tolkien’s works, you can find our podcast, “Seven Stars, Seven Siblings, and One White Tree” on whatever podcast service you prefer, and find our Twitter page at @7stars7siblings.

Zachary Schmoll’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (189)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.

To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!

Now, on to Zachary Schmoll’s responses:


1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

I was introduced to Tolkien’s work by my fourth grade teacher. She would read The Hobbit to her classes every year, and after I heard it read out loud, I fell in love with it. She then gave me The Lord of the Rings, and the rest is history.

2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

My favorite part of Tolkien’s work is actually its conclusion. The hobbits have embarked on this quest, several primary objectives have been completed, but they come home to find trouble in their own neighborhood. They have to overcome one more obstacle on their own, and we get to see them come full circle. They were ill-equipped to go on an adventure at the beginning of the story, but they return as heroes capable of saving their home.

3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

My fondest experience of Tolkien’s work is probably having the opportunity to teach it. It is one thing to read Tolkien’s work by myself, but being able to lead students into stories that they may have never read before is particularly special.

4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?

I don’t know that my approach to Tolkien’s work has necessarily changed, but my appreciation of its depth certainly has. Like many people, I thought it was a fun story when I first encountered it. It was full of adventure, bravery, and great deeds. I still appreciate that element of it, but as I have matured, I certainly have a greater appreciation for the deeper themes embedded within Tolkien’s sub-creation.

5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?

I actually just recommended Tolkien’s work to a coworker the other day. I think the reason I recommend it so much is because of its depth. Different parts of his work will resonate more strongly with different people, but because he crafted such a magnificent world, we can identify with it on a very authentic, human level.


You can find out more about Zachary on his website!

John’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (188)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.

To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!

Now, on to John’s responses:


1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

My mother read The Hobbit to my bother and me as a bedtime story. I was about seven, he was five. I have been smitten ever since.

2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

The beautiful language. There is nothing quite like it in the English language.

3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

Those early memories of my mother reading late into the night.

4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?

Yes. As a child I was particularly interested, of course, in the adventure aspect of the story. First in The Hobbit, and then especially with The Lord of the Rings, which I read aged about 10. As an adult I’ve become much more enamored with the writing, as I mentioned before, which is beautiful and in my opinion peerless. I also am significantly less interested now in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (though I still read them regularly), and have gravitated towards the great tales, particularly The Fall of Gondolin and Beren and Lúthien. Honestly, The Silmarillion has become perhaps my favorite of Tolkien’s published works.

5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?

Yes I would, but not to everyone. I don’t want it to seem as though I’m gatekeeping, but there are some people who can appreciate the films just fine but struggle with the books. I typically don’t recommend that they pick them up because, to someone that is a slow reader or has reading difficulties, they can seem impossible. However, I have found success in helping my younger brother get through them by reading aloud/using audiobooks.


You can read about John’s poetic exploits on Facebook!

TEP #43 — Season 2 Bonus Episode

This special episode of the Tolkien Experience Podcast is a recording of the session that Sarah, Luke, and Sara were invited to host at Oxonmoot for 2021!

They give some background and history to the podcast, and invite on some past guests of the show to give updates on what they have been working on since their interview!

We hope you enjoy it. Remember, the TEP will be back next year!

Please consider supporting the Podcast on Patreon!

Subscribe to the podcast via:

Comments or questions:

  • Visit us at Facebook or Twitter
  • Comment on this blog post
  • Send us an e-mail from the contact page
  • Email TolkienExperience (at) gmail (dot) com

Dustin Savage’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (187)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.

To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!

Now, on to Dustin Savage’s responses:


1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

My introduction to Tolkien was actually a two-pronged approach. The first introduction was through the Rankin-Bass animated Hobbit. I recall coming home (I was probably 7 or 8 years old) and my older sisters were watching it (I came in right when Bilbo was separated from the dwarves in the goblin tunnels). Though I didn’t immediately read The Hobbit, there was a copy of it on our bookshelf and my older sister and I would memorize all the riddles.

The second introduction came within a year after that – I discovered the old 1991 Interplay computer game The Lord of the Rings. At first I didn’t realize that it was based in the same universe as The Hobbit, though the names sounded familiar. My dad filled me in that there was a sequel to The Hobbit, and we went to the local library and found copies of the 3 parts.

However, being 8/9 years old I didn’t get very far through the book (got stuck in Tom Bombadil’s house) and had to return the books to the library. The next year I was in Grade 5, and it was the year that The Lord of the Rings was named book of the century. A new kid at our school brought in a very nice copy of the complete volume for show and tell and it was a catalyst in us becoming friends. We both started reading it.

Sadly, I really rushed myself, and my friend (who was the faster reader) spoiled some major things (Boromir’s death, Gandalf’s return, Gollum dying). I was more interested in the Sam & Frodo story, so I found a lot of Books 3 & 5 boring and skimmed large chunks. A lot of the story didn’t stick, but I still labelled myself a Lord of the Rings nerd, and my friend and I played the heck outta that computer game. As such, Book 1 is still my favourite part of The Lord of the Rings as the game made it so familiar to me.

A couple years later the movies were announced. I think I fit in a reread or two of the trilogy in that time. I know for a fact I would reread “Shelob’s Lair”, “The Choices of Master Samwise”, and “The Scouring of the Shire” over and over.

In my 20s I grew out of Tolkien – just a part of going off to university and growing up – but when I was nearly 30 I started diving back in (I think this was due to gaining a greater appreciation of CS Lewis). I was amazed at how immersive Tolkien’s work was, and would keep it by my bed-side. I ended up reading The Lord of the Rings yearly for about 4 years, and branched out and finally tackled The Silmarillion, Children of Húrin, Tree and Leaf, The Fall of Gondolin, and most of The Unfinished Tales. I discovered The Tolkien Professor and Mythgard and was a regular listener for quite a while – I still pop in now and then.

2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

An easy answer would be the heroics and virtues displayed by the characters. You see classical virtues exemplified such as courage, sacrifice, love, friendship, repentance, the whole gamut.

However, at this time of my life I’d have to say it’s the important spot that language plays in Tolkien’s legendarium. Middle-earth was birthed out of language, or, to reference St. John, Middle-earth is Tolkien’s logos putting on flesh and dwelling amongst us. I believe Tolkien (and Lewis with him) are recent examples of the power of Medieval Philosophical Realism, and his work – as well as being a treasure of this worldview – also points backwards to many other

3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

Honestly, it would be the several times seeing The Fellowship of the Ring movie in the theatres. I was a bit of an outcast in high school (nerd culture wasn’t mainstream yet) and this big blockbuster movie brought such validation to who I was at the time. Plus, my dad was battling cancer at the time (he won). In order for my mom to go visit him (we lived well out of town) she would bring me and my younger brother to the theatre, buy us tickets to Fellowship, then go spend time alone with my dad. I don’t know if I could attribute it to the movie, but that whole season I just had a sense that everything was going to be okay.

4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?

Absolutely. Before it was just about fantasy, swords and shields, and escapism. Now, it’s linguistics, philology, world-building, Old Western Culture, and metaphysics.

5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?

Always. I know several people who’ve tried and given up, and I’m quick to encourage them to give it another go. It’s essentially great art – a purer and greater Khazad-dum that has no shortage of riches to better the soul.

Anna’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (186)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.

To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!

Now, on to Anna’s responses:


1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

My dad introduced me to Peter Jackson’s movies when I was 5 years old. We had them on DVD as they were coming out, and he was trying to get my older sisters into them. Instead of them being interested, I became fascinated with the imaginative people and places of Middle-earth. However, he would always fast forward through the “scary parts” when I was little, so for a long time my understanding was that The Lord of the Rings was just about happy little people with big feet! Eventually I wanted to read the books for myself, and I remember my first copy of The Fellowship of the Ring. It was an edition printed as a promotion for the films, and it had a photo of Elijah Wood as Frodo looking at the Ring on the cover. I still have that book, and it’s my most prized possession.

2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

My favorite part of Tolkien’s work is the intense emotional response it creates in readers like myself. They aren’t just books or films, they’re an experience. I love that the story is so epic and grand that I can be transported to another world, but that at the same time I can connect on such a personal level with each character. Tolkien captures the big, and the small in such a masterful way. No matter how many times I’ve read the books or watched the movies, I still cry in the same places, or laugh at the same scenes. As someone who has moved around their whole life, being immersed in Tolkien’s work is the one place that I will always feel at home.

3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

I would say that my fondest experience of Tolkien’s work has been how it has allowed me to connect with other people. Ever since I was introduced to The Lord of the Rings at age 5, I’ve met so many new and interesting people because of my passion for Tolkien. It allowed me to bond with my dad, make new friends in school, and go outside of my comfort zone to attend Tolkien-centered events and interact with other hardcore fans. I went to NYC Comic Con in 2018, when Peter Jackson was there promoting Mortal Engines, and waited outside Madison Square Garden at 5am to attend his panel. Most of the people waiting were there because of The Lord of the Rings films, and I will never forget the amazing people I met that morning. The most incredible thing about Tolkien’s work is that as soon as you meet another fan, you have this instant bond connecting you on a very genuine level.

4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?

My approach has certainly changed since I was that little girl. When I was a kid I loved Tolkien’s work for the folklore aspect, but I wasn’t aware of the scope of his work beyond LOTR and The Hobbit. Most of all, at that time it was a means of escape, as well as a bonding experience with my dad. Once I became a bit older, and more able to understand the nuances and emotional complexities of the characters, it took on a deeper level of importance to me. I expanded into The Silmarillion, Unfinished Tales, Beren and Lúthien, etc. I felt hungry to learn as much as possible, and to memorize as much information as I could. In high school that was my whole identity, it was what people knew about me; the “Lord of the Rings girl.” I even wrote my college application essay on my relationship to Tolkien’s work. Now in the next phase of my life as a young adult, I feel a more scholarly relationship to Tolkien’s work (as well as who he was as a person). Of course, it still remains a source of comfort to me, but I also want to view it in a more critical lens. I think that it is entirely possible to be critical of Tolkien, while still maintaining love and respect for his work. In fact, I think it has greatly enriched my relationship to his works. Throughout all of these changes and evolutions, one thing has always remained the same: the world of Tolkien remains my home.

5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?

I would always, always recommend Tolkien’s work. Beyond being beautifully written masterpieces, they are also a cultural phenomenon. I think that everyone can learn something about themselves and the world at large from reading his work. I do think that in 2021, it is important to be cognisant of the cultural complexities of Tolkien’s work (especially in light of the new Amazon show). Nevertheless, I think that one is fully able to be critical of some of Tolkien’s choices while still being able to appreciate the stories. I would hope that the Tolkien community can be a welcoming and safe place for a diverse group of people.

Linda Jones’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (185)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.

To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!

Now, on to Linda Joness responses:


1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

My aunt gave me a copy of The Hobbit when I was 10, but I didn’t get past first chapter. Then the teacher started reading it, and I was hooked.

2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

I think it is the whole sub-creation that spans so much- the books, art, films, music, games, each part just adds to the immersive experience, and basically feeds the need to know/read/see more. I think that’s why I’ve spent so much on Tolkien merchandise over the years, because it makes you feel part of it, and it makes it tangible.

3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

When I was 16, and absolutely obsessed, I found the Tolkien Society, and suddenly I wasn’t the only one (this was before the internet!). I went on some moots and to Oxford, and, by sticking up posters to form a local ‘smail ’ met one of my best friends. We are still close 35 years later!

And the release of the films! I remember when Amon Hen was filled with ‘who would you cast’ posts, but never thought it would be a reality. For three years it would become an event. I’d always go the first time myself, to drink it in, then a few of us would go as part of build up to xmas, with plenty of sweets and a sneaky plastic bottle of wine.

4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?

I think it has matured. As a teenager I was quite obsessed, then life sort of took over, as it does, and though still a huge fan, it was subdued. Recently it’s like the flame has been kindled again, and I take an active interest in online forums, have rejoined the Tolkien Society. I am rereading The Silmarillion, slowly, interspersed with resources such as the Prancing Pony Podcast, and appreciating the whole story but also pondering themes and language, and just a deeper level of understanding/ appreciation. It’s fascinating to read the online discussions and fan takes in terms of gender, sexuality, etc., and how a young generation has embraced the works but also interpreted it. I might not agree with all of it, but I think it is brilliant. I know some people feel strongly that it’s non-canon and not what Tolkien meant, but I remember reading something about how Tolkien wanted to write a mythology that would inspire creativity and interpretation. And the fact that different people love the stories, but are reframing it to make sense of their world and making it relevant to them now, without losing the central tenants (to me) of friendship, hope, triumph over evil/ adversity is brilliant. It means it will continue to be read and enjoyed and inspire.

5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?

Definitely! Because it’s just an amazing story, with so much depth and variety in the whole of the legendarium. It’s given me so much joy, comfort, friendship and inspiration over the years. But bottom line is that LOTR by itself is just a bloody brilliant book!


You can read more from Linda on Twitter!

David Emerson’s Experience — Tolkien Experience Project (184)

This is one in a series of posts where the content is provided by a guest who has graciously answered five questions about their experience as a Tolkien fan.

To see the idea behind this project, or if you are interested in sharing your own, visit the project homepage. If you enjoy this series, please consider helping us fund the project using the support page.

I want to thank Donato Giancola for allowing me to use his artwork for this project. Prints are available on his website!

Now, on to David Emerson’s responses:


1. How were you introduced to Tolkien’s work?

Unlike most people younger than me, I first encountered Tolkien when he was virtually unknown in the U.S. This was long before the publications of the paperback editions (the controversial Ace editions, then the authorized Ballantine editions), which thrust them into the public eye, especially on college campuses and among the hippie element (of which I certainly counted myself).

My mother was in the habit of reading bedtime stories to my brothers and me, when each of us was too young to read them ourselves. By the time she got to my youngest brother Ed, we had been through all the children’s books in the house and all the Oz books in the public library, so she casually mentioned to her friend Lydia that she was running out of things to read her son, and asked if she had any suggestions. Lydia’s husband had close family in England, so they had made many trips over there, and had brought back books. Lydia said to my mother, “Hmm, try this,” and plucked a hardback of The Hobbit off her shelf.

As Mom started reading this book to Ed, I would overhear it as I passed by the bedroom door, and it seemed interesting enough that I would stand at the door and listen, even though I was about 14 at the time. After a few nights of this, I realized, “Duh! I don’t have to wait for tomorrow night, I can read the thing myself!” So I started reading ahead, and was entranced by this wonderful fairy tale. When I got to the end and read those portentous words, “If you are interested in Hobbits you will learn a lot more about them in The Lord of the Rings,” I was very excited and asked Lydia if she had those books. She did, and loaned them to me, and that was that! I was suddenly an avid Tolkien fan.

2. What is your favorite part of Tolkien’s work?

I have no permanent “favorite part” any more than I have a permanent favorite song or favorite movie. It changes all the time.

3. What is your fondest experience of Tolkien’s work?

Reading it for the first time.

4. Has the way you approach Tolkien’s work changed over time?

Definitely. At first, it was just so wonderful being swept up in the fantasy of Middle-earth: I had the “Come to Middle-earth!” poster on my wall, I pored over the maps in the backs of the hardbacks, I wrote notes to myself using the Elvish letters from Appendix E. Then when I met more people who had read and enjoyed it, I wanted to talk about it endlessly. Later, I wanted to know more about Tolkien himself, and what other writers had to say, so I read Carpenter’s biography, and the collected Letters and what few analytical books and articles existed at the time. More recently, I have been more interested in the body of literary criticism about Tolkien, reading scholars like Shippey, Flieger, Garth, etc., and attending conferences of the Tolkien Society and the Mythopoeic Society to discuss such works with friends, and even write some of my own research papers. And finally, due to my participation in online discussion groups, I now find myself re-reading The Lord of the Rings once again and appreciating it possibly more than I ever have before.

5. Would you ever recommend Tolkien’s work? Why/Why not?

Years ago, I would have said “Yes!” overwhelmingly. But as Tolkien’s popularity grew, it spawned an entire new genre of fantasy, and it seemed that anyone who was interested in that type of fantasy would either have already read Tolkien or would have their own opinion about whether they’d like it or not, so my recommendation wouldn’t be much use. Now, of course, everybody in the world knows about Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, so recommending Tolkien is like recommending air.

On the other hand, there are still newcomers who have only seen the films and are just starting to read the books, and for them I would recommend starting with The Lord of the Rings and then The Hobbit; if they are sufficiently intrigued by the hints of back-story, then I would steer them to *parts* of The Silmarillion, with the warning to expect it to be more like a history than a novel. And I would definitely urge them to read the non-Middle-earth stories “Farmer Giles of Ham,” “Smith of Wooton Major,” and “Leaf by Niggle.”

Then for those who have read as much of Tolkien’s fiction as they can get their hands on, I would recommend the academics: Shippey, Flieger, and Garth to start with. Glyer and Duriez for insight on the Inklings. Essay collections from Walking Tree and the Mythopoeic Press.