I am not typically a big fan of fantasy books. I mean, I enjoy them when they happen across my path, but I don't tend to seek them out. This particular set of books I bought on a whim--the three books were being sold in a box set used for about $3. I figured I might as well read them--I greatly enjoyed two of the three movies, and these are my father's favorite books as well. It turned out I was surprised how much I enjoyed these.
The first book, Fellowship of the Ring, starts out very slowly. I was disheartened at first, not sure that I'd be able to slog through the whole thing if it all was as dull as the first few chapters. Luckily, once we got past all the descriptions of Hobbit social structure and Hobbit landscapes, the story began to pick up. Admittedly, nothing of real note actually HAPPENED until nearly 3/4 of the way through, but once the Hobbits got on the road and truly began their adventure, I got sucked in. By the time the Fellowship forms and sets out from the elven palaces at Rivendell, I couldn't put the book down. The second book, The Two Towers, was even better. There was more adventure, more battles, more characters. I loved the Riders of Rohan, and greatly enjoyed the battle of the Ents. There was a lot going on in that book, and it's definitely the best of the three. The third book, Return of the King, was good, but definitely became slightly tiresome as things wound down. Also, the last third of it is "historical footnotes" about the lineage of the kings of Gondor and such (not very thrilling reading.) On the whole, I thought these were great, and will likely read at least the first two again at some point.
Reasons the Books are Better Than the Films:
1. Frodo is significantly less whiny and annoying. Even though I like Elijah Wood and though Sean Astin was perfectly cast as Samwise Gamgee, I tend to fast-forward through the Sam/Frodo parts in The Two Towers movie because I find "fuckin' Frodo" unbearably irritating.
2. Arwen only appears, like, twice. I don't think she even has any lines in the books. She is certainly not having some wild horse chase. Since I hated her character in the film too, I was happy to not run across her much.
3. All of my random and picky questions were answered. I.e. If the 9 rings of power turned the kings of men into Ringwraiths, what happened with the Elves' and Dwarves' rings? (Answer: The Elves were too strong to be corrupted. Half of the Dwarves' rings were taken back by Sauron and the other half were lost.) Or why is Gimli the only Dwarf in the story? Where are all the dwarves? (Answer: Dwarves and Elves don't get along. Also, the dwarves live on the opposite end of Middle-Earth from where all the action takes place.) All those nagging little things that bothered me from the movie were neatly fixed.
4. The poetry is quite beautiful. There are many different poems throughout the stories, usually songs or legends the characters relate, often "translating" from other languages. For obvious reasons, most are left out of the movie.
5. Tom Bombadil. If you don't know, you're just missing out.
Reasons The Film is Better Than the Book:
1. Viggo Mortensen is pretty.
2. Sir Ian McKellan is just too freaking awesome.
3. Some scenes of excitement are added for effect. There are also dialogues that add to the story.
4. Viggo Mortensen is really pretty.