Since the movie marketing machine of U.S. economic imperialism sprang into action there is little need to explain much about the Lord of the Rings to people. I am one of the lucky one's who got to read it without any preconceptions of what the world and the characters looked like.
Even before the movies, it was one of the most widely revered books written in the English language. It won a number of polls on the greatest book of the twentieth century, and if I were to consider a book in isolation from the culture in which it exists, I might agree. I have not read this book since at least the mid-nineties but I almost don't need to as it I always in some way have a foot in this world. When I first set foot in a Welsh castle, I was also partly setting foot in Middle Earth.
This book transported me to another world, where elves never died, the good triumphed and evil-doers got what was coming to them. Many books attempt to modify reality, Tolkein created reality anew, if not in all it's complexity, then closer to it than any before, or perhaps after him, have. His mastery of the language is evident on every page, though one fears his subtle use of words might be lost on a generation that reveres action rather than substance in their entertainment.
Anyone who has seen the movies will be aware that there is voluminous action in the Lord of the Rings, but to see the novels as based on action misses the point. Reading about a battle is not the same as watching someone have their leg severed in the movie, in reading there is never any point where the real world has to intrude.
The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy of the purest order, fantasy from a world rent with world war, fascism, and the seeping destruction of the natural world.
Tolkein is a literary genius, one should read this book to admire a wizard of language in the full flight of fantasy.