While practically impenetrable from a readability standpoint, the scope and substance warrants full marks and then some. In order to fully follow theWhile practically impenetrable from a readability standpoint, the scope and substance warrants full marks and then some. In order to fully follow the story you'd have to be some sort of name savant what with all the begats and such. Nevertheless, if you can accept that, and maybe keep a copy of the Compete Guide to Middle-Earth or the online Encyclopedia of Arda within reach, you'll find hours of enjoyment here.
Also I think sequence is important with Tolkien's work. I don't think Silmarillion should be read first since I don't think the work on its own establishes sufficient emotional buy-in to offset all the pain (those begats again).
Before I read it, I had read The Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy and had seen all the films. And I was already a fan. At a friend's advice, also, I read the Silmarillion itself out of sequence. I started with the final chapters about Sauron and the One Ring. This is the material that underpins the opening sequence of Jackson's first film.
Those chapters put me in the spirit of the book: less like a novel—more like a history or even religious text. After that I jumped to the beginning and read it right through.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Tolkien's creation myth. I find it in all ways superior to the Abrahamic one most of us westerners are familiar with. It's much more interesting, coherent and beautiful....more