Lanya In my opinion, the "age" that this book is appropriate for varies. The Hobbit was meant for young kids, believe it or not, but The Lord of the Rings is completely different. It honestly depends on what level reader you are. I am a seventh grader, and lotr appeals to me immensely. Of course, this is not for all. If you do not think that you are ready for reading The Fellowship of the Ring, try getting one of the many audiobooks that are available. My sister turned ten yesterday, and she understood The Fellowship of the Ring perfectly fine because she used the audiobook instead of actually tackling the book. I hoped I helped answer your questions.
Barbara The prologue and The Fellowship explain about Bilbo and the ring, so I don't think you need to read the Hobbit to get the LOTR series. They're two quite different stories. The Hobbit was written for children.
carl i tried to read it when i was young 12-14 years and it went over my head, but then i picked it up as a senior in high school and loved/understood it. i would suggest reading the hobbit as it gives a great overview as well as being a good read.