Like David Downing I resisted reading The Lord of the Rings simply because all of my friends were recommending it. Finally, on a family vacation, I read it and, once begun, I read it through. Dr Downing explains here a part of its appeal:
Reading The Lord of the Rings was all the fad when I was in high school, but, contrarian that I am, I resisted reading this fantasty epic simply because everyone else was doing so! But I started reading one evening in college, when I had classes the next day, forgetting all my homework because I couldn't put it down. I recall that it was about 2:00 in the morning when Gandalf was pulled into the abyss by the Balrog. I almost had an anxiety attack, thinking, "Now we'll never get out of the mines of Moria without Gandalf to lead us!" Later in the story, when Gandalf reappears, I had a sense of relief and elation that seemed some small tincture of the joy of that first Easter morning.Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog: A Big, Long, and Exciting Book Post!
I'm sure that part of my attraction to both Lewis and Tolkien is simply that both are master story-tellers. But there is also a power of Goodness in their work. As an English major in college, I spent much of my time reading contemporary novelists who are experts at portraying troubled people—selfish, neurotic. brutish, and downright evil. But very few twentieth century novelists besides Lewis and Tolkien (and Chesterton) have the power to show us what good people look like—characters with integrity, compassion, courage, and a willingness to sacrifice for others. I'm sure this ability to portray good characters convincingly is derived from their Christian world-view, a sense that ultimately, it is not evil or chaos, but Goodness that reigns in the universe.