I found an image of the edition that I first read.
I first read The Hobbit when I was in 7th grade. I have a clear memory of sneaking some pages during a wood-shop class. The following summer, having read everything else I could get my hands on and longing intensely for The Silmarillion, I wrote to The Professor at the urging of my grandmother (the one who had given me sets of lp records of Shakespeare plays). The professor wrote back. I received his letter, an aerogramme, in September 1973, some days after he had died. In his letter he wrote that he had to be brief because people were waiting for him in the car. He went to Bournemouth and he died that same day. I may have the last thing he ever wrote.
Tolkien’s books were one of those pivotal forces which veered me into a life changing path.
We have little cross-roads to face each day. Every once in a while, we come to a major cross-road. Occasionally we know that the choice is a big one. Sometimes, however, we can only see how important that moment was through the long lens of retrospect.
Parents: Choose and monitor carefully the books (and movies/shows/games) your children are into.
To get a handle on how to discern about books and children you might try looking at Michael O’Brien’s A Landscape With Dragons: The Battle For Your Child’s Mind. (US HERE, US Kindle HERE, UK HERE UK Kindle HERE). I am not entirely in sync with what O’Brien has to say, but overall all his book is useful in determining what books (etc.) are good for your children’s worldview and which could do them harm.
For adults, you might consider also a great book by Benjamin Wiker called 10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others That Didn’t Help. (US HERE, Kindle HERE, UK HERE, UK Kindle HERE). Bad books can screw up individuals who, in turn and over time, can screw up other writers and then screw up the world.
In any event, celebrate Mr. Baggins’s birthday, perhaps with some ale, and say a prayer for the repose of the soul of J.R.R. Tolkien, a devout Catholic gentleman.