(This review is of the 1990 unabridged audio recording by Rob Inglis.)
Great story and great storytelling. Even after all these years, the gold standard for epic fantasy. Excellent narration, especially the rendition of the songs as songs, but I still recommend reading the book for the initial pass. (See below) Inglis is superb but can’t help interposing himself between Tolkien and the reader.
Before listening to audiobooks or seeing movies based on a book, read the book. Some movies are completely different stories. You’ll hardly spoil your movie watching experience by reading the book, while you may well destroy the author’s spell by seeing it filtered through the lens of a screenwriter, director, actors, and cinematographer. Or a narrator.
By their nature, no movie can compare with the book. Take Fellowship as an example. Peter Jackson spent great energy, money and creativity capturing the spirit of Tolkien’s first LOTR book, but he made enormous–and, to some readers, egregious–changes to the book. What did we expect? His canvas stretched only three hours. Inglis at least reads the entire work. Some nineteen hours of it.
I have read this series at least once a decade since college (half a dozen for me), and it continues to be fresh and refreshing.