I got a box set of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings (the Del Rey mass market paperback editions) as a gift for my ninth birthday, then promptly set them on a shelf and forgot about them for several months. However, discovering the movie tie-in video game of ROTK sparked my curiosity to an extent that the people around me couldn't sate, so I finally unwrapped the box set and got to reading. I jumped into LOTR immediately after The Hobbit and my life has never been quite the same since.
Favorite Tolkien character:
Faramir, who I think did his best to embody everything the positive aspects of Gondorian culture could be. His role as an inspiration to other characters made him particularly appealing to me at the age of nine when I was very much in need of figures like that, fictional or otherwise.