I was 13 going on 14 years old, and after being sent home from school one day I was sent to my room. So it was boredom that first made me pick up my dad's well worn, nicotine stained copies of The Lord of the Rings... but I have never really put them down except long enough to switch to my own less worn copies. The first reading of The Hobbit unfortunately came many years later. They all sit on the table at the end of my bed along with the Silmarillion which I will read one of these days.
Favorite Tolkien character:
Gandalf. It is both his integrity and strength that makes him the most enduring character in all of Middle-earth. I know Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam have the fullest stories among the Hobbits for obvious reasons... but to me the most interesting is certainly Pippin. Going from a simple Hobbit to Guard of the Citadel, and beyond makes him stand tall among the others. Not just the Ent-draughts.