Read it only after I saw Bakshi's animated film - the Lotr trilogy was still in the pipeline. I started researching Tolkien a few years later and though I absolutely admire the films, I consider myself a fair Tolkien researcher, focusing on everything except some fanatical stuff like "Tolkien works based metal" or gaming.
Favorite Tolkien character:
Can't choose one, but I can say it's Gandalf. I appreciate everything he did for saving Middle Earth and he's a great inspiration for me. Very wise character.