I am a lover of Tolkien and especially excited about The Hobbit movie. I had reviewed a more popular level Tolkien treatment and was on the look out for something more substantive.
Matthew Dickerson has done a wonderful job. A Hobbit Journey is a more indepth consideration of Tolkien’s world. Dickerson examines the breadth of Tolkien’s writing including his three major works (The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion) and also his letters and other scholarly works. If you love Tolkien and are wanting a good jumping point into the secondary literature Dickerson's work is a great start. You will leave with a deeper love for Tolkien and tons of other books you can read.
Dickerson journeys throughout Tolkien’s work and mines out the major themes and morals of Middle Earth. He is thoughtful when doing so treading carefully so as to make any of the characters or themes allegorical (something Tolkien was adamant about). Some secondary literature on Tolkien I've read fails at completely avoiding allegory and so there’s limited value but Dickerson excels here.
One of the many things I love about Middle Earth is the depth of realism in it. Tolkien was meticulous in creating his world. It had back history, languages, and culture. Dickerson exposes even more of the color of Middle Earth. For instance, he discusses the treatment of war prisoners in Middle Earth by the good and evil characters. He also looks at the wise and their morals and the way they impacted their living. So much of what you read today or watch on TV is morally inconsistent (one of my gripes with the new popular tv show Revolution or The Hunger Games).
Bottom line: if you love Tolkien. Don’t miss this book. Especially since The Hobbit movie will include more of the history of Middle Earth. Dickerson will prepare you to appreciate the nuance in the film.