'The Hobbit' is at one level simply a charming adventure story, perhaps one of the most charming and most adventurous ever told. There, see how simple that was? If you haven't read it, you should, because it is quite enjoyable. At some level, there is little more to say. Enjoy the story as the simple entertainment it was meant to be. Read it to your children and luxuriate in the excitement and joy that shines from their faces. That's enough.
But if it was only simple entertainment, I do not think that it would be anything more than just a good book. Instead, this simple children's story resonates and fascinates. It teases and hints at something larger and grander, and it instructs and lectures as from one of the most subtle intellects without ever feeling like it is instructing, lecturing or being condescending.
At its heart, the complaint I opened the review with is just a variation on one of the many nuanced observations Tolkien makes in 'The Hobbit' when he complains that a story of a good time is always too quickly told, but a story of evil times often requires a great many words to cover the events thereof. How often has that idea fascinated me.
I think that is what makes this more than just a good book, but a great one. Tolkien is able to gently skewer us for our all too human failings, and he does so without adopting any of the cynicism or self-loathing so common with those that seek out to skewer humanity for its so evident failings.