I'm currently reading The Hobbit and figure I will go ahead and read The Lord of the Rings. I know very little about the Silmarillion other than what I have read on Wikipedia. Is it worth picking up to read?
I liked it a lot. Not like the other books. Just a collection of stories with different main characters in the pre-Hobbit time period. It's definitely useful in filling out the full mythology of the LOTR universe.
Yeah its very Judges through 2Chronicles-esque. Some pretty cool stories in there though. The story of the City of Gondolin was pretty great and Fingolfin is probably the biggest badass in the entire LOTR universe.
I started reading it a few times but kept getting bogged down. However, I just started listening to the audio version, and that is going much better. I would suggest giving that a try. I'm pretty sure the entire thing is available on YouTube.
If you're going to read the others, you might as well read The Silmarillion. It's a really hard read but it also is beautifully written. If you read the others and don't really enjoy them, I wouldn't recccommend reading it though. There are parts most everybody has to struggle through at some point in the book.
I have read it twice and flew through it both times. It is my favorite out of all of Tolkien's books. It is exceptional. Definitely worth reading.
To the person who said Fingolfin was the biggest badass, Feanor says hello. Feanor, the guy who created the silmarils for which the book is named, the guy who created all of the palantir (pivotal in Lord of the Rings), and the guy who drove the elves from the Undying Lands back to Middle Earth in search of the silmarils after they were stolen by Morgoth. His spirit was so fiery that, upon his death from wounds in battle, his body instantly consumed into ashes. That is some badass stuff!