We've got your back. With the Tough-O-Meter, you'll know whether to bring extra layers or Swiss army knives as you summit the literary mountain. (10 = Toughest)
(3) Base Camp
The biggest challenge in reading The Fellowship of the Ring is Tolkien's huge amount of name-dropping. It does not take long to get to know Frodo or Sam, but who the heck is Erestor, or Beren One-Hand, or Gilthoniel? Between the novel's own minor characters, the people who appear from series prequel The Hobbit, and the figures from Tolkien's own personal mythology for Middle-earth, there are a ton of names to keep straight.
Basically, we feel that each reader of Tolkien has one of two choices: either you can go with the flow and not worry too much about the life and times of Celebrimbor the Elven-smith (mentioned in passing in The Fellowship of the Ring), or you can do an exhaustive amount of research in Tolkien's other assorted works to squeeze out as much background detail as you can find. In other words, reading Tolkien is as easy or as hard as you want to make it. It is up to you to decide how much of the background you want to fill in.