The precursor to J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit audiobook is the tale of Bilbo Baggins who lives in the fictional land of Middle-earth, peopled with elves, dwarves, men, hobbits and other fictional creatures. Whereas elves are lithe and graceful, dwarves are stocky and strong. Hobbits, however, belong to a different class altogether, for they are short like dwarves and live in holes in the ground. Their main aims in life include eating, drinking and being merry.
Bilbo Baggins is one of these hobbits and he's never been anywhere outside of his shire when he is induced by Gandalf the wizard to go on an adventure with thirteen dwarves. The dwarves aim to reclaim their land and their treasure which was stolen by the dragon Smaug and they want Bilbo to help them by joining their party as a burglar. Given that hobbits have hairy, padded feet, they can walk very quietly, a necessary requirement for a burglar. However, Bilbo is a rather conservative hobbit and he can't imagine himself doing anything like burglary, even if it's for a good cause. He's much more inclined to continue his comfortable existence in his little hobbit hole where he has everything he needs.
Bilbo is like a middle-class Englishman who has grown complacent and Tolkien admitted that this was where he'd drawn his inspiration from. However, he ends up agreeing to accompany the dwarves and has a number of adventures along the way. The party is nearly eaten by trolls but Bilbo distracts them by talking and Gandalf eventually helps turn them to stone. Later, Bilbo meets Gollum, a wild creature who lives by himself in the depths of a mountain with nothing but a gold ring for company which he calls "my precious." Bilbo accidentally finds this ring and when he puts it on, he realizes that he has become invisible. He plays a game of riddles with Gollum and eventually puts on the ring and escapes.
After this, Bilbo rejoins the dwarves and they have some more adventures, encountering giant spiders and wood elves from whom they must escape by floating down the river in barrels. Finally, the party reaches Lake Town which is situated near the mountain where the dragon Smaug sleeps. Bilbo sneaks in, discovers the dragon's weakness and thus helps slay him. Eventually, he returns with a share of the treasure to the shire and becomes a wealthy hobbit.
J.R.R. Tolkien's major works, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, are now immensely popular and have been made into successful movies, with the second part of The Hobbit scheduled to open in December 2013. However, in his lifetime, Tolkien lived a very retired life and did not seek out fame and fortune. He was a professor at Oxford, teaching English language and literature. Married with four children, he was great friends with C. S. Lewis, the writer of The Chronicles of Narnia, the other great fantasy classic besides The Lord of the Rings. He was a Roman Catholic and was instrumental in Lewis' decision to convert to Christianity although he was disappointed to find that Lewis chose to become a Protestant. They both critiqued each other's works and were part of the literary group known as the Inklings.