I read the Silmarillion prior to the Hobbit or LotR, and I was at first disappointed by the narrative structure of the later books. But then again I am something of a history nerd so there is that.
While the first three Dune books are my favorite, I have a special place in my heart for God Emperor. It goes beyond most epic sci-fi tales in telling the story of a single person who makes a conscious decision to guide human destiny, not for a few decades or a few centuries even, but for millennia
. There is a not a human who has ever lived who could comprehend what it was like being Leto, a fact he tried to explain to both Duncan and Siona. God Emperor gets to the heart of what the Dune series is about
: Unlike most sci-fi, which is about technology, or robots, or starships, the Dune series is about what it means to be human, what it means to be truly sentient. In a way, this is all laid out in the first chapter of the first book, when Reverend Mother Mohiam tests Paul. Are you really a human being? Can you rise above your animal instincts? Can you live at a higher level than mere existence?