(pls. read previous post)"Thurbers My Life and Hard Times and E. B. Whites Charlottes Web are two minor classics"
I'd agree on the minor part, and note that Charlotte's a mother figure who guides (is the pig's name Wilbur?) Wilbur to some knowledge about death and life. A woman with a crucial role in the story.
"Ive never reacted emotionally to any book (even if they were better) more than I did to To Kill a Mockingbird, which I first read when I just turned 15. In fact, I became a serious reader for the explicit purpose of recapturing that experience. Why is that a bogus or unworthy experience?"
I'd venture to say (it's your life, after all, I can't be putting words in your mouth) that it's your experience that's worthier than the actual stimulus that triggered that experience (I'm not a big fan of Mockingbird either). Like a cheap song can trigger a profound feeling of nostalgia, or regret, or some other emotion.
I can see LOTR inspiring that sort of reaction--but I'd insist on the difference between reaction and inspiration.
"For one thing, you get a much better basic education from LOTR than , say, Moby Dickin a way you can say Tolkien knew a lot about a lot more things to a degree similar to that which Melville knew about blubber."
I'd rather get my education with Melville. He knows darker secrets.
"To write as if, to be uninfluenced by, these personages, is quite a feat, I would think, whether it is one that just comes naturally or one that has to worked at. Thats part of what is so refreshing about him."
It would be refreshing if it had more flavor to it.