There's also the question of whether one feels the HoME version(s) of events or the Silmarillion one(s) have precedence. I go back and forth, leaning toward the HoME version, myself, but the Silmarillion version has the advantage of being comprehensive and generally consistent (consistency is but a fond memory in HoME, where some stories incorporate changes to others that were never made in ANY draft) and seems to be the one most prefer, at least for the moment. I suspect the movies are created a new horde of fans who will view HoME the way I did the Silmarillion, and in just the few days I've been here I've already been involved in a "but HoME says" knowing full well any conclusions based on it must be tentative at best, and JUSTIFY with the knowledge it's a story completely absent from the Silmarillion.
I went Hobbit, LotR, Silm, myself, and see nothing wrong with that; one certainly won't lose anything from any of the three that way, and avoids the spoiler problem mentioned by Grondmaster. I have to admit I would've been loathe to plunge into three volumes of the War of the Ring (though I probably still would have) after reading a (correct me if my memory is foggy, I don't have it handy) twenty eight page synopsis in the Silmarillion which lacks the depth of the Trilogy.
I dove into History of Middle Earth in an attempt to get the Silmarillion story (which I tend to view in relation to the War of the Ring much the way it's represented there) with the same detail as the Trilogy. A lot of that has to do with timing, since Christopher Tolkien started publishing them when I was in HS, and thus LotR and the Silmarillion were finished products while HoME still had some of that "oooo, I can't wait for the next one" quality (and yet I still haven't finished them because my appreciation of poetry wasn't then what it is now and I lost interest 'long about Lays of Beleriand.) Thus, I have no problem reading HoME as narrative, while still appreciating the "that explains that" element, but if I hadn't read the Silmarillion first I would've been hopelessly lost. HoME also provides the "Here and Back There Again" connection absent from the Silmarilion, which pretty much ends with the War of the Ring, while we see a few obscure referenes to Rome by the narrator of HoME. If I had it to do over, I'd probably do the Silmarillion, skipping "On the Rings of Power and the Third Age" then reading the Hobbit and the Trilogy, and finally HoME. It certainly gives more insight into Sauron, Gandalf, Elrond and especially Galadriel, who becomes a pretty imposing Third Age figure when viewed in that context. And you find out that all the Elves weren't blonde. :elfroleeyes: On the other hand, everyone's different.
Common pitfalls to muddle through:
Don't get bored or intimidated by the Council of Elrond like everybody else does; you can't track all the names the first time, but you're gonna read it several times anyway (and likely get some very useful practice with the Silmarilion in between.)
Don't get bored with the Music of the Ainur, it's essential to the understanding of some very pivotal relationships (and provides the most obvious examples of the religious influence in Tolkiens work for anyone interested in the Tolkien criticism I got bored with by junior year.)
I've found knowing those two things ahead of time would save a lot of folks a lot of trouble. I have a friend from HS who had read LotR when I met him but STILL hasn't read the Silmarillion for precisely the reason I noted, despite the fact it's a comparatively short section (only the LotR part is shorter.) IMHO, the LotR tends to be the best thing you've ever read -- until you finish the Silmarillion. Now, I love Aragorn, Elrond, Eomer, Theoden, and all the rest to death, but there's NO ONE in the Trilogy that can be stacked up against a Feanor, Fingolfin, Finarfin, Finrod Felagund, Thingol Greycloack, the SSoF (Maedhros especially,) Turgon, Idril, Luthien Tinuviel, Beren Erchamion, Tuor, Turin Turambar, Hurin, Huor, or Earendil. The Trilogy improves on another level after that, as one comes to apprecitate how, great as they are, the Numenoreans and Eldar of the Third Age were but a shadow of the fading glory of the Elder Days. Not only that, but comparing the Lay of Leithian or the War of the Jewels to Aragorn and Arwen or the War of the Ring brings to mind the old phrase from MERP about "Ancalagon the Black makes Smaug look like a homesick hobbit." Reading the Silmarillion allows one to appreciate the significance of the fact that in Elrond and Elros, and doubly in Aragorn and Arwen, all three of the noble houses of Edain and the three noble houses of the Eldar races were united. Such a statement in the context of the Trilogy alone is not only irrelevant but incomprehensible.