(1) I cannot remember a time that wasn't filled with books. With Christmas approaching, it's important to know that this is a time when new books come. (grin) I think most of my favorite books growing up came at Christmas. Sure, today there are DVDs, too, but there'll be a point on Boxing Day when everyone in the house will be holed up with one of their new books, I promise you. (And that includes my wonderful wife -- no way was I going to marry and share a life with someone who doesn't read.)
(2) My mother was a fiend for finding great children's books. Five O'Clock Charlie was such a good find on her part, that I ended up getting more than one copy of that one year. Later years I received from various relations Chitty-Chitty, Bang-Bang, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and a lovely two-volume set of The Jungle Books.
(3) I recall reading A Wrinkle in Time in a hammock on a windy fall day with clouds racing across the blue sky of Western New York -- because I couldn't go to school for a few days after stepping on a board with a long rusty nail. I think my sister was reading the series from the library and I picked them up. With no one around it was really quiet because all the neighbor kids were in school, and feeling like I was playing hooky, it was a very creepy experience, especially as it cooled off but I couldn't wear a shoe on my injured foot so it got cold, but I had to wait for my mother to come back again to help me out of the hammock. So all I could do was read more creepiness. Yum.
And I have a very vivid recollection of reading Dune for the first time -- 3am, still awake, lying on my bed sweating profusely because the outside temperature was still 102degF in the humid suburbs of New York City. Okay, so the humidity was wrong, but the house wasn't air conditioned and the light wasn't great and the added watts from the bulb made me feel hotter, but there was NO WAY I WAS PUTTING THAT BOOK DOWN as Paul and Lady Jessica fled across the sands after their escape and the sandworm was coming... and someone sets off another thumper? No way!
(4) We had an excellent little village library in Medina NY, but a magnificent elementary school librarian. Miss Orr was huge and frankly not a very attractive human being. She terrified a few of the kids, but many of us loved her. Our library periods would be filled with books and incredible recommendations -- she knew her collection and what would work perfectly -- and she always read to us at the end of our library period.
(5) The White Plains Public Library was, to me, a mammoth stone building and the librarians didn't know what to do with me. I "wasn't supposed to be" up on the Adult books floor, yet I'd clearly gone past the Children's floor below and when I pointed out the two of the three books I needed from the Adult floor were parts of series I had already read or re-read, they ended up giving me an Adult borrowing card. I was, perhaps, eleven.
(6) At nine or ten I raced through The Hobbit and then tackled The Lord of the Rings, which my older sister was reading. Didn't get far. Got bogged down with Old Tom, who got cut from the movie. When I was in seventh or eighth grade, I was home with the flu and restarted the Rings and this time tore into it. For years I would write "secret" notes to myself in Elvish characters. It wasn't until college when I ran into another person who'd ever studied the appendices sufficiently that they could read my notes. I don't do that anymore, but I have thought of looking for a TrueType Elvish font...
(7) We do judge books by the covers, by the way, and the canonical Lord of the Rings is the old 60s Ballentine paperback with the weird-assed wavy-gravy covers. The others aren't "right."
(8) Some books don't have to be read all the way through. My mother complained of being unable to get past the description of the carved doors in The Name of the Rose. I told her, skip it, and she did. I'd found my own advice handy in Atlas Shrugged, where the hundred-odd page radio lecture can be pretty much skipped if you'd been paying attention. (grin)
(9) Michael Crichton's Andromeda Strain blew me away with its attention to detail and supplemental computer printouts which gave the illusion of reality. Frederick Pohl's Gateway similarly impressed me with its sidebar bits of instructions, mission reports and want ads.
(10) Most sequels just don't have the oomph of the original. There is an innocence to a Dune or a 2001 or an Ender's Game which gets lost in subsequent volumes. (And most movie knockoffs suck -- the best ones include tantalizing tidbits which got cut or needed to be said, as in the novelization of The Wrath of Khan, where we learn why Ensign Savak is so interesting as a Vulcan.) Having said that...
(11) You can go home again. Sometimes authors revisit old stories and turn things around to good effect (though there is still that lost innocence business). The Dune prequels, 2010: Odyssey Two and Ender's Shadow all have virtues of their own, because they tap into some of the same headiness which attracted us in the first place.
(12) I've always been wary of series. As a young teen, my scarce money was split between paperback SF books and model railroading gear. I didn't want to plop money down on something that was going to run into multiple purchases unless I had to. So I read E.E. "Doc" Smith's Lensman series fifteen years later in graduate school, rather than buy "all those books." And I'm likely to hold off on a series until there are two or three of them out, so I can buy them all at once. How can I wait until an author gets around to putting out the next volume? We kind of got lost waiting for Orson Scott Card's seventh son series to keep going, but if Jerry Pournelle would come out with another Jannissaries novel, then I'm all over it.
(13) Late novels by Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy, to name two, just don't work like the early ones do. Can we vote them off the island yet? Or do we have to pull a Misery on them to whip them back into shape?
(14) Some people never re-read books. Ever. Others have books they re-read once a year -- it's like comfort food. I used to re-read The Lord of the Rings every year, also two books by Martin Caidin: Marooned and Almost Midnight. Now I try not to do that so much, because otherwise I'd never get time to read new books, but lately I've been finding copies of my three favorite SF anthologies from the 70s and remembering why I read them from cover to cover more than once. Heinlein's Green Hills of Earth, Terry Carr's first Year's Best Science Fiction and the Isaac Asimov edited Where Do We Go From Here?.
(15) Writing takes up a lot of my former reading time. Now I can't complain about that, but it is also so important for writers to read, too. The problem is I find myself avoiding certain authors or series because I don't want to get "contaminated" -- I don't want people to say, oh, you just stole that so-and-so. But it doesn't matter. I'm always finding things in other stories which I had used (but obviously not published) years ago, so you're always going to lose that argument. The trick is, I think, to make it so no one reading your new work considers it a trick.
Do I have to stop at fifteen?
ps- the "rules" seem to be if you've read this meme, then you're tagged, too. Do with that what you will. But I'm dying to read some more of these by my 2004 Clarion classmates, so you're all challenged.