I'm a day late (and more than a few dollars short) for the Harry Potter Readalong introductory post. Alice over at Reading Rambo is sponsoring it and it's going to be the readalong against which all future ones will be measured and found lacking. If you don't already know her blog, please check it out, posthaste. Anyhoo, we're going to be reading the entire series and blogging about it every Friday for the next several ones.
So...Harry Potter. When Harry Potter and the Sorceror's-not-Philosopher's-because-American-audiences-won't-read-a-book-about-philosophy Stone was published in the US, I was the average age of the readalongers currently participating. Which makes me comparatively ancient to the rest of y'all, but I also think it gave my first reading of the series a different slant because I was not a child when first encountering it. I was a bookseller, so I knew about the books as they were published, but the first two times I tried to read HPSS, I couldn't get past the first few chapters. Didn't care for the story or the writing or the characters. 'Tevs. (I cared so little that I couldn't even be bothered to use the duosyllabic "whatevs.") But basically that means that I never made it past Privet Drive, so of course I didn't like it. Nobody told me to keep reading until the bizarrely dressed giant showed up. So that's my advice for the two people doing the readalong who've not already read HP: keep reading until the bizarrely dressed giant shows up.
Over time, though, enough people whose reading taste I respected kept urging me to give it another try, so I bought the audio version and listened to it in my car. As a captive audience, I was still tempted to turn off the first tape (ha! it wasn't even on CD), but Jim Dale's narration held my attention where the prose did not. When I arrived home at the end of the book, right when Harry finds his way to the Stone and finds the "wrong" professor there, I sat in the driveway for a moment to finish it, but then decided to turn around immediately to drive to the closest bookstore to purchase Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Books I-IV had been published at the time I started reading HPSS, so I had a breathless and manic few days reading them all. It was at that time that I discovered the joys of Harry Potter fanfiction, and I read it pretty intensely to fill in the lonely time before Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released. I loved the series so much, and my then-fiancee loved me so much that he pre-ordered a copy from Scholastic to be Fed-Exed to me on Saturday, June 21, 2003 to the island of Antigua. We got married there, you see, and I came very close to changing our wedding plans when I learned that the release date of the HPOP coincided with our wedding. You don't want to know what it costs to overnight a book from the US to a small island in the West Indies for a Saturday delivery.
I've since read books 3-7 probably in the neighborhood of 10-15 times each, and I've listened to all of the books on audio multiple times, too. I know these books. They are familiar to me in a way that sometimes my own family is not. Whenever I am currently reading or listening to the books, the stories haunt my dreams and my waking moments. I recognized the vanishing cabinet and I knew who R. A. B. was before I turned the page. I never doubted Severus Snape since the end of book one, when I realized what little fools that Harry and I both were. Believe me when I say that I have all the feels.
I've seen the film franchise, and I think they're just fine. Not amazing. Not awful. Just fine. I think that books (and films) I and II are the weakest in the series and that's why I've read (and watched) them far fewer times than the other books.
I've read so much fanfiction that I've begun to conflate canon with fanon, and I'm okay with that. Rowling has created a world so engrossing that I want to keep living in it, but I take serious issue with many things that she does over the course of the series (most of them having to do with her portrayal of 25% of the wizarding population), so in many cases I actually prefer the fanon to the canon.
I reckon that's probably enough to be going on with, at least for now.