Harry Potter Book Covers

As a book review editor, I’m always reading ahead: manuscripts, galleys. That fat beach read you’re devouring now? I sat down with it in January or February. I’m well into fall 2011 now. That’s just the nature of the job. But every summer, when I go away for a couple of weeks, I try to take a break and reread something I loved, something that, at some point in my life, meant a lot to me: John Updike’s Rabbit books. Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon.

When I was trying to decide what to reread this summer, it wasn’t hard to choose. Like many of you, I’m both excited and incredibly bitttersweet at the idea that I’m about to watch the final Harry Potter movie. When those final credits roll, I’m sure I’ll be thrilled — and heartbroken. It seems like only yesterday that a friend brought me the very first volume back from a trip to England, where it had, shortly after publication, become a Very Big Deal. Either it hadn’t come out here yet, or hadn’t rocketed up the best-seller list; I don’t remember which. But I do remember the way the book seized my imagination — and the way my young daughters hung on every word as I read it to them. Those books became the touchstones of their childhood. When the girls were young, long before stores were inundated with Harry Potter merchandise, they fashioned their own wands and glasses and robes, made their own Halloween costumes.We waited in bookstore lines at midnight for copies, then sometimes stayed up half the night reading, fueled by sheer excitement. We’d sleep for a few hours and then get up early to continue our all-day reading marathons. We liked to argue about which book was our favorite (I’m still partial to Goblet of Fire).

So I think, in honor of the last movie (which both of my daughters, now grown, plan to see on opening day) I’m going to take my battered copies off the shelves and start at the beginning. All the way back at “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.” I won’t finish all seven on vacation — I may be snatching time for the rest of the summer. But you know, it’s been a long time since I’ve picked some of them up. I’m excited. Yes, it’s going to be nostalgic journey, but it’s also going to be an exhilarating one.

How about the rest of you? Have you ever gone back and thrown yourself into a marathon reading of a much-loved series?