I was reading this article today: The End of the Ambitious Summer Reading List, and it started me thinking about the books that I've read throughout my life.
There were the school libraries, of course. I read my way through the Dick & Jane books, working up to Dr. Seuss. I particularly loved "Harold and the Purple Crayon."
When I was growing up, we lived within walking distance of the public library, which was huge for me. You could check out ten books at a time, and I spent the summer walking the couple of blocks to the library, getting my stack of new books and bringing them home to read, reading them, and going back for a new stack. I remember sitting on a lawn chair in the garage, watching over a garage sale on the driveway, reading hard-boiled crime -- Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain. When I got my weekly allowance I walked to the drugstore and agonized over which Agatha Christie novel to buy next, until I owned them all (or at least the ones the drugstore had in stock). I read James Michener ("Hawaii"), and Arthur Hailey's "Airport" and "Hotel" honed my love of stories set in discrete, confined spaces.
High school saw me reading Anya Seaton's historical novels, and I still remember the thrill of discovering J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy on the library shelf. The first Stephen King story I read was "'Salem's Lot," serialized in Cosmopolitan Magazine, as I recall, of all places. And I eventually read my way through all of them. Ray Bradbury and Clifford D. Simak introduced me to science fiction.
I'm not really sure how I became such a voracious reader. My parents didn't read novels. They both read the newspapers, and my mother read some health-based nonfiction. We had a complete set of the "Happy Hollisters" books, and when I didn't have anything else to read I would pick a volume of the encyclopedia off the shelf.
I have always read purely for enjoyment, but I think my attention span has gotten a little shorter than it was when I was in high school. My interests have changed, certainly. I do occasionally think it would be fun to re-read The Lord of the Rings, but I no longer find historical romance interesting. In order for me to read romance, it has to involve some sort of paranormal element--vampires or werewolves or dragons--and even then, I have a fairly small interest range. I tend not to read anything set in the past; the setting needs to be present day or future.
I love discovering a new author, and will sometimes read my way through a whole series, one after the other. I read Thea Harrison's "Elder Races" series that way, immersing myself in her world of shapeshifters. I actually got the first book in the series, "Dragon Bound," quite awhile ago, either for free or for $.99. It didn't really interest me--a book about a man who can shift into a dragon?--but for some reason I started it, and absolutely loved it. I ended up reading all 8 novels, plus several novellas and shorts, and then listening to the whole series in audiobook form.
Lately I've been reading a lot of "cozy" mysteries; currently it's a series called "Maternal Instincts" by Diana Orgain about a new mother who gets involved in solving mysteries. Like most cozies, it's not really based too much in reality, but if I can suspend disbelief in order to read about men turning into dragons, I guess I can read about a mother with a newborn solving murders.