Summer reading, for me, is something of a misnomer since I don't go away on holiday and I read continuously all year round, and always have done; my father taught me to read at such an early age that I have no recollection of ever not being able to read. However, I do (at least over the last few years) go in for special reading projects during the summer: last year it was the works of J R R Tolkien, and in particular The History of Middle-earth series. This sprang out of a lengthy period of researching and writing two consecutive papers on Tolkien: 'The Enduring Popularity and Influence of The Lord of the Rings' in The British Science Fiction Association journal, Vector (May/June 2004) and 'The Influence of Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings on Women Fantasy Authors' in Tolkien Society Annual Seminar 2004 Proceedings (which has not actually been published yet, so far as I know). I had preceded reading HoME (as it's known) with The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, and followed it by reading (amongst others), The Unfinished Tales and Tales from the Perilous Realm (which includes Farmer Giles of Ham and Smith of Wootton Major as well as other short stories). This summer however, having rather overwhelmed myself with Tolkien (I might almost say overdosed !) last year, I am following two strands of reading - one purely for pleasure (which is probably what most people think summer reading should be about !) and the other is background reading - and a bit of "foreground" reading too, since I will be reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on Saturday, and I will Blog it within 24 hours of finishing it, so if you don't want to run the risk of a spoiler (and I can't promise not to mention who dies, but I will try not to do so), you might want to avoid my Blog until you know that particular detail. Just in case though, I will put a big spoiler warning on the post's subject header, as I would hate for anyone who just happens onto my Blog next weekend not to be forewarned. I'm looking forward to reading the new book - not just because I'm a bit of a fan of Harry Potter (he saved my sanity during my English degree as the first three books kept me from overdosing on revision during the end of first year exams !) - but also because I'm currently working on a paper about Harry Potter and Tolkien, and I shall be glad of some newer material to include in my discussions. Of course, I'm hoping that the predictions that have been flying around regarding who dies, are wrong; for my money, Dumbledore won't die until book 7, and it will be his death that finally provokes Harry into finishing off Voldemort (since it's quite clear that Harry is far too nice to be able to do it at present)... Still, I'm prepared to be proved wrong (and hoping I won't be !). More on this topic at the weekend.