My own story of how I read Harry Potter is marginally interesting, so as my sole contribution to the current hype I will recount it here. It was during my first visit to Kosovo, in March 2000, and I spent a long evening renewing contact with some American friends telling me what they were doing in order to avoid going mad in those rather tense days. One of them was reading the Harry Potter books; she was the first person I had met who had done so and I was convinced at least to try them out.
On my way back, passing through Vienna Airport, I saw the rather attractive "grown-up" versions of the first two books and bought them there and then, getting the third one on my return to Brussels. I was especially impressed by Prisoner of Azkaban which I still think is the best of the six so far. As the others come out, I have been reading them diligently, though not with quite the same air of dedication as some people!