Evolutionary succession, especially in plants and plant communities
Other things having to do with science (but less interested in technology or engineering)
Fantasy and science fiction
First Lord of the Rings reading experience:
I was young, I don't remember how young, about eight, I believe. It stuck with me.
Favorite Tolkien character:
Lúthien seems to me to be the quintessential heroine of the entire legendarium: a woman of yes, legendary parentage, but nonetheless a being of a normal kindred, who through her courage, love, and resourcefulness, rises up to defeat even the mightiest of the gods themselves. My first real encounter with her was in reading The Tale of Tinúviel in the Book of Lost Tales II, the second book in the History of Middle Earth series (I read that before the Silmarillion). As such, my image of her, and more importantly of Beren, is colored vividly by the initial writing, as is my preferred vision of their fates - that they might come back someday, if and when Melkor comes back. To me, she and Beren seem to be more heroic and more integral to the nature of the world even than the Lord of the Rings characters. There isn't an obvious analogue to Beren or Lúthien in the Lord of the Rings as the roles that each carries in his or her own story in the Silmarillion are instead carried by a combination of characters in The Lord of the Rings. Nonetheless, as others have described it on this forum, the Lord of the Rings is indeed a "loud echo" of the epics of the First Age.