As a child, a teen, and even a young adult, I didn't have much of an interest in the subject, and I had the grades to prove it, usually C's.
But, now I find that the books I read are more interesting if they include an history of sorts which may explain why things are happening and which affect the characters. I am more interested in the culture of a character which may explain why he or she chose a line of action which someone else may not have.
An historic epic, such as Lord of the Rings, is one of the best examples. As a teen, I could never get beyond the first book, simply because it delve into the history of Man, Orc, Elf, and Dwarf, as J.R.R. Tolkien wanted them to be seen in his story. And, as I said, I didn't appreciate history.
As I do with almost any movie I enjoy, I try to get as much information on the making of said movie, I tried to gather as much information on LoTR as I could from the DVD and at the website. But I noticed that I was enjoying more and more the histories and cultures of all the races, cities, and lands of the tale. I was slowly discovering how the whole world of Tolkien was held together, and how everything was woven together, and how one event of one race could greatly affect what happened to another race. I needed more information on the hobbits, the elves (I used to play an elven sorcerer -- not really accurate for the Tolkien world), dwarves, orcs, and even on golem/Smeagol.
I think that, now, I can probably read the series and enjoy it so much more, after all, with the movie and all the information snipets on-line, I am not getting Tolkien's version, I am getting someone else's interpretation of it. And the best way to know is to read it directly.
He put a lot of information in those books, a lot of thought went into what he wrote. No wonder it took 12 years to write.
I also have noticed that I have already started reading more books which contain hostories, whether they be alternate histories, such as "The Years of Rice and Salt," which I am reading now, or something else. I notice that I really don't look up words in the dictionary anymore for spelling, pronunciation, or meaning, but rather for its history--from what time period and language did this word evolve. The nice thing about having learned Spanish, Russian, and most recently, German, has also aided my appreciation for history and culture, as well as this curiosity for learning the origins of words and phrases. I'm no expert, indeed I feel as if I am just waking up; the beginning of a long journey has just begun.
My mother read Tolkien as a child, and often suggested I read it. Now, I think I finally can. Same goes for Dune--another book I could never get through due to its long history beginning text.