Recaps. We've all seen them. This question deals with whether or not they should be included in a series of novels, and if they should, how.
Many series use recaps to 'catch up' the reader to what has been going on. They are also a good refresher if there are long pauses between novels. J. K. Rowling reintroduces Harry every novel, as well as the events of the previous novels. Mary Pope Osborne, author of the popular children's series The Magic Treehouse, does the same thing, but in a prologue. Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl series, has no recap at all (that I am aware of), and simply lets the reader discover the main character as the story progresses.
This question has two parts. The first is, if you are writing a series, should you include a recap with every novel after the first? Assuming you can write your novels in a realistic time frame, do you really need to summarize everything that has happened? Can't you outline a few of the major points and trust that the reader remembers the rest? Or is it best to err on the side of caution and assume the reader remembers nothing?
Also, is it really that likely that someone is going to pick up in what is obviously the middle of a series? If I find a series that sounds interesting, the first thing I do is look for book one. Is anyone really going to start in the middle? Am I the odd one out in starting at the beginning?
The second part of this question is, if you do include a recap, how should you do it? In what way should you include a recap? Should you integrate it into the story, as Rowling does? Or should you put it in a prologue which can be easily skipped if the reader is familiar with what has been happening?
I personally always find the recaps in Harry Potter boring, because I already know them. No matter how eloquently they are written, I almost always end up skipping over them to get back to the story. With a prologue, I can jump right into the action.
Should I include recaps with my series? If so, in what form?