Until a couple weeks ago, I had never read any of the Harry Potter books. While I’ve missed out on some noteworthy books, Harry Potter seems to be one of those books that book readers feverishly insist you read—like right now, not To Kill a Mockingbird, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or even, sure, The Bible. These books and others like them, despite being groundbreaking and distinguishable, paragons of literature, are highly recommended, but for some reason, Harry Potter is different; it has had an effect that no one could have anticipated.
I didn’t when I first heard about it in 2005 (analyze my living-under-a-rock another time.) It was about the time Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was released. Around this time, I remember the lunch room being as silent as a graveyard for a couple of days and then voices booming days later. It was the book everyone was reading and gabbing about it. I couldn’t wrap my head around it, which, of course, is due in part by my obstinate teen-self unwilling to try or do anything remotely popular or affable. So I missed the allegorical train to Hogwarts and tried very, very, hard to avoid the fandom, which, of course, wouldn’t happen, not with eight movies being released, Pottermore, and subsets of geekdom leading the way.
Harry Potter became universally known—its story and characters were treated as common knowledge, with the phrase ‘*spoiler*’ not popularly coined yet. Other then some arcane knowledge only hard-core fans would know, I picked up a fair amount, which was the problem. The more I knew about the story, the more deterred I was to read all seven books. It would be The Hunger Games conundrum all over again: reading the book after watching the film. The movie was so fateful to the original source that it made my reading it trite and slightly redundant. And after watching all eight Harry Potter movies, I wasn’t eager to invest my time in reading seven books—books, I might add, that seemed to grow longer as Harry gets older. So I put off reading it with no actual intention of reading it (shameless but true.) This didn’t stop people from trying to get me to read it, however. As I mentioned earlier, the Harry Potter readership is an uncanny thing, especially when it comes to converting convincing others into reading the series, from browbeating to peer pressure tactics. There’s also my favorite: ‘because it’s Harry Potter.’ This is not to say every fan is like this—but it was the overwhelming response I got from the ones I encountered.
Then I had mentioned to a coworker who’s an avid book reader himself that I hadn’t read it. He shrugged and said he’d lend me his copy, which he brought in the next day. I reluctantly accepted with already a glut of books on my to-read list. I didn’t think I had time to read it.
Subsequently, the book I was reading that day I had left at home, and my study materials were also coincidentally at home too. Spending my lunch hour perusing Facebook didn’t appeal to me very much (it rarely ever does,) so I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer Stone.
And I really got into it.
The excessively hyped Harry Potter has been lauded as brilliant, genial, and whimsical, words I thought were phlegmatically used to describe it. While I don’t think it’s the book of the century, it’s actually pretty interesting.
In spending little less than a week reading the first book, it’s a modicum of nostalgia for adults and kids and a source of comfort, the main reason so many kids and adults turn to it when they’re beside themselves. While the book contains several side stories besides Harry’s—a nuance from the Harry centric-film plots I’ve noticed—it’s a celebration of every character, making most of them more substantial and sympathetic than mere caricatures. It’s not perfect though. Its antagonists and villains are transparent and lack the same multifaceted characteristics as their counterparts, but I try and keep in mind that it is a Children book. I expect the bullies and naysayers to be provincial. As the books mature and segue into Young Adult, however, this should change.
Although I’ve read the first book out of the series, it has so far been delightful, and I’ll continue to chronicle my impressions and thoughts instead of reviewing it. To me, it just doesn’t serve any purpose, as Harry Potter is already substantiated with a surfeit of its own reviews and criticism. I’m interested in analyzing why Harry Potter remains culturally relevant, and what makes it mostly known for defining a generation, aka, my generation.