I had always planned to finished this challenge with this series. It was my shining light at the end of the tunnel, and as it would have me finishing on Harry Potter’s birthday, I thought it was appropriate. When I took a little break, I intended to keep going for the most part. Perhaps every other book. Then I got so excited reading the books I felt like reading, I couldn’t quite get back to ‘required’ reading. But of course, Harry Potter is different.
50 Books- The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
Where did I get the books and how many pages does it have?
I have had many copies of these books in my hands over the years. The first copies I read (only 1-4) were my mother’s, followed by the books I waited in line to buy (5-7). Later, my husband purchased paperback copies while he was away on work and wanted to read them. One of the first books we bought when we bought a kindle was this series, and recently Oyster added them to their unlimited book collection. During our travels, Big One began collecting the series in different languages, including the original UK version, a copy in Italian, and one copy in German.
I read the kindle copies this time, which don’t have page numbers most of the time, so I’m using numbers from other copies. So many versions of these books exist, I’m pretty sure there couldn’t be a standard number of pages. Book 1-309 pages, book 2-341, book 3-435, book 4-743, book 5-870, book 6-652, and book 7-759, for a total of 4109 pages, if my math is correct.
Have I read this book before?
Yes. A few times. I resisted the pull at first. I had a problem when I was younger with always wanting to avoid doing things that were popular. I wanted to think I had more sophisticated tastes, and therefore if everyone was talking about something, I couldn’t jump on the bandwagon. Yeah. I’ve always been uncool, but I wasn’t always okay with that.
Then, one rainy day while I was pregnant with Big One, I gave in. I had nothing to do, no where to go, and nothing to read. The first two books were read that day, followed quickly by the next two books. Let’s be realistic, I knew I had been stupid to resist pretty quickly, and I was converted. I read and reread the books while waiting for the other releases. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was actually the first chapter book I ever read to Big One, as she laid down to take naps as a baby. Each of the later books were read in one day, and yeah, I know some people are surprised as the books were long, but I was unemployed, excited, and had a husband waiting desperately for his turn to read. There were definitely a few times when we wished we had bought two copies, but I think it bugged my husband more than me. Since I read faster, I got to read first.
My husband really wanted Big One to like the series, and recommended it to her several times, but she didn’t get into it on her own. Just before she turned 11, we started reading the books as a family, one or two chapters a night, and watching the movies when we were done. Both girls were converted.
I guess you could say I have read the books a little.
What did I already know?
Um, the first time? Not much. I knew they were crazy popular, and that they had been protested by several religious groups for teaching witchcraft. I think that was actually think that may have been what finally convinced me to read them.
As I read, and reread the series, there are always things that get a little better, as well as things that don’t make sense. I find this series to have fewer inconsistencies than others, but there are still always questions. One of the joys now, is rereading knowing not only how the stories end, but also the details released by JK Rowling that aren’t in the books. Knowing how Voldemort began, knowing how Dumbledore became the person he was, and knowing what was going on behind the scenes, the stuff Harry didn’t know at the time. It all makes you view the stories differently. Basically, the first time through, you get to be Harry and learn it all as you go. The second time through, you get to be Dumbledore, and know everything.
What do I think now?
A lot has been written about these books over the years, and I’m not sure I have much more to say. Yes, it is about love, and friendship, and learning, and sacrifice. Yes it is both wonderfully written, and simplistically written. As the books are for children, they have an easy style, but they also got a little harder as the series went on, showing a respect for the aging of the characters and the readers. They were well planned, so you didn’t have to deal with information that was unnecessary to know at the time, but still fit within the lore when you learn later. It’s all good there. But let me break it down, a little further.
The Sorcerer’s Stone- A great opening to the series, but not my favorite of the series. Definitely says that Dumbledore is insane for leaving this crap to the kids, and Harry is arrogant for thinking rules don’t apply to him and that he is smarter than everyone else. Of course, if he hadn’t things could have been bad.
The Chamber of Secrets-This one is my husbands favorite, because of all the ‘easter eggs’ hidden here that apply to the rest of the story. Mostly I just love Dobby, and Lockhart.
The Prisoner of Azkaban- Big One’s favorite, due to the introduction of Sirius. I liked this book, as it revealed a lot about the night Harry’s parents died, and a bit more about Snape’s relationship with everyone. I also loved Hermione in this book, but it’s hard to pin point why. Loved Lupin, but I never really liked Sirius. He was really pretty horrible, yet crazy self-righteous simply because he wasn’t Slytherin like the rest of his family.
The Goblet of Fire-This one is interesting, because it really expands the world to include other schools. The world cup was fun, the tournament was complex and intriguing, and the relationships between Harry, Ron, and Hermione changed a lot, which was necessary. I also loved how close the bad guy was for the entire book. I liked that he was close enough to kill Harry, but knew there was a greater purpose to keeping him alive. The idea that a bad guy should strike just because he can is overly simplistic, as this proves.
The Order of the Phoenix-This one is my favorite. To me, this is the turning point, the beginning of the end. Sure, big things happen at the end of book 4, but they are dealing with them in this book. I like the anger Harry expresses, because really, he should be angry. He’s 15, and dealing with a lot. I like the changes in relationships between people, the fighting, the mistrust, and mostly the fear. This year also had my favorite Defense Against the Dark Arts Teacher, Umbridge. People seem to think she is universally hated, and yes, she is horrible. What I love about her, is how well she is written. She isn’t pure evil, though she seems to get enjoyment out of the pain she inflicts on others. Umbridge is someone who feels they are doing right, and is put in a position of power. No matter what she does, she can convince herself that it is fine. What is one person’s pain against the pain of thousands? If this one person behaves, she can control everything, and that is necessary. I love it, because it is real. Wars have been fought for centuries because someone is convinced that they know better than everyone else. This is just that same concept, on a small, personal scale.
The Half-Blood Prince- I think this is a close second on my favorites list. I really felt for Draco. He was in a bad place, and he really didn’t have great choices. You can see how his entire world was falling apart, not only because of what he had been told to do, but also because of the things he had always believed. He really thought the purity of blood was important, and that there was a joy in the necessity of dominating others. Instead, he was learning that it was hard and painful. I’d like to think that he changed after all he lived through, but it’s hard to know for sure.
The Deathly Hallows-This is a strong ending to the story, and I liked how the format changed. It felt like a real, and necessary change. However, there were several things that pissed me off. First of all, Dobby. He deserved the hero’s death he received, but I wish it hadn’t happened. Second of all, Fred. I mean seriously? Maybe because the twins were always my favorites, or maybe because it felt too much like when I lost my own brother, but this one pissed me off. It was the only death in the series that made me cry. Finally, Snape. I hate that he is called a hero in the end. To me, he wasn’t a hero. He was a spoiled brat who made horrible choices, and pushed away his best friend. I get that he loved Lily, and that he hated James for many different reasons, but that doesn’t excuse his actions. He was willing to turn her son over to Voldemort. This isn’t about the stupidity of thinking she would be spared, though he should have known better. I just really want to know what he thought was going to happen after Harry and James died. Did he think Lily was going to just go running off to be a death eater with him? If she hadn’t hated him at that point, she definitely would have after that, and considering how hard she had been fighting before, I think she would have stopped at nothing to get a little back for what she had lost. I understand that things were hard for Snape, but he made his choices. The only part of his memories that I felt were redeeming at all, was learning that taking George’s ear was actually an accident with a misaimed spell.
Should you read these books before you die?
Yes. Read the books. Many times. Love them. And do yourself a favor. Take the house quiz at Pottermore before you get married or you will end up like me. A proud Ravenclaw, stuck living in a house full of Slytherins.