Do these books even need an introduction? They are the famous story of an eleven-year-old orphan who finds out he is a wizard and becomes a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Seven books filled with exciting adventures await…
Peter: Welcome to this spoiler-free discussion J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which we’ve decided to add to the Escape Velocity Collection, a series of items that we believe represent the absolute peak of what the speculative genre has to offer.
There are some pieces of media which everyone knows, and which have been so influential that the Collection just isn’t complete without them. The Harry Potter series is one of them. Below, our curators discuss what Harry Potter has meant to them.
My dad read all Harry Potter books to my sister and me (even though by the latest installments we really were a bit too old for that), and it is through the lens of that experience – of my father reading the books to us – that I still view the books. It’s also why I enjoyed the first four so much more than the three that followed – the books got longer as the series progressed, and less suited for the pace of a dad reading twenty minutes every night. It might also be that the books got darker and Harry got moodier towards the end, and I felt like that kind of heavy subject matter suited Rowlings’ style a little less.
Having said that, as nonsensical as the worldbuilding sometimes was, Rowlings’ whimsical creations did really spark my imagination. The Wizarding World is full of fun scenes, brilliant ideas, interesting characters, and believable emotional drama.
In conclusion, I like Harry Potter, and if you haven’t read the series yet – all I can say is, you’re missing out on a phenomenon. On the scale of Potter fans, however, I’m really nowhere near the top.
Harry Potter was a huge part of my childhood, and together with the Lord of the Rings it’s what got me into fantasy in the first place. Just like Peter, my father read the first book to me and my sister, but after that I read the second, third and fourth books on my own. And then the waiting started for the release of (the Dutch translation of) the fifth book. It was such a hype back then, I remember reading newspaper articles in the weeks leading up to the release speculating what would happen in the final books. It’s hard to imagine such collective excitement about a single piece of media these days, and I really miss it. Sometimes I wish I could be that little girl again for just a moment, full of excitement while standing in line before a bookshop in the middle of the night for the release of the next of her favourite books.
Of course, these days my feelings about Harry Potter are a lot more conflicted than they were back then, mostly for the reasons that we will get into below. But however I now feel about its author, it is impossible to deny the impact that Harry Potter has had on me. Even all these years later, it is still an incredible story with characters whom I consider to be beloved old friends.
I was a bit late to the Harry Potter party. Others grew up with the books, I had heard about the franchise, but my parents steered me away from any media containing magic when I was young. However, I was very interested in the books, and when I discovered them in our High School library I smuggled them home one by one to be read under the covers until dawn. I finished the entire series within a month. Pros: I was completely submerged in this fantasy world. Cons: I still couldn’t tell you the timeline of events. All the stories are one big blob in my brain. But it’s a blob of stories I treasure. With my little twelve-year-old act of rebellion I got to experience all the adventures of these well known characters. And I felt a lot more mature after that. I never quite felt connected to the books in the same way some other curators do, simply because my experience lasted a month, instead of years. However, seeing Harry, Ron and Hermione grow up together gave me some comfort and courage in a time when growing up felt scary and strange.
Like many others, I devoured the Harry Potter books when I was younger. I’ve even reread them multiple times. A magic school, high school drama and (murder) mysteries; it was an excellent recipe for an intriguing read.
Nowadays, however, I’ve come to learn there are many other books out there that are much better suited to my tastes. Though I agree that the Harry Potter books have justly made a huge impact on the fantasy genre and therefore deserve a place in the Collection, they are not among the best written books I’ve read.
How to sum up a childhood in two words: Harry Potter. No further comment.
Never mind, I can’t help myself. I think Harry Potter is at the core of my family relationships. From the second book onwards, my mother read the amazing Dutch translation to my sister, my father and me after dinner. At the middle of the table was a ‘druipkaars’ and if my sister and I didn’t go too far, we could play with the wax and the flame. Every free evening was spent reading The Book. When a new book came out, we went to the night-time release at our local bookstore, dressed as wizards and witches (both my sister and I have appeared with our outfit in the local newspaper). When a movie came out, we went together. When we went on holiday, we listened to the audiobooks read by the wonderful Jan Meng. We developed a shared language of inside jokes and quotes of the movies. The Prisoner of Azkaban may be the best, but all parts have left their mark on me.
Except for all the milking of the popularity afterwards. Of course I have made an account on Pottermore, seen the Fantastic Beasts, been to the Harry Potter Expo, but I am afraid those came too late for me. The original magic is… poof!
When I was in elementary school, loving Harry Potter was basically my personality. I was obsessed. I would go to the midnight book releases, dressed up as a witch. I made my own wands and me and my friends pretended to be the kids from the series during school breaks. I was always Hermione, and I was definitely the most committed. I even used to write essays on magic creatures (this proved to be really useful for my time at university, because at that point I’d become very skilled at copying a text in such a way that I was saying the exact same thing, using completely different sentences – thanks J.K.).
Unfortunately, like Key, my love for the series started to fade at a certain point.
Rowling Trans Rights Controversy
It’s a sad fact, but nowadays, no discussion of Harry Potter is complete without a conversation on Rowling’s transphobic shenanigans on twitter. Lotte, this one seems right up your (Diagon)alley. Can you still read Harry Potter in peace?
To be honest, I started getting a little tired of the series before Rowling began spouting transphobic nonsense. Yes, I grew up with the series, but when we were at university, it was (and still is) everywhere. I hate to be the kind of person who dislikes something because it is popular, but I suppose I was just all out of love to give at a certain point. I did still have fond memories of the series, but just got a little tired of seeing merch for it all over the place (where was that merch when I needed it???). And then… well.
I wouldn’t recommend the series at this point, but mostly for the following reason: if you haven’t read Harry Potter yet, you are basically a unicorn. Bask in how special you are, you deserve it. Now take a moment to decide if you want to read the books. Why haven’t you read them yet? Have you seen the movies? Are there other books on your to-read list? Is the series readily available to you or would you need to buy them or borrow them? I know Rowling is rich as hell already and telling someone not to buy her books won’t make her any less so. However, She has power because she has cultural significance. People care about her because her books are this Big Thing. As long as people love Harry Potter, Rowling will continue to hold that power. So, I’d say there’s plenty of other good books that you can read instead.
If you want to dive more into exactly what Rowling has done that is so upsetting to many people, there’s a bunch of good video essays out there. Here’s one by Contrapoints’s Natalie Wynn to get you started:
This whole issue just makes me feel very sad. J. K. Rowling has such a large audience at her disposal, and the fact that she has decided to use the power that this gives her to spread hate instead of trying to make the world a better place is just incredibly disappointing. Ironically, it also feels so contrary to the message of the Harry Potter books, which are about love and acceptance (although they could be much improved on the diversity front). Over the years the Harry Potter fandom has been a place where so many people have been able to find a community of accepting and like-minded people, and all J. K. Rowling needed to do not to ruin this was to shut up. Sadly she didn’t.
In conclusion, liking Harry Potter might be a mixed bag these days, but I think we can all agree that reading the books is a collective experience that helped shape our generation’s views of fantasy. If you somehow managed to not read these books, you’re missing out – so go find a way to obtain them that doesn’t give J.K. any more money than she already has (borrowing them shouldn’t be hard, basically everyone owns them).
Or, like I suggested earlier: bask in the glory of being able to tell people you’ve never read the series. When they tell you you should, tell them you don’t think so. You can really have fun with this, especially if you refuse to explain why. Just… nah. Don’t think I will. Try it!
That’s us signing off for now – we’ll see you again in the future for more additions to the collection!