This post was originally published on the Times Union Books blog here
I had two goals for this summer: learn to play chess and read the Harry Potter series. And goal two was a formidable one. With seven books totaling 4,111 pages (the longest being the fifth book that clocks in at 870 pages), I would have to be strategic. But I’m also a librarian and reading is like, part of my job. It’s a skill. One in hone daily.
I began on July 20th not for any reason other than I was ready. I finished on August 7th. With some dedicated reading time, a few late nights, and encouragement from my elementary-aged kids (one who has finished the series and one who is on book five), I met that goal. What did I do on August 8th? I borrowed my kids’ Gryffindor robe, Potter glasses and tie, used eyeliner to make my scar, and took a picture to commemorate this feat. As was done when said child finished the series back in March and I will do when other said child finishes.
The goal came from several things. First, I have two kids who have become obsessed over this past year with them– waving their winds and casting spells. So, I wanted to enjoy the books alongside them. Second, I’ve already mentioned that I’m a librarian. I would have to have actually tried hard not to read it all these years. And that’s true because I was the perfect age when the series was launched twenty years ago to be one of Rowling’s Potterheads. I read the first one in college and thought, eh. Then never continued. Now was the time. And the third reason is just because. I like a good challenge. I like having goals.
And I can say that it feels pretty darn good, like I was channeling all of those non-readers out there that were turned into readers because of this series. There’s a reason Rowling is a billionaire because the books, the characters, the world she created is breathtaking.
There were instances where I had to sit back and marvel at her storytelling and commend her genius. She was building an empire. It’s the reason there is an entire website (Pottermore) dedicated to the books where you can be sorted into your house (proud Ravenclaw), discover your wand (10” English Oak with unicorn hair core and unbending flexibility), and find out what your patronus is (husky). You can visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Studios in Orlando. You can buy Lego sets and tshirts. You want to be (fill in the blank character). All because of these seven books.
Now, I’ll be the first to say that the books are doorstoppers and readers can get bogged down in the details. But as a whole, it’s an experience and makes me appreciate Rowling’s statement
“I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book”.
It should be on bucket lists and scored alongside other significant life events not only to marvel at them like a famous painting or classic car but to kick start out imaginations young or old.
I’ll make one last point for those that haven’t read the series and might consider it whether you’re fifteen or sixty-eight: know that there are many who would give anything to be in your place. A friend made a passing comment about my reading the series that I took to heart: what she wouldn’t give to go back and read them for the first time. Surely you have at least one book that you would kill for the opportunity to go back and read for the first time.
Harry Potter enriched so many lives and continues with each generation of kids. With translations closing in on one hundred languages, the series won’t go out of style. Many would argue that it belongs in the top five for best children’s literature of all time, maybe even #1.
Now, let’s see if I can squeeze in the Harry Potter movie marathon before summer’s end. It’s entirely likely based on all this rain we’ve been having…