Convince Me To Read Harry Potter Series?

I read the first HP about a year after it came out. It seemed very childish and simplistic, and so I never read the rest. (Maybe because I’ve read a lot of more sophisticated fantasy I’m spoiled?) I’ve heard the HP books get better as the series progresses, and the last couple of movies seem to bear that out.

So now I’m wondering if I’m missing out. What would you say to convince me, a slow reader who has literally a thousand unread sf and fantasy books on her shelves, to read HP?

And if I’m persuaded, should I maybe read the summaries of #2 and start with #3? Or some similar plan?

Although the series has its flaws, the things I found most interesting about the Harry Potter books is that the subject matter matures as Harry does. HP1 is about as complex as the first Narnia books, full of wonder and adventure.

HP2 introduces analogies to more adult concepts, like discrimination and bigotry. HP3 begins our introduction to the dark paranoia that you can’t always believe everything you hear.

With HP4 we begin to see betrayals: authority figures that can’t be trusted, the media that lies indiscriminately, and death. HP5 reveals that the world is much more complex than simply good and evil.

The series gets better — longer, yes, and in some cases the books would have done well with a 100-page reduction in text, but Harry grows up. It’s nice.

Why do you have 1000 unread books at home? It seems a waste of money to buy books and not read them.

[sub]Says the guy with a couple dozen unplayed video games lying around…[/sub]

Hype aside, the books are a fun read, and a fairly easy one. Books 4-7 look intimidatingly thick, but the fonts, line spacing and margins are all huge. At a guess, I’d say a Rowling page has about 70% as many words on it as a Tolkien page.


  • Rowling builds great characters. You end up investing quite a bit in them, emotionally, whether they’re nice or nasty people.
  • Her world-building is very whimsical and clever, and she presents it in a matter-of-fact way that makes it surprising when your own car can’t fly.


  • While fun and appealing, her world-building is leaky as hell. If you’re a skeptical analyzer, you’ll be asking yourself questions about economies, ecologies and sports, which have no answer.
  • She has a deus ex machina the size of Rhode Island grinding away.

Anyway, those are really minor quibbles. The series is totally worth reading.

I’m a slow reader and just decided to take the series on recently. Mostly because the more recent movies don’t seem to go deep enough for me and I’m left with questions about characters back stories, motives, and reasons behind their actions and reactions.
HP1 was light and pleasant enough (took me 2 weeks) and HP2 has me at the point where the flying car is landing at the Weasleys.
It’s always interesting to see what got left out in the film versions and it fills in a lot of the blanks. Like how the HP1 movie never explained why there were these weird tasks in place to access the sorcerers stone. The book explained how each teacher put a task in place based on their area of expertise and it made more sense.

I tend to think the main thing working against the series is books 1 and 2.

Book 3 really elevates the quality signifigantly, while books 4-7 is where it reaches brilliance.

And I’ll agree that the series matures as the children mature.

Heh. This only gets worse as the series goes on: the books get longer, while the movies don’t. By the time you get to the fifth movie, they’re taking out BIG chunks of important plot. I watched it last weekend and was going, “Man, someone who hasn’t read the book - and recently at that - would be confused as hell watching this.” :frowning:

I just reread books one through six, and I’m on the library waiting list for seven.

Book one was childish and simplistic, but they have ramped up from there. They are by no means deep literature, but for an adult, they are pretty good light reading (and books five and six may be up there as light-ish rather than light).

The settings and props are wonderful and inventive, and the main characters get pretty well developed over the course of the series. The kids start as straightforward tweens in the first book, and move into their awkward and somewhat troubled teenage years as they go.

The first one pretty much was confined to Hogwarts, but the others bring in elements of the broader wizarding world, including its politcs and international affairs, as well as characters who straddle the line between good and evil.

I don’t know which thousand unread SF and fantasy books you have on your shelf, but I doubt if many of them are even a fraction as important and influential the Harry Potter series is and will be. The fact that tens of millions of copies of book seven are being read this week around the world (not to mention the tens of millions who have seen movie five in the past few weeks) shows the power of the series.

The series is and will be the seminal fantasy experience for at least a generation of kids growing up. For each one of us in our mid-twenties or older who were drawn into speculative fiction by Tolkien, Narnia, The Phantom Tollbooth or any of the other classics, there will be two in the next generation of readers who cut their teeth on Harry Potter. Not knowing the vocabularly of Harry Potter, will be like not knowing who Bilbo, Frodo or Gollum are.

It’s not that that they have the majesty or heft of Lord of the Rings. Indeed, it’s almost the opposite in that are highly accessible to readers who just want a good story and don’t worry too much about making sure all elements of the world around the characters are fully fleshed out (which they aren’t).

All of that portentiousness aside, the books should be fun summer reading for you, and I’m sure you’ll have a better time rolling through them than 90% of the stuff on your shelf.

Yeah, I haven’t seen the 5th movie yet and really don’t intend to until I’ve read through that book. The last movie (Goblet of Fire) seemed so choppy and pieced together I felt like I must be missing a lot of the actual story behind all the action.

I really disliked the first movie, never saw the second one, and didn’t really care for the third or fourth ones either. I thought that they were riddled with plot holes and unexplained bits that would have done well with a dose of extra backstory.

The hype surrounding the last book really befuddled me – just based on the movies, I had no idea what anyone could possibly see in the series. I finally decided to borrow the first book from a friend to see what all the fuss was about. That was four days ago, and I’m almost through the second one now. The books are really very well written, and (granted, this is based only on my impression of the first two) it’s really very fun and interesting to watch not only the characters, but the overall style of writing mature as the series progresses. I’ll be halfway through the third book tonight, I’m sure of it – this is the first time in hours I’ve been able to put it down.

I agree with the wordbuilding: her names are fun and actually make you think them trhough (Xenophilius Lovegood, for example, for a character who’s kindly but befuddled and loves an unusual explanation over a far more obvious and correct one, or Remus Lupin for an avuncular professor who happens to be a werewolf). She also borrows heavily in both naming and plots from classical and not-so-classical mythology and the standard Campbellian hero quests, and she borrows much from WW2 and other issues.

Also, it’s a cultural phenomenon that will be used in the vernacular currency for years, so it might be useful to know what a horcrux or a pensieve are to catch the references.

As said above, as Harry gets older the books get darker. People you’ve grown to like die (permanently usually). The characters are nuanced: the good guys have some skeletons in their closet (Harry’s dad, Dumbledore, Hagrid, etc.), the bad guys (even Voldemort) have some sympathetic qualities or moments in their past (much is explained when Voldemort’s past is exposited, for example: he’s still a total bastard that you want dead, but you understand a little more why he’s such a total bastard).

Above all, it’s a well constructed heavily detailed fantasy. And if you’ve only read the first one, remember that you’re still just getting an introduction to the characters and to the Wizarding World, both of which get a lot more complex as Harry’s education and ability to understand broaden.

For the last few years I’ve been building a library of books I missed reading during the years I was unable to read for pleasure. I fully intend to read all of them, although at the rate I’m still buying, I may never live to be old enough. No books will be wasted!

Or the power of marketing, added to the human tendency to want to be included in a phenomenon whether generated by marketing or quality. Which is why I’m asking this.

I love the sense of humor in the books. Unfortunately, none of the movies have done justice to the humor of the series, with the possible exception of Lockhart in the 2nd movie. I saw the first two movies before picking up the books and was pleasantly surprised at the characters the movies glossed over or omitted. The Weasley twins and Peeves are my favorites.

Another thing I’ve enjoyed is how the books remind me of what it was like to be a teenager. Even though these kids live in a fantastic world of magic, flying brooms, and dragons they still have mothers that nag them about cleaning up their rooms. They’re terrified at the prospect of asking a girl out. Harry’s not quite sure what to make of his first crush on a girl. Dozens of other little things like make the series more fun.

I have the same problems with Tolkien, frankly — namely, where are all the women? Why is Farmer Maggot the only agrarian in the story, and how can the world survive when everybody is a soldier or a horseman or lives in a town? Most of the history is tied up in great wars, but what the hell was there to go to war over? Where were the trade routes, the wagons, the merchants? How come Bree had stables full of horses but nobody ever seemed to go anywhere for any reason? Why did Minas Tirith demand that Rohan bring soldiers, but the notion of starvation was just an afterthought?

I like fantasy stories as much as the next person, but most them aren’t meticulous and realistic. That’s the point. :slight_smile:

I only read the first book a few months ago, after the movie had appeared on TV. I liked the movie, but my reaction to the book was the same as yours. For comparison, I didn’t read the Narnia books until I was in college, and I liked them.

It was only last week I read that the fourth book won the Hugo There’s been some controversy about that, but the award’s enough for me to consider giving it a chance.

Even though I’m no classics scholar, those names are obvious to me. That’s one factor which led me to think my disinterest in the first book was due to it being written for children. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that or with other adults liking the books. It’s just that, in this case, so far, I’m not one of those adults.

This was so perfectly put that I thought it bore repeating:


The only reason to read the books is if you’re curious what all the hullabaloo is about. That was how I got into it, along about Book 3, I think it was–whenever it was that the release of the “next Harry Potter book!” was featured prominently in Time magazine. I had never heard of it, as none of my kids were the bookworm type, so I went and checked them out of the library, in simple curiosity.

…And this is the part where you’re expecting me to say, “And I was hooked! J.K. Rowling drew me into her fantastic world, and I love it!”

Er, well, no. I found them pleasant enough reading, and I’ve kept reading them over the years only out of a niggling curiosity about “what happens next”, being perfectly happy to wait until it’s available at the library.

So to answer the OP’s question, there’s really no reason to read them, other than curiosity.

They are the perfect book for a rainy vacation, though. If you’ve rented a beach house for a week and it rains the whole time, you can pull out your Harry Potter book and be moderately entertained. At least, it’s better than walking down to that little grocery store for the umpteenth time and looking over their fly-specked copies of Judith Krantz.

Well, Sam was Frodo’s gardener. And if you include the Hobbit, it may have mentioned the men of Dale fishing and Beorn gathering honey. And most of a chpater was devoted to making supper! And I believe it was mentioend that many of the people fighting at Helm’s Deep were NOT full time soldiers, but farmers pressed into service.


I’m most of the way through the last book (to the point where it looks like there can’t be enough pages left to tie things up).

After seven books, Ms. Rowling’s writing still has some amateurish touches; the prose style is pretty basic, although clear and concise. I’ve certainly read worse, and the tone of the books has definitely matured. I think that’s partly because of her becoming a better writer, but partly calculated – as the protagonist has gotten older and more experienced, the books reflect his more complex perspective. The first one is written like a children’s book; the current one is written like a serious novel for young adults.

The characters have gradually developed into three dimensions. Nobody’s all good or all bad, and they all have very distinct personalities. The main villain, Voldemort, is developed in a really clever way; the first few books establish how dangerous he is even when he’s not really there.

As for plotting:

Con: She relies too much on coincidences – people not quite getting to say something important, being interrupted at just the wrong time, and worst of all, I think every book has at least one scene in which our heroes just happen to be in the right place and time to overhear the specific part of a conversation that imparts crucial information. (The first half of the seventh book has perhaps the most extreme example of this; you’ll know the scene when you come to it.)

Pro: Ms. Rowling has done a fantastic job of bringing together lots of little details that seemed inconsequential or haphazard in previous books, but which now are seen in a new light. It’s really a seven-volume novel covering seven years of events.

Usually the magical stuff seems to have some sort of underlying logic to it.

Overall – a really fun read (except maybe for Order of the Phoenix, which I found slow going). It’s easy to see why they’re popular; why they’re so ungodly popular, I can’t say. But I’ve got to hand it to J.K. Rowling; like me and millions of others, she dreamed of writing books that would get her out of the daily grind and into a more interesting life – and unlike most of us, she just got to work and did it.

In addition, I’m pretty sure Tolkien made explicit mention of the majority of the Pelennor fields being made up of farms, and how all of the people living on the fields had to be moved into Minas Tirith before the orcs crossed the river.