Two months, 4,111 pages, and 19 years later the magic of the Harry Potter series is even more impressive than the first, second, and third time around.
In June, I decided I would pick up my copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and try to read as much of the series as I could before attending the Cursed Child play a mere five days after the script’s release. I finished my reread of the entire series just after midnight on Harry’s birthday as my friends across the world picked up their copies of the Cursed Child script.
Along the way I decided to run an experiment. I wanted to compare my memories of the book to my latest takeaways and see if my long-held, ironclad ranking would change.
Initial thoughts: Book one exists in a perfect bubble. It’s not a movie I rewatch, it’s not a book I reread. But it is the foundation upon which the world is built and there are definitely details that I have forgotten. I kept my distance from The Sorcerer’s Stone mainly because I was afraid that I would not enjoy rereading a book written for an eight-year-old target audience.
Favorite takeaway: Once you get a good pace going, it’s so easy to let the world consume you. I fell right back into the world as quickly as Harry fell into the pensive. It took me far too long to get into the book because I was putting too much attention on trying to reformulate my opinion with each line. Once I hit a good pace, I finished the book in an afternoon and went right into Chamber of Secrets.
‘Chamber of Secrets’
Initial thoughts: This book sits low on my list mainly due to the fact that I was not a fan of the spiders, the car plot, or the gross slugs from both the film and the book. If I reached for a shorter book to read I always went with Prisoner of Azkaban.
Favorite takeaway: Tom Riddle’s diary and the connection it has to the later books is so well done that I wish I picked up this book again sooner. Gilderoy Lockhart is a true gem of a character. It’s still not my favorite, but I did enjoy picking up on all of the important people and objects that shape how the rest of the series unfolds.
‘Prisoner of Azkaban’
Initial thoughts: This is the first book I’ll pick up if I need a dose of Harry Potter in my life. It’s short, I own it in a weathered paperback, and it has the introduction of my favorite character– Sirius Black. In college I took a course called “Geek Lit” where we read this book for our Harry Potter week. It was a nightmare since our professor only read this book and none of the others. I think that week had a great deal to do with why I hold this book in such great esteem, because I was determined to make everyone appreciate it.
Favorite takeaway: I am still amazed by how much action J.K. Rowling can fit into such a small space. The book draws to a close so quickly that as the final pages were creeping up I realized they still had not gone back in time. There is quite a bit of exposition at the start, but when the action picks up, it really picks up. Definitely still one of the best.
‘Goblet of Fire’
Initial thoughts: One look at my initial ranking and you’ll see that coming off of a Prisoner of Azkaban reread, the over 700 pages of Goblet of Fire was not something I looked forward to.
Favorite takeaway: I’m in the midst of an identity crisis. I hear your praises, fans of Goblet of Fire, I really do. I have not read or watched Goblet of Fire for many, many years. This is when the darkness truly kicks into high gear. And the movie does little justice to everything that is in this book. Not to mention the way you feel Harry’s anxiety and dread and cringe at the strain put on all of the relationships. I’m more than happy to give credit where credit is due and I believe Goblet may be the first book I reach for should I dive back into the series again soon.
Now I’m nervous to revisit my favorite, Order of the Phoenix.
‘Order of the Phoenix’
Initial thoughts: This was the first book I threw across a room in frustration thanks to Dolores Umbridge. Having characters created so vividly and others becoming so complex has always made this book my favorite of the series. What’s not to like? The introduction of the Order? The roots of Snape’s double-agent plot? Sirius Black vindicated and his family tree explained?
Favorite takeaway: This book is incredible and will probably remain my favorite of the series. There is something I can’t quite put my finger on with this book. I truly think it has to do with the fact that even though Rowling killed Diggory in Goblet she was not going to hold back in the later books. Instead she dives even deeper into how grief, loss, and love wherever you find it, can shape a person. RIP, Sirius.
Initial thoughts: This is a nice break between Order and Hallows, a place to catch your breath and build upon the grief, loss, and mysteries before the final chapters tear everything apart. The decreased page count after four and five is also very enticing!
Favorite takeaway: Half-Blood Prince is not nearly as refreshing as I thought it would be. I think my opinion of this book was largely tainted by my viewing of the movie approximately 25 times since I last read it. That is not to say that I enjoyed it any less. I particularly enjoyed all of the pensive scenes this time around.
Initial thoughts: I constantly think of this book in terms of the movie– Part I: Camping, Part II: EVERYTHING HAPPENS. This is the most important book of my reading adventure because it will be the last bit of material I take in before going into Cursed Child. This book came out just before my 17th birthday when I worked at my local library. Everyday before my shift I would walk into the backroom and hold the box containing this book. It was the end then, but now it’s only a pause.
Favorite takeaway: Besides the fact that I learned I own three copies of this book (why?) I was happy to have this book pull the loose threads of the world together. After spending so much time with these characters over the last month, reading each of their deaths, and reliving the Battle of Hogwarts made for a depressing Saturday night. But I still closed the book with a great feeling of accomplishment and, if possible, an ever greater appreciation for the canon that J.K Rowling offered to the world.
Initial ranking: Order, Azkaban, Prince, Hallows, Stone, Chamber, Goblet
New ranking: Order, Azkaban, Prince, Goblet, Hallows, Stone, Chamber
Favorite characters: Sirius Black, Severus Snape, Pig
Takeaways: Heading back into J.K. Rowling’s story for a very intensive month and a half rekindled my love for this series and the magic of this world. There is nothing quite like it.
I recommend giving your favorite and least favorite book a reread. The movies, which I will watch every single time they are on Freeform, can only grab so much. I’m not so interested in reading Pottermore updates, or diving deep into the new material concerning Ilvermorny. Reading the entire series once more only deepened my connection to what attracted me to the world in the first place.
I’m looking forward to jumping ahead in the timeline with Cursed Child, but if it does not live up to my expectations at least I can walk away from the theater knowing that the Hogwarts I grew up with will always be there to welcome me back home.