Remember last month when I talked a little bit about my summer reading list? Well, I was making a bit of progress, but then I got distracted. I was suddenly thinking I fancied reading the Harry Potter books again. This happens every few years; it just tickles my fancy like magic! Rereading them never gets old, and even now, nineteen years after reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, they are just as special. What is it about these books that keeps me rereading them, time and time again?
I actually brought over my Harry Potter books from the States, after feeling like I wanted to read them again. I’d gone into Waterstone’s and picked up the first one, but it was just too different! The font. the cover, the lack of chapter illustrations… it felt really alien to me. So the next time I went back home to New York, I was sure to pack my books! The same books I read when I was 11, 12, and 20. It’s all very much a part of the experience for me.
The books were there for me when I needed them
My mom always described me as a voracious reader – intently focused until I finished a book. I was that kid who would read until the wee hours, until my parents came in to tell me to go to sleep. One of the reasons I read so much was that I was a lonely kid. I didn’t have many friends in school, and I certainly wasn’t one of the popular kids. So, I read books. Suffice it to say, when I was given a copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone somewhere around my 11th birthday, I dove right in! Harry, Ron and Hermione felt like more than characters, they felt like a part of me. They felt a lot of the things I felt. Not really fitting in, overshadowed by siblings, teased for being a bit different. At a time when I was feeling lonely, they helped me feel a little bit less so.
Having to wait for the books to come out, made them more precious
Once I start the books, I have to read them through. In fact, I just finished the last book last night (I read a whopping 274 pages in one go because I just couldn’t stop myself). Once I start, I have to finish! Maybe it’s because I still remember rereading the first four books over and over while I was desperately waiting for the release of book 5. I took the books everywhere. To camp, to school, to the beach… where ever I was going, they came with me. I saw so much of myself in these books that they became a lifeline. Waiting for new books to come out, going to the bookstore for a midnight release, and rushing home to get stuck in (I did that with The Dealthy Hallows! The ends of books 5 and 6 were spoiled for me, and I was determined not to have that happen with the last book, so I got it at midnight, took a taxi home, and read the whole book cover to cover. Those moments when the new book was out, and I’d held it’s fresh pages in my hands was nothing short of magic.
They feel new every time I read them
One of the best things about the books? They’re just so darn magical! It’s not just… ya know… the literal magic that’s happening. It’s also that I feel like I discover new things every time I read them. Something happens and I suddenly realize it’s importance or significance that I might have missed before. As I grow and learn and change, how I understand things, also grow and change. They aren’t any less magical though! When I first read the Harry Potter books, I heard everything in my head in an American accent. Now that I live in the UK, the voices have changed. They sound British in my head. Or, when I first read the books, I thought Hagrid was Black. Now he is a bit Northern, maybe even Scottish. How I read the books has changed, but I still love them!
I learned some real life lessons from the books
Given the political climate at the moment, I do find that there are some themes and plot points that are pretty damn relevant today. It’s not just the politics, it’s also things that the characters are learning as well. How it’s our choices that make us who we are; how a little kindness can go a very long way; how you can learn about someone by the way they treat those they believe to be inferior… That’s one I quote regularly. These books aren’t just stories… they feel a bit like a moral compass. Not preachy, but letting us be human and learn from our mistakes, just like the characters in the books.
I know I’m not alone in my love of Harry Potter
One of the really magical things about the written word, is that it helps us feel as humans that we’re not alone. It is a deep routed fear of many, and I for one am so glad that these books have helped to allay those fears. I watched the Tom Felton documentary where he went to speak to superfans of the films and books, and found myself hearing stories similar to mine. I tweeted about wanting to know why people still loved to reread the books, and got some answers that made me nod in agreement. These books (and all books, really) have the power to connect people, and create a unique, wonderful and oh so magical family!
I think it’s safe to say that I hold the Harry Potter books in a very special place in my heart. I don’t think there will ever come a time when I don’t want to read them. If I ever had the chance to speak to J.K. Rowling (I was in a room with her once, and completely lost my shit… it wasn’t the type of thing where I could have gone up and had a chat) I would just say thank you. I’ll be reading these books forever. If I ever have children or grandchildren, I’ll be reading these books to them as well. They mean so much to me, and helped me through some tough times, and I’ll never forget that.
After all this time?