Book Bucket List: Harry Potter

Harry Potter

Now, I realize Harry Potter is the most obvious choice for this list from a millennial such as myself, but leaving it out would be against everything I am. That, and it’s pretty difficult to ignore the series that changed the face of young adult literature. I try to be pretty casual about my Harry Potter obsession in my day-to-day life, but it often comes to the surface via accidental references if I haven’t told you about it already. Honestly, I’m not even sure the term obsession covers it. J.K. Rowling’s stories have literally dictated my entire life.

It all started when I was five. No, I didn’t read Harry Potter when I was five years old, but I did have an eight-year-old sister whom I idolized. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone was fairly new at this point, and when my sister read it I wanted to read it. Since I obviously couldn’t tackle it on my own, she read parts of it aloud for me, and it definitely stuck with me. Around the time I was eight, I began reading the books by myself. I remember carrying those heavy books with me everywhere so I could read them in the few minutes I had to spare between class activities or at the bus stop. I also think part of me was just a little shit who felt really smart carrying around a book roughly half her size (I was that kid).

So, I quite literally grew up with Harry. I guess that phrase is a little bit of a cliché at this point, but I stand by it. My love of literature stemmed from reading the series, and now I’m nearing the end of my English undergraduate education and will soon be looking for a job based on that passion. Maybe I would have ended up here whether I had read Harry Potter or not, but I certainly feel a connection. Who knows if I ever would have fallen quite so in love with reading without J.K. Rowling’s masterpieces? …yes, I’m incredibly biased.

J. K. Rowling

I won’t bother with any sort of plot synopsis in this case, because I doubt anyone needs it. I’m not even really sure how to convince you to read these books. My official testimony is: I want to have children for the sole reason of forcing them to read this book (honestly, no other reason). But on a more serious note, I feel as though it’s important to become acquainted with a series that has caused such a generational phenomenon. That didn’t just happen randomly. While Potter classifies as young adult literature, I believe that only the most talented writers are able to tackle world-building as flawlessly as Rowling did.

When I pick up one of the Potter books, I feel like I’m living it. I love so many books, but I’m not sure any have impacted me as much. And I think it’s important to note that I’ve held the same opinion since I was eight years old–that’s not an exaggeration. I attended a Harry Potter convention in 2012, and I am one hundred percent not joking. But I met the real life Luna Lovegood, so joke’s on you.

As J.K. Rowling wrote, “in dreams, we enter a world that is entirely our own.”

— Kelly Lyons, Fiction and Non-Fiction Editor

Before They Were Famous: J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling

Joanne “J.K.” Rowling has earned her place as one of the best-loved and most widely recognized contemporary writers by authoring the Harry Potter series–seven fantasy adventures that captivated old and young readers alike, leaving much of the world spellbound.

Unsurprisingly, Rowling’s own story seems just as magical as the tales of the wizarding world she invented. Currently ranked the twelfth richest woman in England, Rowling once struggled to support her daughter, subsisting on welfare and battling depression.

Before writing the Harry Potter series, Rowling led the life of a struggling writer and single mom. After divorcing her first husband in her mid-20s, the now famous author was diagnosed with severe depression and spent nine months in cognitive behavioral therapy. However, in 1990, Rowling experienced a fantastic life change.

J.K. Rowling

While traveling by train from Manchester to London, a strange idea sprang into Rowling’s brain. Suddenly, her head overflowed with magical scenes of fantastic escapades involving an unlikely protagonist, a scrawny, glasses-wearing boy wizard. At the time, she lamented not having a pen to jot down the story, but soon she realized it possessed a certain magic that would require a great deal of carefulness and craft to transfer to paper.

For the rest of her trip, which lasted four hours, Rowling ruminated on her vision-like ideas, reliving those few precious daydreams that would eventually transform into the book we now know as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Once Rowling returned home, she immediately began writing her novel –a project she would labor over for the next seven years.

In June of 1997, she finally completed the book that would, despite being rejected by twelve different publishing houses, become one of the best-loved stories ever written.

J.K. Rowling launched a literary phenomenon, inspiring people of all generations to embrace a love of reading with a little unexpected sorcery. She taught us lessons in bravery, friendship, and family—a true feat of magic.

— Dominique Dusek, Assistant Managing Editor & Submissions Manager

Discuss: Having Second Thoughts

Recently, you may have read about J.K. Rowling expressing some feelings about that seven book series that she wrote. Remember that one? Rowling was doing an interview last month and happened to mention that she thought, perhaps, Ron and Hermione maybe didn’t belong together. And then the internet exploded. I have my own opinions about this revelation, but I’m not going to bore you with my fan musings today. Instead, I want to talk about authors and the ownership they have (or don’t have) over their own work.

For the most part, I adhere to the belief that, once an author has finished writing their words and has put the story out into the world, that book now belongs to its readers (via John Green). Especially with something as hugely popular as the Harry Potter series, the books take on a life of their own as fans theorize, discuss, and even add to the story in the form of fanfiction. Fans are very important to any written work and once a piece of writing is put out there, you can be sure that fans are going to devour it both good and bad ways. But does this mean that an author cannot recant something she wrote? I don’t think so. Especially not when it has no effect on the book as it exists already.

I also firmly believe that — while the work is still in its creation phase — authors do not owe their fans anything. Yes, fans can do what they like with the work that authors put out. And yes, fans have a right to criticize authors for what they do, and I know they will. But authors are going to do things that you don’t like. Many of us didn’t enjoy the epilogue that J.K. Rowling tacked onto Harry’s story. But guess what? There’s nothing we can do about that and if it made J.K. Rowling happy to write that epilogue, I am fine with it. In this case, Rowling’s regrets — misquoted/misconstrued or not — have no bearing on the books as they stand. Her expression of this opinion does nothing to alter the books as she wrote them.

Aside from all of this, pieces of writing are rarely completely finished. I found it refreshing, actually, to see an author expressing regrets about something she had written and which had been published and out there in world for so long. That shows that Rowling still mentally inhabits the Potter-verse sometimes, that she still thinks about the characters she created, and that she is still contemplating the story she set to paper. I would hope that all authors are that thoughtful about their previous works.

For further reading on this topic, and for more in-depth discussion about what Rowling actually said and what it means in the Potter-verse, I would suggest Alyssa Rosenberg’s article, “What J.K. Rowling’s Ron And Hermione Bombshell Tells Us About True Love And ‘Harry Potter’.”

What do you think? Is Rowling “allowed” to express these opinions? What do you think about authors having regrets about plot points they put into their stories? Do books belong to the readers or the author? Share your thoughts in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Autumn Reading List

Maybe if we all start blogging about autumn books the weather will get cooler. What do you think?

The change of seasons is a time in which blogs and other bookish sites like to talk about books that are suited to that particular season. There are “beach reads” for the summer and cozy reads for the winter. Some people have yearly reading traditions in which they read certain books at certain times of the year. Even though I’ve been trying to read more new books rather than moving backward to re-read my favorites, I do have a few of these traditions. I don’t really have a reading tradition for autumn, but perhaps I can start one this year!

The Melville House blog recently posted about seven books that are on their autumn reading list. I think they’ve included some great books here, such as The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (have not actually read, but it seems like a good spooky read for Halloween), Macbeth (definitely has that macabre touch for autumn), and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I was sort of surprised to see a Harry Potter book on this list, but I think they chose the right one for autumn. Maybe it’s just the coloring of the US edition’s cover, but the fourth book in the series definitely gives me an autumnal vibe — despite the fact that I vividly remembering reading it for the first time in the summer.

Personally, I would add a few more books to this list. Frankenstein would be a great book to read as Halloween approaches. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen, also has a slightly macabre and gothic feel to it. Autumn also makes me nostalgic for that back-to-school feeling, so I might like to re-read a few of my grade school and junior high favorites at this time of year.

What is on your autumn reading list? Share in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Re-Reading Books

When I was younger, I was very big on re-reading books. These days, my to-be-read pile is so large that it’s simply not practical to be re-reading books I’ve already read. But I still think there’s merit in re-reading and there are other ways to go about it than just sitting down with the book from your shelf that’s loved and dog-eared.

Back in the day, I had more free time to kill, so I was able to spend afternoons just paging through stories I had already experienced so I could experience them again. Most of this penchant for re-reading stemmed from Harry Potter. When you’re waiting for the next book in a series like that to come out, you need to feed your need somehow. I spent hours upon hours in the world of Harry Potter and have re-read those books more times than I can possibly count. On each re-reading, I seemed to experience something new. But the thing that never changed was the comfort and the sense of coming home that I got (and still get) from those books.

Earlier this year I began listening to some old episodes of a Harry Potter podcast and I got the itch. I wanted to re-read the books. With the aforementioned to-be-read pile of books glaring at me, I knew I had to find another way than actually reading the books with my own eyes. Luckily, the Harry Potter audiobooks are amazing. I had never had the patience for the audiobooks when I was younger, preferring instead to fly through the books at my own pace. But now I can listen to Harry Potter in the car and even at work and it’s been great. I’m on Goblet of Fire right now and I’m really enjoying this re-read that is actually  a re-listen.

How do you feel about re-reads? Do you think it’s worthwhile to re-read a book you’ve already been through? What are some of your favorite books to re-read? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Discuss: Comfort Reading

Okay, picture this. You’ve woken up in the middle of the night and your phone tells you it’s 2:00 am. Try as you might, you cannot get back to sleep. You know you have school, or work, or something else important the next day. Nightmare scenario, right? At least, it is for me. But you know that one book can calm you down and lull you back to sleep…which book do you reach for?

Last week, Book Riot posted an article about comfort reading and that got me thinking about this scenario. The article talks about the positively horrific news week we had with the Boston bombings and the subsequent media flurry around the capture of the culprits. I certainly know what they mean — after all that disturbing and frightening news, I felt like I wanted to disappear into a fictional world for a while. After all, one of the reasons you and I love to read (if you’re reading this, I assume you also love to read) so much is certainly escapism. To be somewhere else for a while and not have to think about the real world is a lovely, tantalizing option.

So, what is my 2 am book? That’s easy. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. That book can make me feel at ease no matter what’s going on. In fact, when my dad needed an operation this past winter, that’s the book I brought to distract me while we waited in the hospital. Not only is the Harry Potter world my favorite fictional world of all time, I feel like I can jump into that first book in the series at any time and just let go. As soon as I start to read it, I’m back in that world and it seems like nothing can go wrong.

What is your 2 am book? Or, if that scenario doesn’t float your boat, what is your comfort reading? What is the book — or book series — that will never fail to make you feel better in stressful times? Share it in the comments!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

Books on Screen: Harry Potter

Courtesy of
Courtesy of

One of the most iconic books on screen adaptations has to be the Harry Potter series.  After the first book, I was immediately hooked on the series.  The concept was just so fresh at the time and really expanded my creativity while reading it.  When I found out movies were being made, like all of the other fans, I was ecstatic.  To me, the adaptations have been the most successful and true to the original than any other adaptations, while still exceeding my expectations.

Now, I know what you’re saying, “They didn’t show all the parts from the book in the movie!”  Well, yes, but they’re trying to cram 500-800 pages into a movie that’s a little over 2 hours long.  You’ve got to trim the fat and cut the lines.  Does it still make sense without those parts?  Pretty much.  There’s some background about certain characters that is lost in the process, but it honestly doesn’t detract too horribly much from the story itself.  Could the movies make a little more sense to someone who hasn’t read the books?  There’s always that need, but questions are answered for the most part.

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