I don’t know what it is about Harry Potter that everyone seems to have a story on how they read the series; the night(s) they camped out to get the latest book at midnight or seeing the films; or the impact the books and movies had in their lives (both reading and real). It’s interesting to me that in the book blog community I frequent, I’m one of the few who didn’t read the books as a kid.
I was just out of college when my sister made me read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. (It would not be the first or last time I read a book just so she had someone to talk to about it.) I thought it was good, for a kid’s book. But I couldn’t quite understand why everyone loved it so much… because it was a kid’s book… Now I would use the term middle grade, but either way it wasn’t a reading level that got me really interested or excited. But my sister thought it’d be fun to go see the movie together and it happened to be coming out that Christmas so we did. And it was fun.
But before we saw the movie, my sister made a crucial decision. We couldn’t read the next book in the series until we’d seen the movie of the one we just read.
So, after we saw the Sorcerer’s Stone we were allowed to read Chamber of Secrets.
Having not adored beyond all imagining the first book, the second wasn’t at the top of my to-read pile. But I did read it. And we went and saw the movie together.
We could then read Prisoner of Azkaban and had to wait over a year to see the movie. So, I don’t really recall but I probably wasn’t desperately excited to read this book or the fourth. Which meant I wasn’t terribly upset by the wait to see the movie before we could get to the next book.
That was the fun thing about the whole enterprise. It was our own limitations keeping us from reading any further – not the dictates of the publisher or of J.K. Rowling or anything. We decided when we read each book and no one else.
It meant a lot of waiting, but it was also kind of liberating.
After finally seeing the Prisoner of Azkaban, we could read Goblet of Fire. That’s the one of only three books in the series I clearly remember reading.
I read Goblet of Fire the first time I ever rode a train – on my way home for Christmas one year. I read all 734 pages (or something) on that 18 hour train ride and I slept too, so… you’re probably better at the math than I am.
And then I read it again on the train ride back to LA.
Because Goblet of Fire was the first book in the series I really enjoyed. The story had finally moved from being good kid’s books to a more adult story – no longer about 12 year olds fighting bad guys but a story actually about good and evil. And it was interesting.
Of course, I didn’t move forward in the series until after I saw the movie. Which meant I was free from the fervent desire to show up at a book store at midnight vying for a copy of Order of the Phoenix. I was also untroubled by any angst of having to wait for the sixth book when I was finished with it. I read Order of the Phoenix at some point after I saw Goblet of Fire. Then when it came out I watched the movie.
Same thing for Half Blood Prince, sort of. I wasn’t really deeply affected by any of the books, which is not to say that I didn’t have very definite opinions on the movies. And I enjoyed being in the current of the phenomenon without actually being, really, a part of it. I liked that my sister and I had our own game we were playing with Harry Potter and the game moved according to our rules.
Which meant we were capable of changing them. And we did.
We had both seen the film for Order of the Phoenix, but Half Blood Prince hadn’t come out yet. And we pre-ordered The Deathly Hallows because finally we were excited to read one of the books (or I was – she may have been excited for other books). But reading Deathly Hallows before we saw Half Blood Prince violated our rule. We knew, though, that it would be nearly impossible to avoid spoilers once the final book was out and we really wanted to experience the story from the book and not through word-of-mouth. So, we made an exception for the final book and read it before seeing the previous movie.
I was filling in for another girl at my job that week. Her boss was out of the country and with the time zone shift he was only available the first few hours of the morning. And even when he was available most of his business was happening through his on-set assistant and there wasn’t much work for me. So, I worked two 11 hour days and mostly just sat at the desk reading Harry Potter. It was kind of awesome.
And now that all 7 books are out and all 8 movies have been released it’s like the whole phenomenon has sort of exhaled. Obviously, people still love the book and movies and people who were affected by the books or films still talk about it – reread them – reminisce about their experience encountering these stories for the first time.
So, that’s my story. And I kind of like how it isn’t much like anyone else’s.
(except my sister).