When you’re a person who loves books—let alone a person who writes about books on the Internet—people make a few assumptions about you. You likely have a lot of bookshelves. (Yes.) You probably have a good book recommendation or two. (Sure.) And you’ve definitely read Harry Potter. (Um…) I mean, obviously. Right? (Wrong.) Y’all, don’t get mad! Spoiler: I finally read Harry Potter, and here’s what happened.
I didn’t have to be sold on Harry Potter. I had no doubt it was great. I’ve seen half of the movies, and I think they’re wonderful. And do you realize how much of a poser I felt like, wearing my Hermione shirt when I hadn’t read the books? It was a risky move! It’s just that when you’re a person who loves books—let alone a person who writes about books on the Internet—there are a lot of books to read. Tons. More and more new ones every week. Titles get shuffled around, and somehow, I missed the train to Hogwarts.
And this sort of drives people crazy. The reactions were all over the place. There was shock.
Some light begging.
After witnessing my shame, and a lot of these reactions playing out, my wife decided to help me out this Christmas. She got me the complete set of Harry Potter, and I’ve finally read the first one, and it’s all that I hoped it would be. Fun and magical and full of whimsy that, frankly, I need these days. I expected that the shock and anger and begging would continue once I announced I had started the series, that people would then need me to keep going, read the rest immediately, start on Fantastic Beasts, get sorted into a Hogwarts House, etc. Much the same way that once you start dating, everyone wants to know when you’ll get married, and once you get married, everyone wants to know when babies are coming, and so on and so forth.
But that’s not what happened. What I found instead was nostalgia.
And even a little jealousy—jealousy that I get to experience it all for the first time.
Chalk all this up to the quality of Rowling’s world, to the depth of people’s love for Harry Potter. While I thought I was being dealt with harshly, while I cringed from being criticized for not reading them, while I sat through the sales pitch again and again, what people were really doing was showing me their love. They were sharing with me something deeper than a recommendation; they were inviting me to Hogwarts. They were passing along a chocolate frog for me to try.
I finally read Harry Potter, and here’s what happened: I got my Hogwarts letter. I walked the halls, and I put on the invisibility cloak, and I joined the class. And there’s a special kinship in that shared reading experience that I haven’t found with many other books—maybe any. And to get to experience that is a gift. So thanks for the begging and the shock and the anger, my friends. You were right.