I didn’t read, or really pay any attention to, the Harry Potter books or watch movies when they were first coming out. Sure, I was aware of the phenomenon. I knew what Hogwarts was. I knew that adults seemed to enjoy the stories as much as young adults. But they came along at a point in my life where I really had no interest in digesting them.
However, I loved how Joe Posnanski wrote about reading the stories with his daughters. I made a mental note that, one day, when our girls were old enough, I would try to do the same. The only problem was that our girls weren’t interested in the stories. I tried for several years to get M to read them with me. But she always refused. She tackled other lengthy series of books, like Percy Jackson & the Olympians. But she always said no when I asked if she wanted to get started on Potter. She didn’t even want to do it on her own.
That changed about a year ago, however. When S had to bring the girls back to Missouri for my stepdad’s funeral, she was trying to find something that would interest all three girls in the car for six hours. She settled on the audio book for Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone. Not sure if it was simply doing it via audio book, or all of them listening together in the car, but the girls were quickly hooked.
After our weekend drives, they all wanted to read the entire series. Each of them started with traditional books, but eventually I got the rest of the series on CD from the library and put them on their respective iPods. For the next couple months each girl would walk around with their earbuds in, listening as they did stuff around the house, as we rode to school, or as they fell asleep. In fact, C listened the the entire series about five times and in the process became a little addicted to audio books. Now each trip to the library for her involved selecting a new batch of books on CD for me to rip for her.
I knew that I would eventually get to the series myself, but other books or movies or baseball season kept me from cracking them. This fall we scheduled an early 2017 trip to Universal Studios in Florida, so I figured I better knock them all out before we go so I’m not completely clueless in the Harry Potter parts of the parks.
The week before Thanksgiving, I started The Sorcerer’s Stone. Four and a half weeks and seven books later, I have completed the Harry Potter saga! We had a nasty little ice storm here Friday night/Saturday morning, so we ended up spending the majority of Saturday just bumming around in the house. While S and the girls watched some of the Harry Potter movies, I sat next to the TV with my earbuds in and raced through the last 300 pages or so of The Deathly Hallows. It was a pretty solid way to burn four or five hours. We have all the movies on our DVR and I’m going to watch them as well after the holidays.
As I read the books, the girls would check in with me periodically to see where I was. I’d tell them the most recent scene I had read and they seemed to enjoy tracking my progress. I did have to shush them a few times and say, “Um, spoiler alert!” so they didn’t reveal anything too important.
I don’t know that I can or should add any great observations that haven’t already been made about the series a thousand times over. I did enjoy it very, very much. It’s a well crafted series. I liked the way J.K. Rowling grew the story as Harry grew. Her writing, and the depth of the stories, fit where Harry is at each step in his life. A few of my friends warned me that they get pretty dark as you move through them. That’s certainly true. I was a little worried that The Deathly Hallows was too dark and intense for our younger girls. But by the time I read it, it was too late. And they didn’t seem to mind or get frightened by it.
Speaking of The Deathly Hallows, that was by far my favorite book. I like how that’s the one time Rowling set aside the standard structure of the stories and turned it into a 750+ page race to the finish. That’s probably why I was able to sit and read so long Saturday finishing it; it’s pretty intense and I didn’t want to break my momentum. I thought the last 150–200 pages were simply magnificent. You kind of know what the ultimate result is going to be, but still it’s the author’s job to make the road to that destination interesting and entertaining. Rowling did throw significant doubt into how exactly the final confrontation between Harry and Voldemort would turn out.
And all the zig-zags and moments of redemption along the way were most excellent. Neville turning into a badass! Draco confirming his weakness and perhaps showing compassion for Harry. And Snape! Good lord, Snape! The chapter where Harry dives into Snape’s thoughts, and discovers his true motivations and Dumbledore’s plans for Voldemort’s defeat about did me in. I had to get up and walk around a few times to clear my head and get the dust out of my eyes. I mean, I knew where we were headed. But I kept thinking, “She’s not really going to kill Harry, is she?” The final resolution was simply magnificent.
So I’ve knocked out a pretty significant literary accomplishment. The Harry Potter series was excellent, and I’m now well prepared to visit Universal Studios in a month. Oh, and along the way I eased past 52 books for the year. With my usual collection of holiday-time quick reads, there’s an outside chance I’ll get to 60 books for 2016. Which is pretty good considering I was well behind book-a-week pace for a significant stretch of the year.