I suppose it’s as good a time as any to admit that I’m never going to read any Harry Potter books.

I’ve got nothing against the series, actually. I’m sure they’re fine books and I’m glad so many kids, and many adults, enjoy reading them. It’s just that I can’t imagine actually sitting down to read all seven books when there are so many other books I’ve been kicking myself to read for years, books of all sorts ranging from fiction classics to history to current tech. My backlog of “must reads” is hundreds of books long — do I really want to bump 7 rather large children’s books to the top of that list? I don’t think so.

Even when I’m an old man, I am certain that I’ll still have hundreds of books to read that will be more important to me than Harry Potter. Comrade Greenfield is in the same boat, telling the world on NPR that he, too, will never be interested in Pottermania.

Same, by the way, goes for the Potter movies. I saw the first one on cable and thought it was pretty dumb and even rather poorly made. The broom-riding sequences were hamfisted and dull when compared to similar scenes in Miyazaki‘s delightful Kiki’s Delivery Service, made over a decade earlier. Anyway, I’ve got plenty of other films to see, mostly old but the occasional new blockbuster — I will, for example, see The Golden Compass.

Otherwise I am fully content to miss the boat on the whole Potter thing, and occasionally feel smug that all I needed to do was randomly browse my way to Wikipedia’s “List of deaths in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” page to learn, generally, everything one needs to know to be au courant with Potter lore.


19 responses to “I’ll Never Read Harry Potter”

  1. One of my “Seventeen Ways To Not Suck At Research” is “embrace pop culture” – as you point out nicely, one doesn’t have to read Harry Potter to know about it, and to reject any knowledge of Harry Potter (or American Idol, or whatever) because it’s not personally appealing is a risky proposition for a designer, researcher, innovator, strategist, consultant, etc. If someone says “Muggle” you better know that’s from Harry Potter, even if you don’t know exactly what it is.

  2. @Steve Portigal: Yep. I call it “cultural spelunking” — spending time exploring the dark caves of cultures you otherwise never inhabit, in particular pop culture(s). Some people deliberately avoid pop culture to a degree that almost seems pathological.

    Anyone who doesn’t know what a Muggle is would have to be a pretty ignorant person who doesn’t even skim the headlines of newspapers, or a pseudo-intellectual poseur/liar, or they’d have to have the amazing mental ability to actually deliberately erase unwanted knowledge from their brains.

    But there is a limit, too. It’s one thing to watch a movie on TV or read occasional websites, but it’s another thing to read seven books (just reading the first one is apparently not possible). For some things, I draw the line at casual exposure.

    Still, I read about 50% of The Da Vinci Code, skipping chapters and sections, while sitting around waiting for my turn in the shower during last summer’s vacation. That book has to be one of the easiest (i.e., it’s written for 4th graders) books I’ve ever laid eyes on. Pop culture spelunking accomplished!

    And I’m seeing the Simpsons movie tonight.

  3. I’m not sure I 100% understand this. Are you saying that the Harry Potter series isn’t worth reading because…

    1. It’s part of pop culture?
    2. It’s a children’s series?
    3. The massive pottermania makes it undesirable?
    4. Simple lack of time (or feel time is better used elsewhere)?
    5. Lack of interest in HP’s genre?

  4. SirNuke: Not sure how I could have been unclear: It’s #4. And I never said it wasn’t worth reading, it’s just not worth it for me.

  5. Andrew Avatar

    I totally with you on that – I don’t know how people can bump other books of their must read list (as they must) so they can slot in a childrens book. It is interesting though that people who have never previously never shown much interest in books are shocked that you have not read the latest harry potter novel.

  6. I’m a firm believer, especially when it comes to books, that “to each their own” is the best policy. There’s no such thing as a book that everyone would like. My wife and I swap books whenever we find something we like, and I’m still almost completely unable to predict which ones she’ll like, in spite of knowing her really well and having years of bookswapping experience to guide me. And there have been plenty of books that were poorly written that I’m almost ashamed to say that I enjoyed (which includes most mystery novels), as well as really quality books that I know I ought to like, but just… don’t.

    That said, it’s hard for me to imagine a better way to spend your reading time than reading the Potter books. In particular, I think books 3 – 6 were absolutely stunning. Well-written, engaging, dark, fun, with great characters, great dialogue, and messages worth delivering. And I’m 38.

    I enjoyed the first 2 books as well, but they aren’t on the same level as the others, IMO. As for the last one, well, I’m not sure what she could have done to meet expectations with it. She successfully ended the series, but it wasn’t quite as good as satisfying as I’d hoped.

    Regardless, everyone has different tastes and I respect that, but I think Potter is one of the few cases where the quality actually matches the hype.

  7. I’ve never read any of these books, but I wouldn’t want to say that I never will. There are a million books that I’d like to read. But sometimes, it’s nice just to consume something enjoyable, and to participate in the conversation around you about that particular piece of media.

  8. @Khoi: Fair enough. It’s highly unlikely that I’ll get around to reading all those Harry Potter books. Someday they might invent a brain implant chip that lets us read a hundred books in a day. If that happens, I’m pretty sure I’ll read HP within the first few weeks.

  9. It doesn’t take a literature professor to spot that “greatest ever” lists heavily favour older books.

    Of course true that some books will always be great, but at the same time it always seems great books tend to become “greater” with the weight of age, sometimes beyond proportion to the skill of the writer or creativity of the thinker.

    There’s also the matter of taste (as several people mentioned), which comes and goes.

    Perhaps ironically, it would seem popularity and youth can torpedo a great writer’s credibility. In all the storm of marketing and merchandising surrounding the Potter franchise, a lot of people have forgotten how Jo Rowling has achieved a remarkable feat of wooing back countless children worldwide from the sterile worlds of video games. It would be an insult to the intelligence of hundreds of thousands of people to say she did that by simply being catchy or trendy.

    The truth is, her books succeeded for a very simple reason: she is a good writer. Her writing style is so engaging and easy to digest, it can get a 10 year old to read a 600+ page book and actually enjoy it. I’d like to see Thomas Pynchon, Ayn Rand, H.G. Wells, or even J.R.R. Tolkien achieve that feat.

  10. I’ve always been fond of the childrens books I grew up with, and will never look down on a book because it’s considered a children’s book or feel I have to read some “adult” book or all other adult books before reading any new children’s books. Personally I think HP since the fourth book becomes more for adults because the series gets progressively darker. I’ve read 1/4 and parts of 5 and 6 and did look at summaries and the last two chapters of 7, and might read the whole book eventually, now that I know it ended the way I really like.

    But – I feel the same way about so-called reality TV and anime as you do about Harry Potter. It’s the craze element that turns me off, and I’ve seen just enough of that stuff for myself to realize I honestly just don’t like it. Harry Potter just happened to be a craze in a genre I already like, so I gave it a go. On the web there are even recipes for food mentioned in the series, which I think is really cool, butter beer has always sounded appealing, so it’s nice to know I can make it some time.

    I don’t have a reading list of books, none take priority over any others, I guess I’ll just read whatever appeals and happens to come my way, when I have the time.

    So, I understand where you’re coming from as far as HP simply not interesting you, and the craze being rather annoying. Time will tell if it joins the ranks of the Oz books, the Narnia books, and LOTR as classic fantasy literature, but I have a feeling it will stand the test of time. But please, don’t dismiss something simply because it’s considered as a children’s book.

  11. @Capri: I never disparaged the HP books at all, especially not, as you suggest, simply because it’s a children’s book series.

    So much for reading comprehension?

    I guess I’m just making a casual observation of what is almost certain to happen– I’m not making a value judgement about the books. It’s like me saying that it’s unlikely I will ever visit, say, Mt. Rushmore. It just doesn’t seem likely to happen, and nobody has convinced me that HP is worth occupying seven of the next hundred books I read. Will you ever read the last seven books I read? If not, is it a value judgement or just a matter of personal whim? For me, like you, this choice of what to read next is often spontaneous and thus free of real value judgement for those who choose differently.

  12. FWIW, I own and read many children’s books, as well as lots of popular (read: scifi/fantasy) fiction. So it’s definitely not snobbery.

  13. This is an illogical argument. Your premise seems to be that you have a limited time to read books, but really, this limit is mostly self-imposed. (The time you spent writing this post could have been spent reading, for instance. Hell, the time you spend working in general could be spent reading.)

    Now, obviously there is a finite number of books one can read in a lifetime, but claiming that by reading one, you lose the opportunity to read another is a pretty thin argument. Which is why the accusations of snobbery.

  14. @Dan: Maybe I should clarify one thing: I can’t imagine reading just one of the HP books. If I crack open #1, I will almost certainly be committed to reading all seven. So it’s not like we’re talking about just one book here.

    Also, I guess I should repeat that this post is not intended so much to be an argument about why I shouldn’t read HP, but rather it’s my alibi for why I have not read them. Whenever I tell people I have not read HP, they always seems little shocked.

    Basically, when I ask myself every so often “what book shall I read next?”, it doesn’t seem likely to me that “all seven Harry Potter books!” is likely to be the answer anytime soon.

    But you know what? I now realize I am wrong. If/when I have kids, especially as they get old enough for HP, it’s actually quite likely I’ll read HP. So I take it all back.

  15. Dude, stand your ground! You would be entirely within your rights to assert, as I do, that Harry Potter is prima facie of no interest whatsoever and manifestly not worth your investment of time and effort.

    You would be within your rights to assert this of any book, for that matter. I don’t get why people feel so threatened by y/our lack of interest in the HP phenomenon – it’s as if they’re not entirely secure in their affinity, and have to recruit all & sundry so as to validate their enthusiasm.

  16. Chris ,
    You may be interested in hearing the words of “the Golden Compass’s” Author complain about his book being made into a film?


  17. Nice to meet you. My name is Rosana, I`m a brazilian blogger, journalista, graduated in Physics, and it so happens that although I read a lot, I’ve never read a Harry Potter book nor seen a Harry Potter film. Both my kids love the series. I couldn’t care less. Nothing against it, but I feel it’s just not meant for me.

  18. I’m with you, the books are thoroughly uninteresting to me. I saw the first movie in the theater and it was forgettable so I never felt the need to read them. But I know what they’re about and the characters enough to get references and that’s fine. But there is still much more pop culture out there I need to consume in order to get all the jokes on The Simpsons.

  19. Melody Avatar

    I totally support your decision to not read HP. I am an accidental fan who had no intention of reading them but needed something to read and my mom-in-law had them laying around. I love the genre and I love series so it was a fit for me. Now that I have read them, I love them but absolutely do not think that they’re for everyone. I face a lot of criticism from readers who only read pop fiction about the books that I read. Just because they don’t find it interesting they see no value in it. I think the opposite is true with you NOT wanting to read it. You are devaluing it (in their eyes) by choosing not to read their favorite books.

    I find it comedic, however that you would even waste your time posting about a book that you have no intention of reading. There is a slew of books that I have no intention of reading and do not feel the need to justify myself. Just stand your ground, the only person who needs justification is yourself.