I usually read classics. You know, books published one hundred or two hundred years ago. Somewhere in the that bracket, anyway. Books by Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, William Thackeray, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Books that are realist, are political, are commentaries on society. I have a long TBR list and a tall stack of books by Dickens, C.S. Lewis, L.M. Montgomery, Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Last week I completely ignored that list and that stack and read a contemporary best-selling fantasy that has a cult-following ranging in age from six to sixty. I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

That’s right. I caved. I read a book that I’ve never really wanted to read.

I didn’t jump on the bandwagon when it began, I never went to see the movies, didn’t buy any of the paraphernalia. But I’ve been wondering recently why those books and this story of a wizard boy are so enchanting to so many people. So, with my children’s literature course as an excuse, I picked up a used copy of Harry Potter number one.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t expecting much.

Certainly, I had heard from many readers and non-readers alike how fantastic the Harry Potter books are. But, I’ve also heard a lot of literary minds talk about how poor and simple the writing is. I’ve heard religious and faith-based organizations talk about how J.K. Rowling wrote the novels as part of a plan to pull people away from faith in any type of god.

I don’t know how much stock to put into all of these “things I’ve heard”. Perhaps the religious leaders were just afraid of the power and influence a fad can have. They’ve banned quite a few valid books throughout history for similar reasons. And the literary minds, maybe they were just being a little bit stuck up.

What I can tell you with certainty is:

I enjoyed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

The story is intriguing. The protagonists, are likeable and realistic. They have strengths and they have weaknesses. The antagonists are interesting and have reasons beyond being bad for how they act.

Yes, the language and sentence structure are quite simple. It is after all a book for kids. And if you take into consideration that most adults nowadays are reading at a grade six level, it fits right into that key reading-level demographic.

I love the literary books of the past. I enjoy the rich language and the sometimes-biting social and political commentary. I like being encouraged to think when I read and after I finish reading.

Most of all, I like being entertained when I read.

Harry Potter entertained me. So in my mind, it’s a good book.

What do you think makes a good book?

  1. Glad you finally caved! I read that book when I was 12 and had the great honour of "growing older" with Harry. This was a very special long-term experience for me because as I grew up as a young adult and facing all the challenges and discoveries that entails, the books grew increasingly darker and more mature in the plots and themes. And then I read the final book on a train ride in India – an epic conclusion during a life-changing trip. Harry Potter holds a special place in my heart. I'd encourage you to keep reading them! 🙂

  2. Great blog post Trish, I have never been an avid fiction reader; I spent most of my childhood outdoors playing instead of indoors reading, and most of my adult reading life indulging in genres such as self-help, business and biographies. However recently I have felt the urge to read the Hunger Games, and your commentary of contemporary children's fiction, I think, might push me over the edge and succumb..

  3. *satisfied sigh* I told you they were good. 😛 The books actually advance in depth and writing level as well as you read them. Keep in mind that Philospher's Stone was Rowling's first published novel. The first usually isn't as good as the last. The entire series is also the age old story of good overcoming evil. One of Harry's greatest defenses is actually his goodness. And yet he is still a normal human boy in many ways. ^_^ I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  4. I suggest The Hunger Games trilogy for your next entertainment read. I also read them not expecting too much, but I fell in love with them and read all three in the span of five days. The movie's not so hot, though.

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