Of Reading and Harry Potter [no spoilers]

As you might know, I am an avid reader of basically anything. There are enough posts on this blog in the category Reading Material. When I was younger, my parents would not allow me to read while eating breakfast/lunch/dinner, so I frequently resorted to reading the packages of milk, cereal or whatever was handy. Just to be able to keep reading.

I think one of the greatest things I ever learned from my parents is reading and a love for reading. I can remember numerous hours where all four of us (mom, dad, sister and I) would sit around the living room, each with our own book.

This love of reading has of course never left me. Perhaps during my university years I read a little less, mainly because for my English Lit courses, I had to read a mandatory list of books that I otherwise would not have read. But all this time, whenever I found a new book, I would read. And read. And read.

I cannot imagine nor fathom how many books I have read over the years. At some point during these years, I stopped reading Dutch books, because I found that the English books were more suited to my taste (as always, whenever there are more books written, you tend to find more books you actually enjoy).

Some time in 1998, when I was in Edinburgh, a friend of mine suggested I start reading the Harry Potter books. Book Two had just been published, I believe. Bookstores didn’t spend too much attention to them, but I had seen them lying around. As I knew these were children’s books, I told her I wasn’t interested. It is not as if I never read children’s books anymore, but I only read the ones I had grown up reading, I never read any new ones, and certainly not new English ones. She insisted I read them, but I never got around to borrowing her copies, or buying any for myself.

Fast forward to April 5, 2000 (good policy, always add dates/places/events/etc to the french title page of your book, including your name) when I bought Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I must not have found any other books to my liking, and I remebered my friends positive review of the book.

I bought the paperback version, and I read it in one go.

Two weeks later (April 17) I went back to the bookstore to buy Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, also the paperback version.

Book number three, I bought from amazon.co.uk. I did not want to wait for the paperback version this time, because I knew that as the books would be published in the future, I would not be able to wait for the paperback print, I would want that hardcover! On a summer Sunday, sitting behind my mom’s computer, right before I would join my parents for dinner, I was online comparing the hardcover prices between amazon.co.uk and amazon.com. As my previous two books had been the UK children’s version (Bloomsburry), I wanted the hardcover UK one. It was then that I noticed that it is cheaper to order a UK published book through the uk amazon and vice versa.

Skip one week, I was in possession of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Needless to say I finished the book that same day.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
came out only about a month later, and the same friend who had started me on Harry Potter was in London that same weekend. She stood in line, bought her copy, and when she returned on Tuesday, I was allowed to borrow the book if I finished reading it by the next morning, as she had promised her dad to bring it around that day. Living in Leiden, in an old noise and creaky house, it was quite the experience! I didn’t buy the book until January 2001 (hardcover, of course). By this time, my sister had also caught the Harry Potter bug, thanks to one of her friends.

Three years later, book five, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released. I had mine on backorder and with a 50% discount from amazon.co.uk. It took close to two weeks for it to arrive, and I was anxious to read it. As this was the longest Harry Potter to date, it might have taken me slightly longer to read it. Sipping cola and eating chocolate, I actual took two days off to read and recover.

For book six, I ordered two copies from amazon.co.uk. One for me, and one for my sister. When it arrived, I started reading immediately, and I could not wait to find out which of my colleagues at work had also finished it, so that we could discuss the events from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Theories were flying around, and as I had been a Snape fan since before the first movie (saw that one with other Snape-fanx/friends in the UK), I was fervently hoping the last book would see to his redemption.

My sister had to wait before I handed over her copy of the book, because – as per her own wishes – she wanted to finish the thesis for her master’s graduation first. The day she handed it in, she stopped on her way back from Rotterdam in Leiden, and we spent a gorgeous summer afternoon and evening getting drunk on white beer and talking about everything and nothing. I have never seen her thoughts more scattered than that day!

Cue to book seven.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [spoilers]

As I promised no spoilers in this post, you will simply have to read my previous post on book seven.

I still have the intention to re-read book seven this Summer, but i am a bit hesitant to start again, with all these reviews of other people fresh in my mind.

Until this afternoon.

I have just read a wonderful review/essay by Stephen King on Harry Potter and its author JK Rowling. I might just grab the book tonight and read again. Please do not read this essay if you (still) haven’t read the last book, because as King says,

And so now the hurly-burly’s done, the battle’s lost and won — the Battle of Hogwarts, that is — and all the secrets are out of the Sorting Hat. Those who bet Harry Potter would […] turned out to be exactly that. And if you think that’s a spoiler at this late date, you were never much of a Potter fan to begin with.

(Yes, I blocked out some of the text, to keep my post spoiler-free! Emphasis is mine)

It was this essay that started my post. Admiration and love for an author and a character: what more do you need in a good book?