Books That Made Me: The Harry Potter Series

Welcome to part three of my little series about my favorite books and authors, part of this month’s #SixteensBlogAbout topic over at The Sweet Sixteens.

I’ve already written about two of the seminal books of my adolescence, Watership Down and The Lord of the Rings. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes talking to me is probably expecting this post, because I have never been a quiet Harry Potter fan.

Selections from my HP shelf.

Selections from my HP shelf.

Back in 1998, I was on a mock-Newbery committee made up of local children’s librarians. I read hundreds of books that year, and one of those was an unassuming, unknown book called Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. It showed up in the midst of a pile of other books, and I had never heard of it. I was hooked by chapter two, and stayed up all night to read it and recommended it left and right.

And then, well, you know what happened next. It’s easy to forget, now that it’s such a phenomenon, that the first Harry Potter book was rejected by just about every publisher in Britain, that it was released quietly and didn’t gain momentum until kids started passing it around on the playground. I was lucky to be able to read the first book (and the second and third, which I quickly ordered in British editions, as they weren’t yet out in the U.S.) with no expectations and no hype.

When the fourth book came out, I was at the American Library Association conference in Chicago, and I stayed up all night reading it to avoid spoilers. Around that time I also started getting involved in the online fandom, first a listserv called “Harry Potter for Grownups” (where I apparently, accidentally, ignited the HP shipping wars., but that’s another post…), and later at a wonderful site called The Sugar Quill, where I would make some of the best friends of my life. We wrote fanfiction and obsessed over plot details and came together in person from all over the U.S. to create silly podcasts and watch the movies and, of course, read the books. Some of us even got matching tattoos. And our friendships have remained strong even after Book 7.

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So, for me, though the Harry Potter books are wonderful stories and I love losing myself in that world, they are also the books that truly made me part of a giant community of readers.   My memories of the books will always be tied up with the people who made experiencing them so much fun.

And, not insignificantly, they inspired me to write. A lot. Mountains of fanfiction, which led to original fiction, which led to where I am now.

Definitely magic.

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