LOVE TO READ – HOW HARRY POTTER CHANGED THE WORLD

Recently I saw the 8th and final Harry Potter movie on Blue Ray DVD. In an introduction to the movie celebrated author of the seven Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling, talked about the 13 year adventure from the time the first Harry Potter book was published until the time the 8th movie was finished. In case you did not know, the 7th book was long and made into two movies. They probably should have made books five and six into two movies each, but I digress.

harryPotter

The really remarkable thing about the series was not that it made eight movies, turned Daniel Radcliffe into one of the richest people in England and Rowling into a Billionaire. It is not that Radcliffe and his costars, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, are now the most famous wizards of all time, or even that a wonderful theme park was opened in Florida to celebrate the worldwide phenomenon. The remarkable thing is that it got generations of people to read. They were not reading because they were assigned these books. They were all reading because they wanted to do it.

The movie adventures came as a result of a global desire to read about Harry Potter.  It was not just hitting the New York Times bestseller list. It was rocketing through the roof.  Books were flying off the shelves like Harry in a game of Quidditch. If you don’t know that reference, than you missed out on something most of the world knows.

When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was finally published, almost exactly ten years after the first book was published, I wisely put a copy in reserve so I would not have to stand in line for the midnight release or miss out on getting a copy.

When I went to pick up my copy the following day I said to the clerk, “It must have been crazy here last night with all the kids screaming and pushing their way through.”

“The kids were not the problem,” she told me, “It was all the 20-year-olds pushing and shouting.”

It was the earliest generations of little wizards that were standing in line. Just imagine, some of them had waited half of their lives to find out what happened to the “Chosen One.” Many stayed up all night, not playing video games, but reading.

Yes, people all over the world were reading about Harry Potter, the boy wizard.

Nothing has captivated the reading public in that way since and perhaps nothing ever will again. It was the perfect mix of magic and wonder. And as Harry grew to be an adult, the stories grew to be more serious and complex. Just as Harry grew up, so did the books and with them, so did the reading public. No series had ever brought along a generation of readers from youth to adulthood merely through the pages of books.

It was the power of the books and the opinions of the followers of the boy wizard that the movies had to live up to. That is why movies five and six disappointed so many Potter fans. The books had spun the imaginations of readers into a marvelous vision of what these stories were and the movies had to cut much of the story to keep the length manageable. Reading had already painted the picture, but the movie screen did not display the scenes painted on the canvass of the mind.

Harry-Potter-And-The-Deathly-Hallows-Part-2

Thus book seven became movies seven and eight. There was no way to turn the long book into a two-hour and 25 minute movie. The only smart thing to do was exactly what the public was demanding. Film the entire book.

When book seven hit the shelves it sold 15 million copies in the first 24 hours. It has been translated into 120 languages. I bet you did not know there were that many languages. In its first week out, not only was it number one, but the other six books were in the top 20 best sellers. Everyone was loving to read the most fascinating series ever.

What about now? What about the next generation of readers? Will there be a next generation of readers? If you read the Potter series, then you know the joy of a good book. Many of us know the joy of many good books. If I had not already run up my word count with my joy of Harry Potter, I might list some of the great reads I have encountered in life.

There is nothing like a good book. It would be highly unfortunate for future generations if they did not know that. Harry Potter proves it, not just by the sales numbers but by the reaction of the reading public to the movies. Yes, they wanted the boy wizard to come to life, but they already knew what he should look like and what was happening at all the locations in the story.

Radcliffe may have come to be the Potter we saw as we read the books, but our imaginations took us to worlds only the mind can take us. Movie makers knew by book seven, they had to try to deliver something they could not, movies that matched the stories that already played out in our minds.

Teach your children or your grandchildren or your little brother or sister to read. It is not just about learning the words, it is about engaging the mind. They will find that a good book holds more excitement and wonder than a You Tube video or X-Box game. It is better than any 3-D spectacular or animated feature. The pictures it presents are the best pictures of all time, the pictures generated by the mind.

21 thoughts on “LOVE TO READ – HOW HARRY POTTER CHANGED THE WORLD

  1. Awesome read! I absolutely love the Harry Potter series. The books are phenomenal. It’s funny actually. My Grandmother bought the first book for my brother and he read it, then I read it and so did my mom and then my dad felt so left out at the dinner table because that’s all any of us ever talked about so he read it too. Before you knew it all of us were reading the series and when the seventh came out we set one aside and all had our own bookmarks in the same book because we were all reading it at the same time! (: I also very much agree with your last paragraph. Reading is one of the greatest things there is. It allows our brains to picture new things, new worlds, put faces on imaginary characters and slip into new stories where we don’t play them – we live them. Sorry my comment got so long!!

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  2. For the longest, my sister-in-law would not let my nephews read Harry Potter because she thought it was the work of the Devil. Craziness. She would really be upset if she knew the conversations my oldest nephew and I have had.

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  3. My mother insisted that I read Harry Potter just after the third book came out. Until then I knew about them but hadn’t paid much attention. I LOVE HP today, not such a fan of the movies, but I pull out the books whenever I’m feeling a little fragile and want a safety blanket. They are my literary pacifier…

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    • When I read the first book, after several others were already out, I was fascinated and could not put I down. I like the moves even though 5 and 6 were a bit of a muddle. The series should have had 10 movies. Thanks for commenting.

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  4. Harry, to me, was partly about overcoming prejudice – a prejudice against children’s literature. When the first book came out, it was seen by most people as a ‘children’s book.’ I had a tip that it was superior, and even though I have no progeny, I’ve always reserved a little life-span for high quality books written for younger generations. When I dipped into the book, the beginning, with Harry under the stairs being harassed by two stereotypical e-vil substitute parents, seemed woodenly simplified. I had to just set to and break trail through that part, hoping things would get better. Suddenly, the story took off, and the course of the next decade was set. I read every new book as soon as I could get my hands on it, without ever going so far as to wait in a first-day line-up. The most hot water I’ve ever been in in my relationship of 30-odd years is the day that I read a new Harry at the beach in Moloka’i when my partner wanted to go for a long walk down the beach. It was the ‘you just ignore me’ trope. Wizardry is dangerous to mess with.

    The series is a curious reflection of the zeitgeist. It is as atheistic as Dawkins, but it still appropriates Christmas to itself, just as Japan now does. Apparently the universe needs Christmas on the calendar – rotating feasts like the Eids haven’t had the same impact on diverse cultures. It also features the battle between the good-in-humankind, represented by the mysteriously designated ‘everyman’ hero – Frodo played by Harry – and ultra-romanticised arch-evil. What a motif for our time, when we wrestle grimly to regain control over everything we’ve lost – our union-propped wage economy sold to Asia, our military forces routinely snubbed by ragged guerrillas following despotic leaders, and our brave, rock-powered sexual revolution turned over to reveal thousands of hypocritical, homophobic priests taking their chance to grasp at altar boys. What can we do to expel the wands of evil when the newspapers and television channels surround us with their billionaire-funded parseltongue every day?

    At least good could win out in the Harry series. My opinion as a realpolitiker is that the Sauron/Voldemort vision of evil will not help us, even though it does well as entertainment. I wrote my own fantasy novel deliberately free of this phantasm, leaving the evil in it to surface as it does in real life, in the self-obsessions of characters who may also have virtues or apparent virtues. But my royalties for the last quarter were $19.20, so this may have been an error.

    But then, so much in real life is an error. And I say this as an incurable optimist and celebrator of life. I just have to acknowledge the dark side, and carry on battling it as we all must. We can celebrate Harry as our talisman, our great cultural agreement that good is good.

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    • Thanks for taking the time to comment on the various elements of the stories. The books are ultimately a great version of good triumphing over evil. By the end Rowling has woven many of the great themes of literature into here stories.
      As for book royalties, keep in mind that it took JK Rowling a long time to get her boy wizard off the ground.

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  5. Loved the movies – very well done – great casting. Had the books, but just couldn’t read them – for whatever reason? The movies are very re-watchable however.
    Who would have ever thought she could become a billionaire off of them though?! Extraordinary.

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