Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Why Harry Potter?

Last year, NonModern used a series of posts to look at the seven “Chronicles of Narnia” books by C. S. Lewis, leading up to the release of the second movie in a franchise based on those books. This year a similar effort will be made with the series of Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling. For some reason, this seems to deserve a whole post to answer the question:


There are a lot of reasons the Harry Potter books belong on a list of “books everyone should read.”

Popularity alone is not a reason to read a book, but there is a sense in saying that Christians who wish to engage their culture should be conversant in what the culture is doing and thinking. There was value in reading “The Da Vinci Code” for that reason alone, even though the book itself was nothing more than a page turner with a lot of holes in its thought. People were reading it, and it raised issues about religion and spirituality. The Potter books are also a part of the cultural language, and are an excellent jumping off point into issues very dear to the Christian mind.

While some critics disagree, it seems as though the Potter books have earned a place in English literature to stay. They are well written, carefully thought out and bear up to multiple readings. As with other great works of literature, they have several angles of interpretation, have a lot to say about reality and human existence, and they transcend several genres and themes.

Finally (but not exhaustively), they are a joy to read. Even people who normally do not like “fantasy” books enjoy them because they are not bogged down in the fantasy elements. The world of the Harry Potter books is contemporary and accessible. The plots are tight and well thought out, and yet the characters are developed and grow throughout the series. Some of the characters in the Harry Potter books probably belong on a list of best characters in English literature, ever.

If you have not read these books either from an aversion to the genre or due to the almost fatwa-like pronouncements from “Christian leadership,” give them a shot this summer. If you have read them, it may be time to do so again. Rereading the first on after having read the seventh is a revelation!


  1. Can't wait! I love HP and I always enjoy your reviews/summaries.

  2. Yes,YES! Once again, a very well thought out piece. We can't wait!


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