Unlocking Magic By Reading Harry Potter for the First Time
The story of children’s books teaching a grown man a lesson
I hadn’t been asleep long when it happened. A noise, like skin slapping wood, reached my ears from somewhere in the apartment. The sound jolted me awake.
Then my mind said, “Nick awoke with a fright.” The noise was the accidental outcome of something someone did on the sidewalk outside my bedroom window. But from where did, “Nick awoke with a fright” come?
Writers, like me, live inside their heads. We narrate and analyze every inch of our existence. But my probing and chronicling take place in the first person when I’m the subject of these thoughts. I don’t use the third person when referring to myself. Also, I never use the word fright.
So from where did the phrase, “Nick awoke with a fright” come? That’s when I remembered the series of books I was reading for the first time: Harry Potter.
Never too late
Many of us discover new hobbies or create new ways of living after becoming adults. For you, it may be cross-stitching or yoga. Or, you decide to try a new type of food or start volunteering somewhere.
It’s an exquisite thing, unearthing new parts of this world that delight and relax you. You could say it’s the mark of a well-rounded individual. This is how I felt while reading Harry Potter for the first time.
The first Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone came out in 1997. I was a junior in high school. By that time, I’d started reading grown-up books, like those by John Grisham and Michael Crichton. No way was I going to read a children’s book.
“Pottermania” gripped the globe with every new Harry Potter book. But I was ignorant of what I was missing. I don’t even remember the release of the final Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, in 2007. It was no more an event to me than it was if you bought a tub of sour cream that year.
Of course, I’d heard of Harry Potter and his creator, J.K. Rowling. And, yes, I knew there were movies. I was even aware of college kids starting intramural quidditch clubs, the fictitious sport played in the Potter books.
I was an adult, though. And adults didn’t read Harry Potter, I believed. But then Stephen King convinced me otherwise.
Ten years after the Potter series concluded, I read Stephen King’s writing guidance book, On Writing. King lists at the end of On Writing the best books he’d “read over the last three or four years.” To my surprise, the list contained three Harry Potter books:
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
That’s when I realized I’d been wrong, and not only about Harry Potter. Yes, I was wrong to think the Harry Potter books were only for kids. But I also failed to realize that a good story transcends age.
And that’s how I came to be a 36-year-old man reading Harry Potter for the first time. I started with the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I read it in six days.
In all, it took me 59 days to read all seven Potter books. After I finished the final Potter book, I started wondering if I regretted not having read the series earlier in life. No, I decided. I did not.
Sure, I missed being part of Pottermania. I would have watched the Potter movies when they came out in theaters. And I may have even found a way to try quidditch.
But I discovered Harry Potter at a pivotal moment in my life. I tried reading Potter because of Stephen King’s book, On Writing. And I was reading King’s writing guide because I was ready, once and for all, to give being a writer a shot.
Where I come from, writing isn’t something people do. It’s not a hobby, and it’s not an occupation. Yet, at age 36, I accepted that being a writer was within my realm of possibility. So I turned to books such as Stephen King’s On Writing.
Thus I discovered Harry Potter at the perfect time. I was trying to understand writing as an art form. So, I needed to explore storytelling. And who better to learn storytelling from than J.K. Rowling?
For years I refused to read a series of books I thought were for kids. And I shut-down the idea of being a writer. Yet when I opened myself to new possibilities, I discovered the joy of reading Harry Potter. That’s what Harry Potter taught me.
We limit our opportunities. We restrict the scope of what we can do. But sometimes we’re forced to reconsider our position. And, if we do, we can uncover magic.