Why is Harry Potter so popular?
I can’t find a newspaper or a news report this morning that isn’t glomming on to “Potter Fever.”
I think it is great kids and parents are staying up late to buy books together but are they actually reading the books or are they just being sucked into a giant advertising machine?
I understand this kind of mania for a concert or a play or a sporting event or even a movie in a real theatre because those are one-off events that have a limited life in their original forms: You stand in line for those experiences so you can claim a unique viewing.
Harry Potter books have a shelf life of forever! The experience will always be the same and the beauty of a book is it does not change from generation to generation: Your Harry Potter is your children’s grandchildren’s Harry Potter. Are people standing Potter lines so they can claim a first edition… from a run of 11 million copies?
I’ve read a couple of the Potter books and they’re good, but not great.
I find the movies of the books marginal.
What am I missing?


  1. I’ve never read the books – something my husband reminds me of regularly :-). He’s a big fan of them, I think, because of the storyline. He’s a huge comic book fan, and I think that plays into it.
    I’ve seen the movies, and I’ve found them enjoyable, especially the third. I think they do a good job of creating that world of Hogwarts, and I love Alan Rickman as Snape. When he says “Potter,” it seems like he’s spitting it with disgust.
    I also think it’s cool that Rowling seems to use Latin words for spells – something educational for the younger readers – although I could have that wrong since I haven’t read the books.
    My husband will be getting his copy of the sixth book today from Amazon. He’s done so in the past as well, probably because he wants to beat the spoilers that end up coming out. However, he has potentially had this book ruined for him. He was visiting Ain’t It Cool.com, where they had listed a few of the chapter titles for about five minutes before legal representatives politely asked for them to be removed – and someone posted some of the major details of Half-Blood Prince. Needless to say, my husband was pissed.
    The merchandising is excessive, and I also think the security around this book is ridiculous. I heard or read something the other day about how we can’t find Bin Laden or Al-Quaeda, but we can figure out who’s bought and sold advance copies of Half-Blood Prince.
    Okay, this was longer than I anticipated, so I’m shutting up now.

  2. I can’t say why the books are so popular. I’m an adult so can’t speak for the younger set that read them. I like them because I like those type of books. But I what I do like, is that kids are reading again. And if books like HP get the kids away from the TV set and into books, that’s okay with me.
    Came in via BE

  3. I tend to believe that the popularity of magic and magical beings along with fundamentalism helps to fill a void that we have in out ever technological society.
    We have seen it throughout history and it is happening now.
    As far as finding Osama Bin Laden, that is a fair comparison. It is like saying, “We can put a man on the moon, but wecan’t fix the pot hole in from of my house.” It all depends on what society values and right now it values escapism from all this stuff.

  4. Carla!
    Your post is fascinating. I admire you for not being sucked into the Potter mania.
    I, too, am an Alan Rickman fan but the three lead kids are pretty awful actors. The one who plays Potter is unbearably untrained and bad.
    I have great admiration for Rowling’s mind for business. She does a great job providing product for the advertising mill.
    I think the security breaches are all part of the PR and none of them are real. The PR team plans these leaks in faraway places with people who are part of their big blitz and then the breaches are “legitimized” via news reports (more on that later) picking up the story to try to make the book more valuable than its pages by adding fear and menace to the faked events but it’s all still only selling soap.

  5. Jo —
    Thanks for the note! I think you likely have it all right and I hope the kids are really reading the books and not just buying the books and using them as doorstops. 🙂

  6. Wow, I guess I’m a little naive by never thinking publishers/PR reps would fake leaks like that.
    And one other thing I forgot to add in the first post, I think you’ve opened yet another can of worms – a la your “children pictures on blog” post. 🙂

  7. Hi Carla!
    Most news reports you see today that aren’t about tragedies or are “placed” there by PR people or other special interests.
    I have even more wormy cans here on my shelf! Just wait! 🙂

  8. I read the first book because the Christian fundamentalists were all over it, claiming that it involved witchcraft and demanding that it be banned from public libraries. Wanting to see what all the fuss was about, I bought a copy and read it.
    The story enthralled me to the point where I felt like I was there with those kids. I read the book to my kids, who immediately fell in love with Harry Potter. I’ve since taken them to all the movies, and bought them an HP video game, which my husband quickly commandeered. 😉
    I’ve read the first two books myself, and bought the third. But my life has become so hectic that it’s still sitting on my pile of “To Reads.”
    I find the commercialism rather typical. Carla made a good conclusion about the PR stunts. Rowling has one helluva marketing team.
    You won’t find me standing in line at midnight to buy her books, but I will buy them because they are good. There is no doubt in my mind that Harry Potter will be a classic for years to come.
    Why is Harry Potter so popular? I think it’s the innocence of those kids, which is something we haven’t seen over the last two generations. Then there’s Rowling’s imagination and writing, which is spellbinding (pardon the pun).
    Keep throwing those wormy cans at us, David. Your blog is the one of the few that I read everyday.

  9. I stood in line last night to buy the latest Potter book. I did it for the fun. It’s interesting to see all the people that show up to stand in line…..little kids, big kids, and adults — many of them dressed up. For me, it’s not the “I need to have this book the minute it’s released!” that drives me to stand in line for a few hours…..it’s the atmosphere 🙂

  10. Deborah!
    Wow! What a great message! I had no idea about the early history of the Potter books. I am quite happy to know the efforts to censor the books did not work. Let people make up their own minds. Let the marketplace of ideas earn or fail without outside provocation. If you don’t like the book, don’t buy the book!
    Having great, well-reasoned and well-written comments is what makes writing this blog worthwhile. 🙂

  11. Muhree —
    I love the Plutarch quote on your website!
    I cannot believe you stood in line for the atmosphere! 🙂 How long did you stay? Did you take photographs? How many books did you buy?

  12. You’ve odviously never read a HP Book. They are at least 1200-1500 pages so it’s more then just a book it’s a complete adventure. Esp. in a day where there are video games, TV, DVD’s getting a kid to actually read a 1200 page book is next to impossible. But as the sells have shown people all over the work love the stories. Even long before the movies or the toys kids where buying the books like Hot CAkes. I was a disbeliever myself until I actully read HP and the Goblet of Fire. It’s was like the best book I’ve read in years. Then I had to read them all.

  13. The books are wonderful, but there are tons of other good books on the shelf. But it’s a lot simpler to just pull out a “Harry”. Parents want an instant fix to the fact that their kids don’t read, never thinking it could be because they don’t ENCOURAGE them to read–and because they don’t read themselves!
    No book could be as good as the Potters are hyped to be–but as long as there are millions of overindulgent parents who think their kids HAVE to have whatever they want the second they want it, the publishers can keep cranking up the hysteria….

  14. Hi Library Lady!
    Ah, you make some interesting points! Perhaps these books baby-sit more than they should.
    I think you’re right on they hysteria cranking!

  15. Harry Potter is a great thing for modern literature. It revived the reading culture among the children and youths.
    We have studied the novels and we are impressed.
    The Casting Director has not been perfect for some characters in the films. But the actor playing Harry is perfect for that role.

  16. Hello Osinachi!
    It’s good to hear from you again. 🙂
    I think the kid playing Potter looks the role, but his acting has no depth. He uses a lot of acting crutches to find his dark side.
    The worst of the Potter movie child actors is the one who plays the bad blonde kid. He thinks acting is sneering.

  17. I do believe that children are reading the books and certainly not using them as “doorstops”. Personally, I think it’s great that these books are encouraging children to read and it’s great that yesterday and today millions of children are sitting in their rooms reading and not playing video games. Hopefully these books have helped them to discover other books as well.
    It is rather overhyped, but the standing in line is really no different than the people who stand in line for hours to watch the latest Star Wars. I guess there’s an excitement in finally viewing a film/reading a book that you’ve been anxiously waiting for.

  18. Well, in my opinion- having read all the books- is that plain and simple they are marvelously written.
    I’m an adult and enjoy reading the Harry Potter series.
    I think it appeals to so many because there are elements of mystery and fantasy. The idea that there just might be wizards and witches in the world is fascinating to some people.

  19. Christie!
    I appreciate your enthusiasm for the Harry Potter series and I certainly respect your thoughts on the quality of the writing and its enticement of the imagination.

  20. Hi, newbie here.
    Last night, I took the Harry Potter Meyers-Briggs to procrastinate. My results? INTJ, which I knew, and Snape, which horrified me. Then I figured a little research was better than writing a white paper … and here I am. And here you are, talking about Harry Potter. So.
    I love Harry Potter. It evokes childhood, and the same sense of wonder I got from reading when I was a kid, like physically stepping into the pages. Nothing one reads as an adult comes close to that magic. But Harry Potter comes close.
    The movies are awful.

  21. Dearest Zia —
    I read your comment about 10 times before realizing I should just click on your blog to try to figure you out 🙂 and there you were with the answer!
    How strange and odd and awful that we are Snape. Hmph!

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