This week marked the 20th anniversary of the release of the first Harry Potter book, stories that changed a generation’s relationship with books and reading forever. To mark the occasion, we asked 5 of our writers to talk about the first time they laid hands on one of J.K. Rowling‘s iconic books.
Niamh And The Empty Library
I was a little late to the party on this one. One of my earliest school memories was being asked in class what our favourite books were and not being sure if Harry Potter was the author or title when other children said it. I grew up in a non-reading house so I had just about read some Dick King Smith before my best friend Daniel berated me tirelessly about reading Potter, which I only finally did after I saw Philosopher’s Stone in the cinema.
Of course, I couldn’t get it in the school library even when lying about which one was the first one to other kids. Thankfully my parents bought me the first four between them for Christmas and I read them in about a month. And, as they say, the rest is history!
Mary And The Two Forgotten Books
I wasn’t a great reader as a kid but that all changed one Christmas when ‘Santa’ got me the four book Harry Potter set by J.K. Rowling. As someone who couldn’t have cared less about books, I put that in the dud pile and focused on my new air hockey table. After getting bored of all my new toys I decided to at least take the books out of the little box they came in. I’d never seen covers like them before; two boys in a blue car that looked like they were flying high above a train, a boy on a broom stick like a witch and a fire-breathing dragon. Intrigued, I opened them and was horrified at what I considered to be ‘small writing’, deciding they’d take far too long to read and forgetting about them.
However, after Christmas when I was back in school, Harry Potter was all anyone could talk about. Obviously everyone’s parents had picked up the same four-book set. The kids in my class talked excitedly about the adventures of Harry Potter and, not wanting to be left out, I rushed home after school and cracked open the books. I’m kind of embarrassed about this but I actually couldn’t tell what book I was meant to read first because I had dumped them onto my bed all out of order. For some reason I decided that the third book, The Prisoner of Azkaban, looked like the smallest one and therefore the first one so I started that first! Kids are so dumb.
Needless to say, my class were very impressed that I’d already gotten to book 3 when they were all still reading book 2. I decided not to let on and set about reading the first two, which I did very quickly. And from then on, I was hooked. My new love of Harry Potter prompted me to read other books and start writing my own stories. It really shaped me as a person and formed the dream I still have to this day; to be a writer for a living.
Ray And The Unquenchable Thirst For Books
I came to the Harry Potter world in a very different way to most. I had heard about the books, but thought they were just for kids and never really picked them up. Then my best friend and his fiancée (who I was also friends with) wanted to go see Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone at the cinema where I worked. After seeing the film, I still didn’t quite want to read the books even though I thought the movie was really good. I figured I could just watch the movies.
A year later, we went to see Chamber of Secrets and once more I really enjoyed the film. At this time I knew my friend had the books and figured I could just borrow the first two and only read the books after each movie. I went through the first two books so fast and I wanted more. The books had only been released up to and including Goblet of Fire, so I went ahead and borrowed the next two books and was hooked on a wonderful and amazing world.
Thanks to my friend’s interest, J.K. Rowling‘s writing and an amazing story, I once again began reading books for fun instead of just for school. I pre-orderd Order of the Phoenix; I woke up at 8am to go pick up Half-Blood Prince; and I went all out for The Deathly Hallows and went to the midnight launch party at my local book store. I have read and re-read the books several times, watched the films several times more and am quite the Harry Potter afficianado now.
Tendai And The World Shared
I started reading Harry Potter when I was a little 9 year old in boarding school. That year wasn’t the best for me because I was away from my family a lot. I didn’t see them on a weekly basis (mum included) so I dove head first into the wizarding world because I needed some kind of magic to keep my spirits up.
I always loved reading as a kid but Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone was the first book I needed to be separated from to get a good night’s sleep. I read it cover to cover, more often than any school material and looked after it like it was my own personal bible. It meant a lot to me then and it means even more to me now.