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Good summer reads


I just finished two interesting Harry Potter books (and I’m starting on a third).

One is “Harry Potter Should Have Died” from our friends at MuggleNet. I wouldn’t call this a book of “literary analysis” — it’s too lightweight for that. But that’s not a criticism: I very much enjoyed reading this lively recap of some of the enduring mysteries of the series, such as whether Snape is ultimately good or evil, and it was fun reminding myself of the various fan ideas and opinions that have been debated endlessly for many years. Some sections were hampered by the fact that some of the reasonable options were never even considered (for example, choosing the “worst” book from only two choices instead of analysing all seven). Some entries included canon misinformation or incorrect assumptions, and some were just downright silly. But overall, the book makes for a fun read while sitting in the sun with an iced tea when you don’t feel like thinking too much and just want to splash around a little bit in Harry Potter lore.

If, on the other hand, you’re interested in diving in head-first, swimming to the deepest part of the pool, and seeing how long you can hold your breath, then Harry Potter’s Bookshelf is for you. Where the MuggleNet book makes a point of not taking itself too seriously, Harry Potter’s Bookshelf is very serious about its seriousness. This is literary analysis to the point of being a bit stuffy at times. However, this is the kind of brilliant, well-grounded stuffiness which I’ve always enjoyed; reading through (and at times wrestling with) a text of this kind leaves me feeling enlightened about Harry Potter books in a way nothing else does. John Granger is a wonderful guide on any such exploration of classic themes and connections, managing to make even the most dense analysis interesting and understandable. His penchant for lame word-play makes me groan sometimes and he, like the MuggleNet gang, makes the occasional canon misstep, but none of this in any way detracts from the book.

So which of these books would I take with me to the beach (if I went to the beach, which I don’t because, you know, I’m a nerd)? Frankly, I’d take both and shift between them. A bit of delightful fannishness, a bit of serious litarary-ness, with long sips of iced tea in between.


Pensieve (Comments)

  • Char

    I special ordered MuggleNet’s book because I don’t live in America. I received it the other day, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it too, Steve. In a word, it is “Fun”

  • Snuffles

    I always thought Harry would die in the end, well once the prophecy was revealed anyways. I never thought she would not deliver the final tragedy that we were all expecting after the books that just put it out there. Evil sometimes wins and life is not full of fluffy bunnies.

  • Seamus

    Harry Potter Should Have Died is a very good book. I recommend it to anyone who wants a good book that discusses some very interesting topics. I loved it.

  • Brian Whittle

    I am not a great fan of the “tragic hero” thing. Harry had a hard life until the end of book 7 to bump him off then would be sad.

  • yDouCare

    harry most definitly should NOT have died. The series is an escapist and the point of it is to portray a world in which justice wins over.

  • yDouCare

    What?! What happened to my post?!

  • yDouCare

    Never mind. I thought…nothing.

  • TS

    I had read neither. But I loved your short kind of analysis. And for Harry, It’s depend of the day but there’s one thing that disturb me. Where was the point in killing him and ressucite him after? If not to please as much fan JKR could?

  • Sher

    Seriously, TS? You did read the book? Harry was a horcrux- if that part of him wasn’t killed, Voldy never would have been truly defeated. That was why she had him “killed.” It wasn’t about pleasing any of the fan base, it was part of the story.

  • Nancy

    Speaking of literary criticism, “Hogwarts, Narnia, and Middle Earth: Places Upon a Time” by Rob Smith is an interesting read. It discusses similar themes from Rowling, Lewis, and Tolkein and is one of the best I’ve read.

  • Michelle

    I’m just glad Harry’s alive and happy!