Today it is TWENTY YEARS since Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was published and it was actually a book that changed my life. Yeah I know that sounds gushy and over dramatic Drama Queeny but it is actually true.
I loved books as a child. Every summer and weekend I'd be in the library all day and then out playing with my friends, acting out all the cool ideas that I thought of based on the book adventures I'd had. Life was never dull and books were my friend. As I went into secondary school the endless homework left little time to read for fun and the books I had to read for school were the 'classics' like To Kill A Mockingbird, Animal Farm, Pygmalion, Sons and Lovers (*gag*), Death of a Salesman, Catcher in the Rye...I just didn't enjoy them as they did nothing to fire my imagination in the way Enid Blyton and other authors had. Reading was a bit of a chore. Reading became infrequent and then college began. Spare time was spent eating out or in the student union bar and only my Stephen King and Richard Laymon compulsion had me reading anything at that point. Slowly the thirst for reading stirred a bit but it was snuffed out like a candle when I got my first job. I had no time or energy to read and I was stressed all the time. Several jobs followed and my health was declining a bit. Reading was no longer on my agenda.
A month before I had to sign off sick from my job, one of the girls asked if I'd read Harry Potter. I wrinkled my nose and said 'those kids books? Eh, no!' She said they were funny and full of action with great characters and that they were for adults too. I wasn't convinced! I mean WHY would I want to read about kids at a wizard school??? I ended up off sick and every day just felt like a miserable struggle with depression and my dad said I should try to occupy my mind with a bit of reading. I used to be in online book clubs and I thought I'd join again...those joining offers were usually pretty good. I saw that one of the books offered was a box set of the first four Harry Potter books for three or four pounds and I thought 'why not'. The day the books arrived, I started the Philosopher's Stone. I was giggling about Uncle Vernon and the letters and owls...by the end of the week I'd demolished all four!
It wasn't just the characters that drew me in though I loved the humour of Fred and George, the malice of Malfoy, and saw myself in Hermione! (I'm not as clever though but I was a swot!) It was that rich world-building...the shops of Diagon Alley, Harry's back story, a new sport to enjoy, the magical creatures, the classes and spells...it was mind-blowing. I'd have went mad for Harry as a kid and it was the same as an adult. I just wanted to have gone to Hogwarts and all those amazing classes! Wouldn't you rather do charms than maths??? I always figured I'd be sorted into Hufflepuff as I did work hard at school. I was totally swept up in the adventures. I had a very short time to wait for book five (three months) and it was hell waiting for the last two but boy did they deliver! I was a FAN!
That series delivered so much on so many levels that I don't think I'll ever see something that good again that both children and adults can go mad for. You should have seen the way I grabbed The Cursed Child when it came out! (and I loved it too!) But the legacy of Harry Potter for me isn't just great books. It awoke the reading giant who was slumbering within my body. I wanted to read more about werewolves and put it into a search engine and found Goodreads articles about Kelley Armstrong and Patricia Briggs. Then I looked up vampires on the site as I'd loved Buffy and The Lost Boys and I saw Jeaniene Frost and Charlaine Harris. Now I was seeing the term 'urban fantasy' and it launched me into amazing book adventures! Then came zombies, demons, and all kinds of creatures. I've never looked back.
Thank you so much JK Rowling for those amazing books and for bringing me back to reading when it was sort of lost to me. By discovering urban fantasy, I then crashed into dystopia and my beloved apocalypse and prepper fiction. I've found so many amazing books since then and I am so much happier for it. Without getting back to reading the depression could have crippled me, and reading is how I manage it. That's why Harry Potter changed my life.
Still, I'd like some books on James and Sirius at school, the rise of Voldemort and the first war though...pretty please...???!!! Coz that would be, y'know, wizard!!!