I’ll never forget the day that my fifth-grade teacher announced we would be starting a new book for our afternoon reading time. It was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. She told us that she would read one or two chapters every afternoon.
After the first couple of chapters, I was hooked. She read too slowly for my taste, so I got my own copy to read at home. At that point, the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, had already been released, so I finished the first book and moved on to the second—all before my teacher had finished reading the first to the class.
My mom would tell you that those are the books that made me truly love reading. I had grown up with Nancy Drew and The Babysitter’s Club, but Harry Potter challenged my imagination and made me think in new ways.
A lot of skeptics and critics would tell you that these books aren’t suitable for children, but many of these people have never even picked up the books. And like the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover.
At 23-years-old, I’ve read every book roughly eight or nine times. I’ve seen all the movies. I just finished reading them all again, and I recently introduced my husband to the series, and he’s reading them for the first time. There are actually a lot of life lessons to be gained from these seven books. I thought I would share some of the insights and things I’ve learned from my years of reading this series. I could probably list more than 5, but I didn’t want this to be too long.
1. You can count on your true friends—always. I don’t think Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger ever expected their best friend to be the famous Harry Potter. Being friends with Harry wasn’t always easy, I assume. But they were loyal. They were loving. They were sometimes blunt and brutally honest. And yes, sometimes they got scared and ran away—but they always came back. The relationship between Harry, Ron, and Hermione shows how friendship is supposed to look.
2. Book smarts only get you so far in life. The smart, brilliant Hermione Granger was always at the top of the class. Her nose was often buried in a book, she made top marks in every subject, and she could tell you the history of anything in the wizarding world. But she was wise, and she knew book smarts were not the most important thing in the world. When Harry declared that he was not as smart and talented as she was, Hermione declared, “Books! And cleverness! There are more important things— friendship and bravery.” Hermione knew there was more to life than being clever and book-smart.
3. Treat others with dignity and respect. It shows your true character. Remember when Hermione started S.P.E.W.—Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare? She cared about the well being of house elves. Hagrid developed relationships with centaurs, dangerous beasts, and other creatures of the Forbidden Forest. And although he had a nasty habit of being mean to his house elf, it was Sirius Black who said, “If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
4. A mentor teaches you life lessons, but eventually you must stand on your own two feet. Spoiler alert: Nearly all of Harry’s “mentors” die. Albus Dumbledore, Sirius Black, Remus Lupin, Tonks, Mad Eye Moody, (heck, let’s even include Snape)— they all guided him, taught him, prepared him for what he was about to face. But they couldn’t hold his hand through the battle. There are some things you have to face alone.
5. Never judge a book by its cover. From the moment we meet Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, we’re inclined to hate him. He’s rude and arrogant, the head of Slytherin’s house, and has an obvious distaste for Harry. Throughout the series, however, we learn that Harry’s deceased parents, James and Lily, have a past with Snape. Snape loved Lily, Lily loved James, James hated Snape. Love triangle gone wrong. But we learn it was Snape’s love for Lily that caused him to turn his back on Voldemort after her death, to pledge allegiance to Albus Dumbledore, and to protect Harry at Hogwarts. He was torn between hating James (hence his bitterness toward Harry) and his love for Lily (why he sought to protect Harry). By the end of the last book, you find yourself in tears for judging Snape so harshly and learning about his story. Never judge a book by its cover—you never know what’s on the inside.
Read them. Enjoy them. Watch the movies (but read the books first). I’ll probably start the series again next year—they never get old.