Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter #1)
J. K. Rowling
I started reading the Harry Potter series in about 2001, when I was about 16 and starting college. I made friends with a girl who recommended them to me and, as my brother was reading them around the same time, borrowed the first three and sped through them. I remember we had them in paperback until Goblet of Fire, which we bought in hardback on its release.
I have read HP&TPS around five or six times now, I imagine. Visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour a few weeks ago, I was discussing HP with the group of friends I went with, and declared that one of my favourite parts of the whole series is when Harry finds out he's a wizard for the first time, and the way in which Hogwarts quickly becomes his home. A lot of the magic in book one isn't to do with spells and wands, but just in the building up of the world that Rowling creates, and the way Harry comes to life on the page.
Once again I really enjoyed reading about Harry's life with the Dursleys and the incident with the snake, before he realises he's destined to go to Hogwarts. The first glimpse of Diagon Alley and the school itself was as fun as it always was!
One of my favourite things about the book this time around was Dumbledore - his penchant for sherbet lemons, his calm, worldly vibes, his claim that he sees himself with a pair of woolly socks in the Mirror of Erised, to name a few of my favourite moments. I had forgotten how involved Neville is as the fourth member of their gang, and although I always liked the line about the bravery needed to stand up to your friends (which sees Neville awarded those crucial 10 house points at the end), it always seemed a little too convenient that Harry got 60 points, rather than the 50 awarded to everyone else.
The final battle comes surprisingly late, with most of the book given over to Harry's experiences at his new school, giving time for his relationships with Ron and Hermione to build up, which I liked. HP&TPS could almost stand alone in some ways, and I don't think there are so many hints in this one about what is to come, apart from the prophecies of the centaurs in the Forbidden Forest, but it's interesting to see that even in this book, there are threads that will recur in later books as the series becomes more sophisticated and complex.
Although the world and the events only continue to layer up and create a more complex and (often) more frightening series, this first foray into Hogwarts will always be one of my favourite parts of the series, simply because as a piece of writing for children, capturing their imagination, I think it's pretty, magically awesome.
Pick a quote:
[Dumbledore] "Would you care for a sherbet lemon?"
"A sherbet lemon. They're a kind of Muggle sweet I'm rather fond of."
"No, thank you," said Professor McGonagall coldly, as though she didn't think this was the moment for sherbet lemons.