50 Books to Read Before You Die

words to inspire before you expire

Tag: Harry Potter

Off-Topic: Definitive Ranking of All 50 Books

Good morning, class.

I love making lists. Ever since I started this blog I’ve been anxious to put the list of “50 Books to Read Before You Die” in order, from least favorite all the way up to favorite. I had to read them all first—so here’s a three-years-long dream coming true. I’ve read Every. Single. One.

To be honest, I paid more attention to the very least favorite and the top ten. The middle-ranked books got organized with a little less scrutiny. But I really can’t stand Martin Amis’ Money: A Suicide Note so it’s at the bottom. I wish I could unread it.

50.Money: A Suicide Note by Martin Amis
49.On the Road by Jack Kerouac
48.A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul
47.Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
46.The Quiet American by Graham Greene
45.The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
44.The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
43.Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
42.The Stranger by Albert Camus
41.Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
40.Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
39.The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
38.The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
37.A Passage to India by E. M. Forster
36.The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
35.The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
34.The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
33.A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
32.Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
31.Lord of the Flies by William Golding
30.Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
29.The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
28.Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
27.Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
26.The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
25.Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway
24.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
23.The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
22.Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
21.Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
20.Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
19.Hamlet by William Shakespeare
18.Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
17.1984 by George Orwell
16.The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien
15.One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
14.Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
13.The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
12.The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
11.Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
10.The Color Purple by Alice Walker
9.Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
8.The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Timeby Mark Haddon
7.His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
6.The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
5.The Bible by Various
4.Life of Pi by Yann Martel
3.To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2.Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling
1.Ulysses by James Joyce

Yes, of course Ulysses is my top pick. I know it’s certainly not everyone’s favorite, I know it’s one of my several biases . . . but I love it anyway.

After writing this list out, I looked back at some of my older posts—looks like I condemned ranking books a few times, making my list here a bit hypocritical. Well, maybe a person can’t compare one book to another in a hierarchical system like this . . . I may pick Ulysses as my favorite, but I can’t just pick it up and read it for fun the same way I can with a Harry Potter book. And, to be fair, while I picked Ulysses for the way it changed my perspective as a reader, and for the way it portrayed love and humanity, it’s not like Harry Potter didn’t do that for me first.

If I have a point, I guess it’s that a book’s meaning to you as a reader will constantly change—and that there are as many books as there are people, and as many complicated feelings about stories as there are relationships.

I’ve got one more blog post planned—I want to share some of my personal reflections about reading all 50 books. Then you can all graduate from Prof. Jeffrey’s class.

Until then,

Prof. Jeffrey

Off-Topic: Favorite Movie Adaptations (From the List)

Welcome back class.

Movies have always connected with me. My interest in writing comes from falling in love with the stories in movies—and one of the greatest things a movie can do is bring a novel to life. It’s never perfect and often falls short—it takes severe dedication, risk, and miracle work, and even then the stars need to align correctly. When it does work, though, the result is imagination made into reality.

From many books on the list of 50 Books to Read Before You Die, several filmmakers, writers, actors, composers, designers, and artists have taken a powerful story, done the heavy lifting, and made a faithful adaptation—the authors’ and readers’ dream-come-true. Some are good, some are great, and some are above and beyond my favorites.

So here they are, my favorite movie adaptations from the list of 50 Books to Read Before You Die—in order of release date (and click on the links to see what I thought of the original novels!).

Actor Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

When a classic novel is put to screen, it’s unlikely that it competes with the original—much less becomes a classic itself. To Kill a Mockingbird does just that. The movie has stood the test of time, much like the novel, and is a powerful perspective on race, racism, Southern culture, morality, and childhood.

There are several things that make the movie special, but the cherry on top is always going to be actor Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. I’ve never seen him in anything else, but this movie alone proves to me he was one of the greatest actors of his time, and his compassionate, reserved, and compelling portrayal of such a wise father and dedicated lawyer stands out as one of the movie’s strongest attributes. He is one of my favorite father figures in both literature and film, and there’s only a handful of characters I can say that about.

Actress Whoopi Goldberg, who portrayed Celie in The Color Purple (1985)

The Color Purple (1985)

This was one of the first movies from Steven Spielberg that proved he could do it all—not just sci-fi adventures or summer blockbusters, but serious dramas that come from places of pain and joy and soul. After movies like E.T. and the Indiana Jones franchise, he helped bring to life the story a black woman separated from her sister, who subsequently discovers her sexuality and challenges the lot life has given her. The movie was beautiful and made me cry as much as the book did.

I grew up seeing Whoopi Goldberg as the comedic counterpart of any movie she was in; but seeing her in The Color Purple as Celie changed my view of her. She portrayed a woman who knew only hardship and grief, who had had her life stripped away from her, and who was able to find love and mercy in the everyday terror of her life. It’s not an easy movie to watch (neither is the book easy to read); but it’s the kind of movie that tells a worthwhile story, and in an age of action-packed blockbusters, The Color Purple is a precious gem.

Kenneth Branagh, director of and lead star in Hamlet (1996)

Hamlet (1996)

There are lots of Hamlet‘s out there. There are at least five Hamlet movies I know of acclaimed enough to be worth mentioning. But Kenneth Branagh’s version is my favorite for many reasons. For one thing, it’s one of the only Hamlet adaptations that put the entire drama to screen—and it paid the price, clocking in at a four-hour running time and milking the original text for all it’s worth.

Hamlet (1996) didn’t limit itself to accuracy though—it also happens to take place in the 19th century, far beyond Shakespeare’s time, and the dynamic setting and garish colors make a point of proving that true Shakespearean genius has never been limited to the words on the page. Most of Kenneth Branagh’s adaptations of Shakespeare have been masterpieces, and this one is arguably the best modern Shakespeare movie there is.

Movie poster for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

The Harry Potter Series (2001 – 2011)

I’m not picking a favorite Harry Potter movie (nor am I picking a least favorite, and believe me, I have a couple in mind). No, I take this childhood-altering series altogether, magic and warts and all—this movie franchise defined a huge portion of my life, and the ten-year journey I took with the characters in these films (along with the child actors that my generation and I grew up with) is half of the reason these are some of my favorite movies ever.

I have to admit something I don’t like to admit. I read all of the Harry Potter books before seeing the movies . . . all except the first one. For as much as I love reading, I can drag my feet around a new book unless I have a good reason to dive into it—something interesting to look for, or if it’s somehow pertinent to my life. This was the case for the first Harry Potter book, which I ignored until being swept up by the magic of the movie adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and that started a reading journey that has affected me to this day. Most of what I’ve read in my lifetime stemmed from a love of the Harry Potter series, and all of my love for the Harry Potter series stemmed from my love for that first movie—and I’m overwhelmingly grateful for it.

From left to right: Actors Dominic Monaghan, Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd, and Sean Astin portraying Meriadoc Brandybuck, Frodo Baggins, Peregrin Took, and Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001).

The Lord of the Rings (2001 – 2003)

The Lord of the Rings movies are some of the best movies ever made. Not just the best book-to-film adaptations, not just the best fantasy movies . . . they’re some of the best, period. There are movies where the amazing dedication of filmmakers combines with an alignment of the stars that blesses the work from beginning to end—this is the case for all 9 hours of this fantasy trilogy.

These movies are some of my favorites for several reasons—the most important of which is that I watched them growing up, right alongside Harry Potter. The actors are perfect, notably Andy Serkis, Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin . . . and the list could go on! The aesthetics and special effects make this trilogy stand out as one of the most beautiful stories ever put to film—these movies proudly delivered Tolkien’s masterful world on a silver screen. It’s worth noting that the music by Howard Shore is some of the best movie music ever composed. The movies do such a good job of telling the original story that they have earned a place in my heart beyond what the book was able to accomplish—there aren’t many movies that can boast the same.

Matthew Macfayden and Keira Knightley in Pride and Prejudice (2005)

Pride and Prejudice (2005)

This one surprised me. I didn’t expect a movie about a woman finding love in Victorian Era England to be so impressive, but it roped me in. The colors, the music, the elaborate nature of each scene . . . the emotional undercurrent of every interaction and the display of intelligence in every creative decision, all of it tied together so succinctly. I could fawn over this movie for days.

The 1990s mini-series is worth mentioning in the same breath, for its stronger sense of accuracy and its dedication to what makes the original novel so special. But there’s something about the 2005 movie that takes the spirit of the story and transforms it into film. Part of it has to do with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden, the two amazing actors that brought Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy to life. There’s always something special happening when Knightley is on screen in any movie, often being her most Victorian self, and Macfayden seemingly came out of nowhere born to play the awkward, reserved, frustrating, deeply passionate Mr. Darcy. Pride and Prejudice was always simultaneously social commentary and a love story for the ages, and this movie manages to bring that much to life and more.

There are other movies out there adapted from the list that I haven’t seen, so this is a tentative line up—but like any good English major, I plan on reading the books first, so those other movies will have to wait.

I’m finishing up Moby-Dick and I’ll share my thoughts soon. More on that next time!

Prof. Jeffrey

Off-Topic: Favorite Characters From the List (so far)

Good morning class.

Now that I’m over halfway through the 50-books list, I’ve seen quite a set of characters that stand out. So I’ve chosen my favorites of the bunch. Characters that shock me, make me wonder, thrill me to the bone, terrify me, make me weep, show me how to be myself . . . they’re all here, in alphabetical order (by last name, because after all, this is a class).

  • Lyra Belacqua from His Dark Materials Trilogy

I’m almost cheating here—I’ve only finished books one and two of this trilogy, The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife (blog post pending). But those two books have been enough to show me how amazing this 12-year old girl is. She can lie through her teeth without second guessing herself, fooling every adult enemy that crosses her path, and she is fierce, determined, and brave in every dangerous situation she approaches. She isn’t perfect, though, and her sense of morality is far too black and white (at least at first) to help her make difficult choices. But even when she takes things too far, I can’t help but admire her no-holds-barred heroism against more competent enemies and her unending kindness toward her friends.

Actor Milo O’Shea as Leopold Bloom in the movie version of “Ulysses” (1967)

With the way I gush about Ulysses, I’m sure this entry doesn’t surprise any of you. As much as I would have liked to have chosen the rambling and coarse Molly Bloom or the moody and literary Stephen Dedalus, my favorite character from Ulysses is the thoughtful, scientific, compassionate Leopold Bloom. He loves animals, embraces his feminine side, and changes the world by acts of kindness. He is a hero—not an ancient hero of physical strength and battle-readiness, but a modern hero of artistic subtlety and active love. The world would be a lot better with men like this.

Christopher is the most unique character from any novel I’ve read—not because of his autism, but because of the way his autism is portrayed. We don’t look at him from the outside . . . we look at the rest of the world through his eyes. He shows us how life is like prime numbers, and how animals somehow speak a universal language, and how love is a very tricky thing to define. His life can be difficult to watch, especially when his disability puts his safety in jeopardy, but his story is an amazing one that wouldn’t be half as great without him.

Most people who look at The Great Gatsby would be more impressed by Jay Gatsby himself . . . but every time I read this novel I am more and more enamored by Daisy Buchanan. As the love Gatsby is always chasing, and as a close family member of the narrator, she is almost entirely painted in a positive light, and it makes it that much harder to see how terrible she is. She is far too wrapped up in her own rich lifestyle, cares nothing for her daughter, and eventually stoops to murder to punish her husband for his affair, while the murder ultimately gets pinned on Gatsby. But I end up sympathetic to her, for reasons I can’t explain—she is pushed around by the men in her life who care more about their own passions, and she is trapped by the money she married into. I rarely feel so much anger, pain, curiosity, and pity toward a single character.

First Lines and an Illustration

Holden is another character I don’t really like—that is, if I met him in person, I would be near him for long. But reading about him is one of the more incredible experiences I’ve had reading a novel, because he is a force to be reckoned with. One never knows what he’ll say next, or what he’ll think in his twisted mind, forcing himself to be an outsider surrounded by “phonies.” But it’s not simply interesting to read his story—his angst is far too relatable, and his compassion (which he does a good job of hiding from readers) is far too powerful. Holden is a scary mirror to look into, but he’s also a touching and comforting hero on the search for happiness like we all are.

Again, most people would probably say Atticus Finch, Scout’s father, is their favorite character from this novel; there’s nothing wrong with that, because Atticus is perfect. Even a little too perfect. Scout, on the other hand, is a beautiful mess. She loves reading and hates school, gets in fights to defend her father, and always finds interesting ways to get into trouble. I love watching her transform from a free-spirited, sometimes bratty little girl into someone older . . . not quite an adult, but still someone who gains one of the most mature qualities a person can have: empathy. Her childhood is honest and hilarious to witness, making her easily one of my favorite characters from any novel.

Samwise Gamgee, portrayed by actor Sean Astin in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

Among all the serious and somber heroes from this trilogy, Samwise is the goofy friend and sidekick, and it makes him stand out. But if he was only a fool, he would be no different from Merry and Pippin, who are just as goofy; but Samwise is more than that. Samwise is loyal to Frodo and, in his own comic way, wiser than everyone they meet on their journey. As much as what he does makes me laugh, he does just as much that warms my heart and makes me cheer. Every fantasy story I’ve read or watched since The Lord of the Rings has needed a hero like Frodo and a friend like Sam, or it couldn’t even compare, and I think that says a lot about Samwise himself.

Emma Watson as Hermione Granger

Speaking of other fantasy stories, I’ll always have a place in my heart for Harry Potter, and I think Harry himself is an amazing hero to lead the series—on par with Frodo. Harry has Ron in the same way Frodo has Samwise, but more importantly, Harry has Hermione. She is brilliant, supportive, and headstrong in their small group of friends. It wasn’t until I grew up and reread the series that I realized how much Hermione did for her friends, and how important she was to the series—not just for the plot, but for feminism and its reputation in fantasy. I can trace my current feminist beliefs back to my first encounters with Hermione, her toughness, her cleverness, and her emotional arc over seven amazing books.

And last but not least is a unique character from a peculiar story. Pi of Life of Pi is hard to describe—he is a heavily religious 16 year-old boy from India, who has an incredible love for stories. It’s possible that his love of stories is what drives him to create a fiction about being trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger, after his entire family dies on a sinking ship in the Pacific. There is no proof that the story is false, though the much more believable story is that he survived without taming a tiger alone on the open sea, so the adult Pi telling this story asks the audacious question: which is the better story? And it’s those that pick the story with the tiger that are the real believers, the real story-tellers, who live a more fulfilled life. For that, Pi’s story is one of my favorites, and Pi is one of my favorite characters because of it.

And that’s my list! I’m still reading Brave New World, so show up for class next time to hear my thoughts.

Until then, enjoy your week!

Prof. Jeffrey

Off-Topic: Novels I’m Thankful For

Happy Thanksgiving, class! In theme with the holidays, I have created a list of the novels I am most thankful for. This time, students, it’s personal.

To clarify: I’m not listing the best novels, or even my favorite novels. These are simply novels that have changed my life. If it made me who I am today, it qualifies. I’m also including works that are kind of novels, but I’m excluding anything that clearly is not a novel. Hamlet and The Bible are on the “50-Books” list, but neither of them are novels, so they aren’t here.

Here’s the list, in unbiased alphabetical order:

  • The Boxcar Children Series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

These are the first books I remember reading. Warner’s kid-friendly mysteries involved four siblings, always dealing with personal struggles, but always outsmarting their own situations by working together. The Boxcar Children started me on a path of reading with desperation—to find out how it ends, to solve the mystery, to discover the twist. It was also a series that I started reading with my mom and older sister, so it tends to bring emotional roots to the surface. Eventually, though, I started reading ahead of them. They were going too slow.

  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

On the opposite end of the spectrum is a profound and challenging kind-of-novel. Citizen is a lyrical portrayal of the kind of racism the modern American experiences. With hodgepodged prose-poetry and powerful pictures, Rankine describes American citizenship in the context of the racism that still plagues our country. I put it on this list because nothing has helped me understand modern racism and white privilege more completely, as well as the distance we have yet to travel as a society in order to achieve equality.

  • The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

Sometimes, I use this series to define me, as well as the generation I’m a part of. The Boxcar Children taught me to read desperately, and the first time I read these books, I missed the subtleties as I flew through each chapter. The Harry Potter movies revealed what I had missed, and then the books showed me what the movies had missed—Harry Potter taught me the value of rereading, so much so that I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read each book. It’s also just plain awesome.

Read my previous post on Harry Potter to learn more!

  • Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss

Surprisingly, this book had more meaning as I grew up. As a child, I don’t remember reading it, but I picked it up again for a strange assignment in college (I’ll spare you the gory details). But suddenly, with my career choices ahead of me and my future in question, this book made all kinds of sense. Dr. Seuss’ works have a way of speaking to the soul, bypassing the mental challenge of reading entirely. Though I could have chosen any of his other soul-speaking works, this one gave me the best advice, and I’m particularly grateful for that.

  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

This is one of those novels that isn’t really my favorite. I like it, certainly, but it took me two tries to really get into it. My first try reading this novel was a catastrophic nightmare (again, I’ll spare you the gory details), but when I read it again, there was a moment that sticks with me to this day. I was speaking to my dad about parts of the novel that impressed me, and about the characters, and the symbolism, and this cool part over here and that cool part over there…when he stopped me and asked if I had ever considered being a teacher.

That conversation changed my life. On one hand, it gave me the inspiration to discover the passion and empathy I have with children, and the beauty in that incredibly important job. On the other hand, it has caused me more strife, anguish, and panic than I have ever experienced. As odd as it seems, I am thankful for both the good and the bad that came of it.

  • Ulysses by James Joyce

I’ll be saving most of my Ulysses discussion for the blog post dedicated to it, way off somewhere in the future, but it would be a disservice not to mention it. Everything I’ve read since reading Ulysses feels different. My own writing feels different. Ulysses taught me to see differently, to question even the most fundamental truths, and to understand the everyday human experience as an epic journey out into the world and back again. I finished it almost a year ago now, and I still fell a swell of awe and beauty remembering the heroes of Joyce’s Dublin.

  • Wicked by Gregory MaGuire

My last selection is a complicated choice, but I ultimately chose it for the same reason Harry Potter impacted me. Harry Potter grew up, and the series grew up with him, and I grew up with the series. Wicked did something similar—it took a story I knew and made it more adult (by that, of course I mean it was more chaotic, more complicated, and less censored than the original). Excluding classroom literature assignments, I think this is the first truly “adult” book I ever read. It entered me into a world I didn’t really like, but couldn’t look away from either, and it’s deliberate non-structure, harsh political themes, and challenging ideas about evil strained my previously held notions.

You knew this question was coming—what books are you thankful for? Let me know in the comments.

I won’t be able to post next week—class is officially cancelled (and I LOVE that I have the power to do that). For the month of November, I have been participating in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. If you’ve heard of it or tried it, you’ll know the immense joy and suffering I am experiencing during the month of November. It just so happens that the last day of the month is on a Wednesday, when I would usually have my blog post ready to go. I will instead dedicate the last week of November to my own fantasy fiction.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving and your November!

Prof. Jeffrey

“Slowly, very slowly, he sat up, and as he did so he felt more alive and more aware of his own living body than ever before.  Why had he never appreciated what a miracle he was, brain and nerve and bounding heart?  It would all be gone…or at least, he would be gone from it.  His breath came slow and deep, and his mouth and throat were completely dry, but so were his eyes.”

–from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

–Dumbledore, on the Mirror of Erised:

“‘It shows us nothing more or less than the deepest, most desperate desire of our hearts…However, this mirror will give us neither knowledge or truth.  Men have wasted away before it, entranced by what they have seen, or been driven mad, not knowing if what it shows is real or even possible.

‘The Mirror will be moved to a new home tomorrow, Harry, and I ask you not to go looking for it again.  If you ever do run across it, you will now be prepared.  It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live, remember that.'”

–from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

The Harry Potter Series

Good morning, class.

I’m still powering through The Lord of the Rings.  I’m about halfway finished, and I am hoping I’ll be done before our next class.  Await my forthcoming epic lecture.

Instead, I’m dedicating class today to the Harry Potter series. Why, the bolder of you may ask?  There are a handful of reasons.  Firstly, I’m not rereading Harry Potter–I’m only writing about it here.  I’ve read each book at least three times, so I feel I’ve earned the right to call myself an expert on the series (and no, you can’t call yourself an expert if you’ve ONLY seen the movies…there’s no call for that kind of nonsense in my classroom).

Secondly, I was inspired once I realized that Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings are basically the same story: an unlikely protagonist becomes a key fighter in a vast magical war, accompanied by close friends who, together, face death, betrayal, and dark magic in a fantastically epic world (created by the genius mind of a British author known by strikingly vague initials rather than a first name).

And thirdly, I’m interested in harkening back to a time before Harry Potter was LITERALLY THE COOLEST THING EVER.  This series may have one of the strongest fandoms in the world, but like any fandom, it earned its popularity.  Did you know that there are people who are not a part of the Harry Potter fan community?  I assume they are simply overwhelmed by the ridiculous in-your-face-ness of said fan community’s enthusiasm.  Let’s face it–we’re a crazy group.

But someone needs to save the pour souls that seem to avoid this fantastic Wizarding World like the plague.  Someone needs to let them know that in the beginning, Harry Potter was simply about an orphan trapped under the stairs.

Enter Professor Jeffrey (cue John Williams music).

When readers meet Harry, he is a child bullied by his aunt, uncle, and obnoxiously spoiled cousin.  I imagine J.K. Rowling writing to a very specific reader–a child in a scary, uninviting world.  Then arrives his letter of acceptance to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and an adventure begins.

I, personally, have waited for my Hogwarts acceptance letter for about 15 years.  But it’s okay, because my dreams of going to Hogwarts came alive through seven novels and eight movie adaptations following Harry on his journey.  The Harry Potter books are one of the defining moments in my childhood, and this is the case for many other readers as well.  This series was our hope of escaping a world we were afraid of.

Once the series springs from this foundation, it soars into one of the most innovative fantasy worlds ever created.  Magical spells next to beautifully written characters; wizarding politics and wizarding sports; a boarding-school castle with more secrets than a child could dream of; a brooding and dynamic villain in a complex wizarding war; and through it all, a mostly unbiased boy-wizard hero with a courageous heart and a sometimes-simple head.  It’s the adventure of a lifetime.

Don’t get me wrong–if Harry Potter isn’t your taste, don’t waste your time.  There are tons of books to read.  Don’t limit yourself to what’s most popular.  But I would be letting you down as my students if I didn’t educate you on why it is so important.  Besides everything listed above, here is the gist: it’s important because it meaningfully discusses and challenges topics like ethics, death, friendship, education, love, coming-of-age, hope, and magic, all in a kid-friendly, not-condescending way.  Not a lot of authors can do that with as much gusto as Rowling put forth.

I’ll definitely be including quotes from the novels in the coming week.  Some of you may have noticed that I’ve included a few quotes on my blog–extra credit is reserved for those who come in on Mondays and Fridays, not just Wednesdays.  You’re not required to come to class on those days, but if you do, you’ll be letting me know how much fun my class is.  And I know some of you are having fun!

As an added assignment (NOT extra credit…this is the regular credit), I’d like to hear from you.  Harry Potter means a lot to me, and I’m sure it means a lot to you and your classmates.  Leave a comment about what Harry Potter means to you, or has meant to you in the past.  If the importance of the Harry Potter series is partly found in the meaningfulness it has in the lives of its fans, then it would be a disservice to leave out your own story.

Enjoy your week, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Prof. Jeffrey