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Harry Potter's Bookshelf: The Great Books behind the Hogwarts Adventures

4.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,290 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
Harry Potter. The name conjures up J.K. Rowling's wondrous world of magic that has captured the imaginations of millions on both the printed page and the silver screen with bestselling novels and blockbuster films. The true magic found in this children's fantasy series lies not only in its appeal to people of all ages but in its connection to the greater world of classic l ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published July 7th 2009 by Berkley
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Feb 15, 2010 Debbie rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I've never read the Harry Potter novels. However, I've read "dissect famous English literature to see how they work" books before and found them fascinating, so I was interested when I got this unrequested review copy in the mail. The author based his selection of comparison books on books mentioned by J.K. Rowling in interviews or simply by their strong similarities to her novels on certain points. He didn't get his information directly from Rowling and sometimes even argued against her claims ...more
Jan 14, 2011 Lindsay rated it really liked it
Okay, I admit it - I love Harry Potter. I have the books in both the American and British editions (yes, there are differences). Though I had never heard of this book, when I received it for Christmas I was excited because it looked right up my alley. Written by a professor, this book takes a look at the literary influences on the beloved series, both those that J.K. Rowling acknowledges and those she has not. Granger takes a systematic approach, tackling surface meaning, moral meaning, allegori ...more
Kathryn Houghton
Mar 25, 2016 Kathryn Houghton rated it did not like it
I was so very interested in reading this book. Harry Potter is by no means perfect, but I've always found them to be solid stories worth reading again and again.

But this book was, in my opinion, quite terrible.

First, the author forces his points in a way reminiscent of bad high school literary analysis. Granger has a point to make and, by golly, he's going to make it. He cherrypicks examples and ignores anything that might contradict his point. He forces things into his way of thinking. I kid
Jul 17, 2010 Chelsey rated it liked it
The positive first: aside from the attention to Austen and Bronte which I find fascinating, the author discusses more interesting works that Rowling alludes to. There's Tom Brown, the Bible, Dorothy Sayers, Wide Saragasso sea and more. However, there was much summary of the works, a superficial treatment of themes and motifs and little else. Having done in-deptha analyses of her Austenian allusions, as well as the Narnia connections I think much more could have been done. Moreover, he misses out ...more
Matt Pitts
Mar 31, 2016 Matt Pitts rated it really liked it
I recently completed my first read through the Harry Potter novels (a little late to the game, I know) and was eager to see what John Granger had to say about the books behind the books. I was not disappointed. He not only drew my attention to things I did not know about Rowling as an author and about the Potter novels themselves but also about the English literary tradition (who knew that literary alchemy was behind Romeo and Juliet and A Tale of Two Cities? or that a Doppelgänger is more than ...more
Feb 07, 2016 Amber rated it it was amazing
Okay so, I don't have near enough knowledge to argue and engage with this book as far as what it proposes. I wanted to read it because I've been following the Mugglenet Academia podcast since it began and the academia + HP is hella cool.

But I will say the last section definitely gets trippy, a bit sketch, but definitely interesting. Is the Hogwarts Professor right that the series is full of literary alchemy? No, really, someone tell me. As to the circle talk, this much he covers in Mugglenet Ac
Feb 16, 2012 Kat rated it liked it
Having read the Harry Potter series numerous times, I thought it would be a good idea to read a book like this one — that dissects the Potter stories and shows their connections to other works of literature from which Rowling drew (in some cases) inspiration. Granger teaches about Harry Potter to college students, so reading this book sort of felt like I was in school again, tackling a reading assignment...except I didn't have to take a test or do any homework afterward.

Jo Rowling has said that
Sara Reis
Nov 04, 2014 Sara Reis rated it it was ok
I ws genuinely enjoying the book with parallels being drawn between HP and other great works of English literature. The story streams, settings and flows of narrative were shrewdly picked up and apart to show how they linked with broader literature genres and I got a few ideas of what to read next. However, in the last two or three chapters the author gets carried away and embarks on Christian symbolism and alchemy galore which quite frankly sounded too much and too far-fetched, most of it. I gu ...more
Aug 17, 2010 Evelyn rated it it was amazing
This book was completely fascinating to me, and my first thought upon finishing it was that I needed to read it again. Granger basically uses this book to answer the question: Why are the Harry Potter books so popular? But he does so much more than that. He discusses literary traditions and devices that have been used for a long time, citing examples in a wide array of 'Great Books'. He talks about what the symbolism means, and why it resonates with us as human beings. He talks about the extensi ...more
Adam Ross
Nov 03, 2009 Adam Ross rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-study
Pretty good. Granger, an English prof, works to unveil some of the allusions and connections to broader literature in the Potter novels. While the English Major in me wanted more close readings of the various texts, the book serves as a solid introduction for the general reader to the incredible literary worth and depth in the Potter saga. Granger paints a picture both fascinating (Snape as Wuthering Heights' Heathcliff and Paradise's Dante) and disturbing (Order of the Phoentix as secret societ ...more
Apr 21, 2015 Rebecca rated it liked it
This is an accessible and overall enjoyable look at the literary influences and ancestors to Rowling's Harry Potter series. The text is written for a general rather than an academic audience while not being simplistic or overly generalized. The further I got through it though, the more repetitive it began to feel. There are a couple of places where the exact same passage from the books is reprinted (in one case taking up over half a page on both occasions). Though they are to illustrate differen ...more
May 25, 2013 Angie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Harry Potter scholars
I had mixed feelings about reading this book. My first reaction was "Harry Potter, YAY!!!!" but then I thought about all the books I studied in college and how scholarly analysis tends to take the fun out of reading. I couldn't stand it if that happened to Harry Potter. However, after listening to several episodes of MuggleNet's Alohomora! podcast and enjoying it immensely, I decided to risk it and read this book.

While a little bit dry in places (some of those sentences seriously went on for abo
Claudia Piña
Aunque he leido otros libros del tipo (como The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles y The Psychology of Harry Potter: An Unauthorized Examination Of The Boy Who Lived), siempre me dejan con la sensación de que alguien está usando a Potter de pretexto para hablar de psicología/filosofía/whatnot. Incluso si te gustan esos temas, pocas veces logran conectarlos al libro de forma coherente y natural.

En este caso la experiencia fue diferente. No soy una gran entusiasta del anál
Dec 25, 2012 Touloulou rated it it was amazing
Explorer l'univers de Rowling en se basant sur ses sources littéraires, une excellente idée qu'a eu John Granger dans ce livre.
Ou l'on découvre l'influence de Jane Austen, de certains auteurs pour enfants britanniques, de la littérature gothique sur Harry Potter... Certains auteurs sont connus, mais d'autres complètement inconnus !
Les explications sont claires, et je me suis dit plein de fois "mais oui, mais c'est bien sûr !". Les chapitres de la fin en rapport avec les symboles spirituels m'ont
Todd Kinsey
Well worth the read

This is a great book, if you're like me, and think that the Harry Potter series will one day be considered one of the all-time great series. Personally I find her writing far more engaging than Tolkien whom she's often compared to.

John does a great job highlighting the classic symbolism throughout the series as well as some of the authors Mrs. Rowling incorporated into the story.

I plan to read some of the other books John has written as well.
Todd Kinsey
Mar 17, 2015 Todd Kinsey rated it really liked it
This is a great book, if you're like me, and think that the Harry Potter series will one day be considered one of the all-time great series. Personally I find her writing far more engaging than Tolkien whom she's often compared to.

John does a great job highlighting the classic symbolism throughout the series as well as some of the authors Mrs. Rowling incorporated into the story.

I plan to read some of the other books John has written as well.
Nov 15, 2010 C.J. rated it liked it
If a bit heavy-handed in its reading-in, so to speak, it makes up for it in knowledge and detail concerning the "great books" it discusses. There always seems to me to be a bit of grasping-at-straws attitude when it comes to books about books about the books that built the books. Studies have sprung up in wake of The Lord of the Rings' commercial success, as well as Narnia and various others (Percy Jackson comes to mind, with Riordan's playful pop-cultural update of Greek Myth)--and they invaria ...more
Jun 04, 2013 Emily rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading about different types of literature that made up the Harry Potter series; I don't read or learn much about this subject, so that was interesting. Sometimes, though, the discussion would go over my head, especially when the author talked in philosophical terms. I don't know why a person who hasn't read the Harry Potter series would read this book, as it makes references throughout to the books, but if you hadn't read the HP series, the experience would be ruined with all the spo ...more
Mar 11, 2013 Erika rated it liked it
The Harry-Potter-obsessed-English-major in me really loved this book. It reads like a set of literary analysis papers combined and tied together. I had read most of the books that were used as comparisons to Harry Potter- I don't think I would have enjoyed it If I hadn't.

This book went into some things that I hadn't considered when reading Harry Potter but they totally make sense and I'll be thinking about them next time I read the series.

I'm giving this only 3 stars because it isn't fun to re
Jul 21, 2013 Jenn rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
This was on my Wishlist for ages and I finally got it this past Christmas. I read a bit of it before I put it aside for other things. I was feeling a bit of HP nostalgia, so I picked it back up. I enjoyed most of it. The alchemy bit bored me to tears, but the rest I liked. I enjoyed reading direct ways that other books influenced the HP stories and saw it in most ways. I'd heard that Rowling especially was influenced by The Little White Horse quite a few times and I've read it. Twice actually. I ...more
Alicia Scully
Mar 17, 2012 Alicia Scully rated it really liked it
Granger explores the various genres and specific texts within the genres that have helped inspire the _Harry Potter_ books. I had been hesitant to read this book because I took a class along the same lines and I didn't know how much different this would actually be from what we discussed. While there were definitely some similarities, Granger went into several subjects, such as alchemy, that I had not covered before. The book was very easy to read as it was definitely written for the public but ...more
Feb 07, 2015 Saralyn rated it liked it
Good information. Fun ideas. Interesting reading. Plenty to start a conversation. Led to ideas of my own...
K.l. Bester
Aug 30, 2015 K.l. Bester rated it it was amazing
Once again, as with 'Looking for God in Harry Potter,' I was thoroughly impressed by the literary analysis Granger performs on the Harry Potter series.
Mar 19, 2013 Marsha rated it really liked it
Mr. Granger takes us behind the scenes for an in-depth look at the literary antecedents and works that inspired Ms. Rowling when she decided to craft a seven-tome epic about a boy wizard. Insightful, incisive and very clear about what makes for great literature and what doesn’t, Mr. Granger does more than give us a glimpse into the minds of a successful writer. He invites us to go out and seek the precursors that influenced Ms. Rowling and gave so many people a fabulous world and its inhabitants ...more
Jul 06, 2016 Lindsay rated it liked it
The first half was brilliant. The latter half was reaching.
Apr 21, 2015 Estelle rated it really liked it
Interesting insights provided
Jul 08, 2015 Weishubuduo rated it it was amazing
Fantastic book!
Jan 10, 2010 Kim rated it really liked it
A good read if you like the Harry Potter series and are curious about the literary underpinnings of the stories. In addition to helping provide me with a deeper context for Rowling's works, this book gave me a good and concise review of much of popular English literature without being heavy-handed or tied down in literary jargon. Not a book I would have read straight-through. Instead, it was better enjoyed by chapters. I will look forward to reading the Potter series with a different eye after r ...more
May 24, 2011 Lesley rated it liked it
Very interesting for Potter fans. J. K. Rowling's debt to classic literature and mythology is well known; less familiar to many readers are her homages to British children's authors like E. Nesbit and Enid Blyton. Granger (John, not Hermione) also finds connections to gothic horror, Jane Austen's social commentary, Swiftian satire, and medieval allegory. If this all seems a bit much for a simple children's fantasy, consider that Granger cites Rowling herself in support of his assertions.
Aug 07, 2014 Elysa rated it really liked it
Shelves: harry-potter
Most of the articles are fantastic. It gave me a lot of things to think about while I reread the Potter books, and it also provided a lot of new reading material. The points are thoroughly explained, which is great for the most part, but a couple places could've used some cutting. There were places where I lost the thread of what he was trying to say, because he digressed so much. But I would much rather have too much information than too little. It's a great book.
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