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

Harry Potter's Bookshelf by John Granger
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Feb 16, 2012

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bookshelves: nonfiction, borrowed-from-library
Read from January 28 to February 16, 2012 , read count: 1

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 Jane Austen is her favorite author (she's a woman with good literary taste, that's for sure!), so it's obvious that Granger would include Austen's novels in his text. The chapter entitled "Pride and Prejudice with Wands" was interesting to me, not just because of the title, but also because it points out the similar narrative choices made by Austen and Rowling. Both authors choose the third-person approach to tell their stories. Granger equates it with the reader sitting on the protagonist's shoulder and seeing events unfold as he/she would. So throughout the Potter novels, we experience the events as Harry does, although he's not the one telling the stories himself.

A chapter I found surprisingly intriguing is the one on alchemy (Chapter Nine, "Harry Potter as Alchemical Reading Magic"). I had no idea Rowling learned so much about alchemy before writing Harry's story, but after reading Granger's book, I can definitely see the way the story of the Boy Who Lived mirrors the alchemical process. The transition from black to white to red I found quite fascinating in terms of how it relates to the characters in the Potter novels, and to the plots themselves.

Granger's book goes in depth to explain the similarities between Potter and gothic novels, detective fiction, allegory, and satire, among other genres. He uses direct quotes from the novels, as well as quotes from some of Rowling's interviews. While some of the connections make total sense and enlightened me, causing me to rethink certain aspects of Rowling's novels, others seem a bit farfetched — like Granger was grasping for any possible way to draw similarities between Potter and a particular literary work.

Overall, it was an interesting read. Perfect for someone like me who loves the Harry Potter books and appreciates literary works of the past, and would like to see how the two are connected.

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