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Harry, a History: The True Story of a Boy Wizard, His Fans, and Life Inside the Harry Potter Phenomenon

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  15,058 ratings  ·  706 reviews

During the brief span of just one decade, hundreds of millions of perfectly ordinary people made history: they became the only ones who would remember what it was like when the Harry Potter saga was still unfinished. What is was like to seek out friends, families, online forums, fan fiction, and podcasts to get

Paperback, 356 pages
Published November 4th 2008 by Gallery Books
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  15,058 ratings  ·  706 reviews

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Cheryl Klein
Oct 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Harry Potter fans
Shelves: nonfiction
I am a good friend of the author's and I appear fairly often in this book, so I'm cheerfully biased about it. But judged solely as a piece of writing, it is excellent and essential reportage about the history of the Harry Potter books and phenomenon -- the only book with firsthand accounts from J. K. Rowling, her agent, her editors and publicists, and various other people involved in the publication of the series or who helped to make it big. Melissa covers the growth of the online fandom, from ...more
Oct 20, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: No-one
Recommended to Suzanne by: Amazon
Let's not beat around the bush - this isn't really a history of the Harry Potter fandom. The title is not deceptive at all - it's an outright lie. This book is actually about the author, Anelli, who is basically just scrabbling at her fifteen minutes of fame. The 'journalist' runs the Leaky Cauldron website - nice, but worth a book? No. Oh but wait, she met J.K Rowling too? Nope, still not worth a book.

I'm not ashamed to say that I've been in the Potter fandom for years - since PoA first came o
Whitney Atkinson
Feb 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars

This book is a fun read, but I think the more time that passes, the more dated and irrelevant this will become. Since so many new things have occurred in the harry potter world, a lot of this info is obsolete or really requires some adding onto.

For the most part this was a fun and informative listen, but I do think two things dragged this down:
1. This is told from the POV of a fan site reporter, so a lot of the info is skewed to her experiences of reading the books and seeing the autho
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was ok
This is not actually a History of Harry, or even a book about the Harry Potter books. It is a book about one woman's experience with the books. The author, Melissa Anelli, was (is) a major player in the Harry Potter fandom, and she tells her story as an "almost insider." Her perspective is interesting to a point, but for someone (ie, me) who loves Harry, but operated outside the fandom, it isn't really particularly relevant. It kind of just made me mad. I felt like, "I love Harry too, but I didn ...more
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
An interesting read. Melissa is a good writer, and I was certainly cheering for her as she met, and interviewed JK Rowling. However, as Melissa discusses the in-depth-ness of many Harry Potter fans, which she treats with a mixture of awe and amusement, she neglects the fact that there are many HP fans who did not travel to conferences, read or write fan-fiction, speculate about the books online etc. etc. The book is written with the assumption that every HP fan was die-hard, neglecting the fact ...more
Monica Edinger
This book defies my rating it. I mean, I'd rate it completely differently for different audiences.

For avid Harry Potter fans familiar with the Leaky Cauldron, fan fiction, the shipping wars, Harry and the Potters, and so forth the book is probably five stars. Melissa captures, with vim and tremendous enthusiasm, the history of Harry Potter fandom filtered through her personal experience. No doubt those on the wrong side of certain conflicts (notably those fans who were advocating for Hermione a
Jun 01, 2010 rated it it was ok
Boy, what a self-indulgent mess this was. I have to admit, there were enough interesting tidbits for me to keep reading, and it did make me want to re-read the HP books again, but this was like the HP version of Eat, Pray, Love. This should be called Melissa, A History. I am not into the HP intense fandom depicted here, so I just rolled my eyes a lot at things like the shipper wars. The book was also not very well-written; it jumped around a lot in time, which could be confusing, and it wasn't e ...more
Nov 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
For all the fanfare this book has gotten, I'm not entirely sure all of it is deserved. It is a lovely look back at how the Harry Potter fandom evolved and got to where it is today, but there are some issues I do have with the book. One of the things I noticed was that Melissa told the book like it was a novel, a fictional piece, filled with flowery description that I feel has no place in what is essential a memoir of sorts. The intent of the book is to retell the HP fandom, from start to finish. ...more
Kristy K
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars

Since I couldn't delve into the world of Harry Potter like I needed (all of my books are in storage! and my library's copies are all checked out), this was the next best thing. Anelli delves into the world of Potter taking a look at the books, the fans, and everything in between. I'll admit many parts made me mushy and wishing I could relive certain scenes for the first time again.

It does get slow at times when she talks about the lives of certain super fans, but on a whole this is a g
Feb 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I am reading the most wonderfully, magnificent, incredible and enjoyable book I have read in ages. It is a breath of fresh air and I’m thrilled that I picked it up. I’m talking about Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli.

I remember the first time I read Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone.

I had ignored the buzz surrounding Harry Potter for a long time. I remember thinking: No book could possibly be that good. I would see people reading it on the buss, on lunch breaks, line ups. “Bah,” I would s
Aug 19, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Becky by: Allison (The Allure of Books)
I admit it, I was a Harry Potter late bloomer. I've told the story before, so suffice it to say that it wasn't until after the 5th book was out that I became a Harry Potter fan. I immediately fell in love with the books and the world... but I missed almost all of the "Harry Potter phenomenon" as it was still in progress.

I only had a few friends (back then) that were Harry Potter fans, and we discussed the books excitedly, and re-read them repeatedly, but I didn't know that I was missing this wh
This book is largely misrepresented - It is not an accurate review of the Harry Potter fandom. Instead, it examines author Melissa Anelli and a select group of others on their experiences with loving Harry Potter. The book reads more like the biography of an overzealous college student than a study in history.

Much of the writing undoubtedly had personal and highly emotional ties for Anelli, but it falls completely flat on paper. It's ludicrous to try following the conversations that many of thes
Susan Faw
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Melissa, with a unique perspective, nails everything it means to be a fan of Harry Potter. She brings a concise and personal view of the rise of the Potter franchise. As one of the founders of The Leaky Cauldron website, she has been an active participant in the fandom and the "60 Minutes" of the world of Harry Potter. If you are a fan, this is a must read. ...more
Dec 22, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: insane harry potter fans, Hr/R shippers, scarf-wearing muggles, wizard rockers
Shelves: read-in-2008
i confess i feel like a dork for even having read this book, which is all about the fandom & media phenomena surrounding the harry potter books. now, i am a big fan of the harry potter books, but i don't frequent fan sites or wear scarves declaring my allegience to certain hogwarts houses or anything like that. this book was written by someone who runs a fansite (the leaky cauldron) & is all about the types of people who wear scarves as an expression of their harry potter love, & honestly, the w ...more
Sep 05, 2009 rated it did not like it
This book was so disappointing that what I'm going to say is going to be cruel. My biggest complaint about this book is that the title is completely wrong. It would have been better if it had been called "Melissa Anelli's Life in the HP Fandom." Instead I was thinking that it was going to talk about the series and actual events inside of the fandom. But no, it was about her life and there was a lot of stuff that was not even close to related to Harry Potter. How does constantly talking about you ...more
Cori Reed
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
If you grew up with the Harry Potter fandom in the early days you will appreciate this book. I cried about 50 times while reading this (seriously...), not because it's sad, but because of just how much Harry Potter shaped not only my life, but the lives of literally millions of kids.

This book made me so nostalgic for my early life waiting for each Harry Potter book to be released and spending almost all my spare time on sites like The Leaky Caudron and MuggleNet obsessing over every tiny detail
Oct 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all Harry Potter fans and those who think your fan friends/family members are slightly insane
Recommended to Zara by: PotterCast
This book is Melissa's story. It is my story. It is the story of every other person who has been touched by Harry Potter in any way, no matter how small. And Harry, A History is the story that I will remember for the rest of my life--the story of ten years of epic awesome, with years more to come. Read this book. Period. ...more
Janet Blowers
Jul 09, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: young-adult
Unless you have a deep desire to re-live all the wonder of each release of the Harry Potter phenomenom, I wouldn't reccomend this one. I couldn't even finish it. It was like reading someone else's journal. I was lost after a few pages and after a few chapters I didn't need to be found. I loved all the Harry Potter books and thought this one would be worth while. I guess you can't win them all. ...more
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
More a memoir about the author's experience in the Harry Potter fan realm than a true history of the publishing and reaction to the Harry Potter books. It focuses on some very specific events that occurred during the years that the HP series was being published, although I felt like the book missed a lot. I grew up with the HP books and waited for each one to be released, so I understood and could relate to many of the events in the book, but for those that didn't have that experience this book ...more
Aug 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Always on the lookout for any Harry Potter related stories, I was excited to give this one a go and maybe learn something new. Some parts of the book were a bit dull and repetitive. It was hard to follow certain jumps in the timeline. I did, however, enjoy the snippets of meeting JK Rowling and certainly got caught up in Melissa's excitement to interview her. I can't say I really understand the desire to read each book in one go on release night. That's not my style, I never wanted them to be ov ...more
Allison (The Allure of Books)
I have wanted to read this book for a long time. Harry Potter was my life for about ten years, and the characters became my family. While the books were being published, all the other Potter devotees felt like family too. How many hours-days-months did I spend obsessing over every little detail J.K. Rowling let slip, reading MWPP fan-fiction and making fun of the people that actually thought Hermoine would end up with Harry? I'm pretty sure the amount of time I invested in this world is slightly ...more
With infectious, at times frenetic excitement, the webmistress of the Leaky Cauldron Web site Melissa Anelli, presents narratives in this hip report on how a boy wizard became a rock star. Anelli pays exhaustive attention to the power of the Internet and its symbiotic relationship with fan communities, known as fandoms. "That before I read Harry Potter I was composed of magic dust and fairy breath, and reading the first book had been what brought all my particles together. That Harry Potter was ...more
Feb 12, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
I read through it in just a couple of hours yesterday, so definitely a nice quick read. I probably would have quit after the first 50 or 60 pages though, if Lani hadn't recommended it. Other than being excited that she really got into the series at The Prisoner of Azkhaban, which is clearly the best of the Harry Potter books, I didn't really care that much about the first few chapters. The sections on the children's book industry and the way J.K. Rowling got published were pretty interesting, bu ...more
Aug 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, audiobook
The parts of this book that are actually a history of the "Harry Potter phenomenon" - how JKR's agent and eventual publishing houses fell in love with the book, how its popularity rewrote the rules for book releases and the NYT bestseller list, how children and young teens used the growing internet to express their interest in the series (and how this confounded the lawyers) - are fascinating, and I enjoyed them greatly. I could have read a whole book about these things, written from a journalis ...more
Book Concierge
This tells the story of Pottermania and Anelli’s role as webmaster of The Leaky Cauldron – the # 1 website for fans of Harry. I like the Harry Potter books. I enjoy Rowling’s writing, and I’ve enjoyed a couple of the movies. But I’m not obsessed with the phenomenon. By Anelli’s own account, she first heard of Potter when she was buying her college text books. Her mother suggested “something light” to provide some entertainment and escape from all the heavy college texts. Anelli was hooked from t ...more
Jan 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
Meh. This book should really be titled "Melissa, A History" because that would have been a more appropriate description as it was more about her and her experience with HP fandom than a history of HP fandom. It was also sorely in need of editing. I've lived through HP fandom and I had trouble following the time line in this book. It's 2007, it's 1999, it's 2004, it's 2007, it's 2003...this story was all over the place and I think a casual HP reader would be lost trying to navigate their way thro ...more
Dec 10, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Potter nerds
Recommended to Brittany by: PotterCast
Shelves: 2008
Melissa Anelli annoys me a bit; in her podcasts and now in her book. She doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humour and always seems so frustratingly earnest. She does, however, deal with interviews well. This is where the book takes off and becomes weirdly absorbing. There just aren't enough of them. I was expecting a lot more from Jo in this book, and there really is very little. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, as this is a book about the HP phenomenon, not about the books themsel ...more
Oct 18, 2009 rated it did not like it
As a self-admitted Harry Potter fanatic, I was looking for a book that covered the nuances of the whole phenomenon. I went into reading this book hoping that Anelli would cover some of the interesting anthropological ground about why Harry Potter has exploded onto our collective consciousness the way he has. Why are we, as a society, so compelled by this story of a boy wizard and his defeat of the dark lord?

Instead, it read as Anelli's personal memoir of being a Harry Potter fan. I would have ap
Feb 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
I am giving up because this book is hard to grind through on AUDIOBOOK. It's basically all about how the author is better than you. There are maybe 10 pages of interesting interviews, but it's mostly a play-by-play about how excited she got this one time. I think she has the ability to be a good journalist in the probing/inquiring sense, but she's too close to this one. Also "I shook like a tuning fork that had been hit overly hard" and "The book wasn't LIKE a brick, it could actually be used as ...more
I am so enjoying this book. Harry Potter people are our people. Sometimes, it feels like HP is what unites our family, like a religion. We may need to get a copy of this to keep forever, as this saga of Harry's is such a part of our lives. Also, if you look very closely, there we are in the second-to-last page of photo plates! Wizard Rock in Hogwarts Square, 2007! ...more
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