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

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  1,841 ratings  ·  91 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
Kindle Edition, 340 pages
Published (first published July 7th 2009)
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Average rating 4.29  · 
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 ·  1,841 ratings  ·  91 reviews

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Dec 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 21, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Julie Davis
An interesting overview of different genres of fiction which Harry Potter roughly fits into as well as an indepth discussion of alchemy - which the author posits is the key to deeply understanding the series. Not really my area of interest as I'm not as passionately attached to Harry Potter as a lot of people are, though I truly value the series and stories. But worth reading and probably will be eye opening for some. ...more
Feb 15, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sara Reis
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
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
I took my time reading this book because I kept stopping to read or reread the books it lists as influences on Rowling's work. The authors and works presented here have been specifically mentioned by Rowling in interviews. Granger clearly loves the Potter books and enjoys sharing with his reader some of the many reasons why we love the Potter books so much. The earliest chapters begin with the more obvious comparisons of boarding school adventures and mystery novels, but before long you're study ...more
Oct 01, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting reading of the Potter books in relation to a number of genres, including Gothic, mystery, Boarding school story, and satire, and via four layers of meaning: the surface story, the moral meaning, the allegorical meaning, and the mythic or anagogical meaning. He places the text in relation to works by Sayers, Austen, Mary Shelley, Plato, and Dickens, among others.
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
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
Jan 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Matt Pitts
Mar 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
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
Mar 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Potter devotees
Shelves: commentary
I wasn't sure what to expect from John Granger's Bookshelf. What I got was an education in English Literature far more comprehensive than any course I took in college. I had just concluded reading all 7 Harry Potter books when I dived back into this volume; I had started reading it at about the same time I started "Sorcerer's Stone" but it was a bedside table book and had taken third place behind the canon and Thomas' "Repotting Harry Potter." Once I had finished that project, I took up this boo ...more
Jun 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I heard about John Granger from various podcasts about Harry Potter. I was delighted to know that there was so much more to the Harry Potter story than I originally thought. I was not a fan of mythology or philosophy so was thrilled Granger introduced me to the deeper meanings of Harry Potter. I figured his books would be good.

However, Harry Potter's bookshelves did not give me the thrill I got from listening to John Granger in podcasts. The bookshelves did introduce me to a world of what Britis
Leila Mota
Feb 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's a great idea to explore writers and ideas that inspired J.K. Rowling to create a beloved hero and his saga. The author finds that many relevant writers are, in a way, present in Rowling's writing. Jane Austen, Dickens, Tolkien and others are mentioned. It's not only the writers but phylosophy/religion as well. Alchemy and Christian mythology are said to guide the storyline and characters behavior. I was intrigued by the theories and even believe some to be completely logical. At least it ma ...more
Ryan Laferney
John Granger examines the great books and authors that shaped the Harry Potter series in this literary analysis of Potter mania. It is a well researched, and well informed look, particularly at the genres and literary techniques J.K. Rowling has utilized to create the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Granger focuses on four levels of meaning within Rowlings text (the surface meaning, the moral meaning, the allegorical meaning, and the anagogical meaning) while examining how Rowling combines the ...more
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a great review of the literature that influenced Harry Potter and how deftly JK Rowling mixed genres and themes to create the master piece of Harry Potter. Any Harry Potter nerd will love. I wish the book was longer and included more about the Christian symbols that were commonly used by others are seen in Harry Potter. The author wrote about those in another book, which isn't available at my library. ...more
Viewpoints Radio
Can you believe it has been 20 years since Harry Potter first came out? On our weekly radio show Viewpoints Radio, we discuss all things Harry Potter and why we still love it after all these years. We spoke with author John Granger about this affection. If you would like to hear about Pottermania, check out this link! ...more
Sep 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, but I can see that it’s not for everyone. Having a background in English literature, I understood a lot of what the author was discussing as far as genre and form and literary influence, and I loved the connections he made, but I won’t recommend it to people just because they love HP.
Feb 24, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While not quite as good as I hoped, Granger highlights interesting symbolism and allegory that I enjoyed. I appreciated the background on alchemy and children’s books Rowling has stated as influences on the HP series.

Didn’t love that JK Rowling is “Ms. Rowling” but male authors are just “Lewis” or “Tolkien”
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting read about Rowling's influences, acknowledged by her and/or deduced by the author. Parts were more intellectual than interesting, but on the whole it was readable by a non-literary scholar. Made me want to reread the HP series! ...more
Kate Lorenzetti
Nov 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Mind-blowing....The way that Granger is able to establish evidence and elaborate on all the inner-workings of the Harry Potter novels in a scholarly manner is wonderful. I couldn't put the down, and it has now taken me on a journey to read so many books that influenced Rowling. ...more
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harry Potter’s Bookshelf was really fun to read immediately following the series. John Granger brings a lot of interesting points to the table with regard to deeper meanings and the layers of these books.
Candace Cisman
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
loved this book, different and informative with an in insight into HP that I was intrigued by.
May 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
That was such a fab book. I learned so much, last but not least that a lot of research went into Harry Potter before the author even started writing the series.
Jan 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Some interesting literary analysis that leaves me wanting to do a slower, more thoughtful, read through of the series.

Unfortunately it also reads like a term paper.
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably the best compliment I can give is it made me want to read the books again
Nov 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow! So eye opening. Makes me want to delve more deeply into English Literature and the many books that influenced Harry Potter.
Scott Hayden
Fascinating. I learned so much about British literature and the secret design ingredients embedded in the Harry Potter series. Rowling is brilliant.
Sammie Jones
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that is so great it's hard to write a review. If you love Harry Potter and Literature, this book is fascinating on every level and chapter. I learned so much! ...more
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