Joab Pascal
Joab Pascal asked:

How many of the real HP books should one read before starting on this one?

Eva If you plan to read the Harry Potter series eventually anyway, you should read all of it before reading HPMoR, because HPMoR contains multiple spoilers for the original series (even though things happen differently, most story and world conditions remain in place, and many surprises are revealed much earlier in HPMoR than in the original). I had read books 1-4 years ago, started reading HPMoR, realized I was getting some content ahead of where I'd reached in the original, went back and reread the first five and then picked up HPMoR again, reading them in parallel for a while, which was fun, but then I realized I was getting spoilers again, so I finished books 5-7 before continuing and finishing HPMoR. So. Since things are out of order and it's not really possible to stay completely ahead of spoilers otherwise, I'd recommend reading the whole series first.

If you don't plan to read the original, you can understand most of HPMoR having only read part of the series, but why put yourself at that disadvantage? HPMoR can often be a challenging read, leaving the reader to exercise their own rationality to figure out why something would or wouldn't work, what options are available that Harry or another character should use, or what's really going on. Or--to recognize a joke.

Besides, the books are enjoyable and highly influential. They've shaped the thinking of a generation. So it's good to know what it's all about.
Mitali It's possible to read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality without having read any of the original Harry Potter books, though some of the jokes and references won't make much sense. However, if you read at least the first book in the series (Harry Potter and the Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone), then you'll get an idea of the original characters and setting, and understand some of the satire in HPMOR.
Carly You should read all of the originals first if you're planning to ever read them, but it's alright to read HPMOR by itself. HPMOR is a funnier version of HP.

*It's against the laws of probability to have TWO awesome series!!!*
David There are references to all seven books. I would recommend at least 1-4.

You need to read the first one at minimum so you know about Harry's "alternate" universe and why his now being a scientist is interesting. Plus the main characters (Hermione, Dumbledore, Snape, McGonagall, Prof Quirrell).

The first four books would give you most of the references (Goblet of Fire, Azkaban, Ministry of Magic, etc).
CJ I would say the first one is required, but it would be preferable to read at least 3 or maybe 4, to fully appreciate the humor.
There are some references to later books so the very best would be to read all of them, or watch the movies.

Do not despair after reading the first book, they do get better. As I recall it from 10 years ago.
Grevick one should read all of them despite the intent to start on this one
Alex Pierce All Of Them. The HP Series Is A Great Series And Trying to Cut Them Is A Shame To You. But, If You Must, In Order To Fully Understand Some Of The Basic Story Line, You Will Have To Read All Of The First Book If You Want To Compare It To This One. If Not, Then Just Getting A Basic Understanding You Will Need To Read Around The First Half Of The First Book.
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by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Goodreads Author)
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