Wednesday, November 2, 2011

THANKFUL FOR... Harry Potter

All this week I'm going to be discussing the books I'm most grateful for. Doing a post like this one is all you have to do to qualify for the 19-YA-Book Giveaway I launched yesterday. Just tell people about a book you're thankful for, include a link to the contest and the graphic right there to the right, and you're qualified.

Harry Potter by JK Rowling

It's probably cliche to say that Harry Potter is one of the books I'm most grateful for. Nearly every writer I know has read and loved these books (and, to be honest, I'm a little wary of those that don't).

Still: it's true.

Let me set the scene for you. I was in college. I was an English major--and had taken the lofty classes and ready the snobby books to prove it. While I loved stories and loved reading, I don't think I'd really read a book for fun in years. In high school, I worked myself to the bone between part-time jobs and AP classes so I could afford college--I used the jobs to buy my first computer and used the schooling and a healthy dose of luck to get a scholarship. In college, I still had this insatiable need to prove myself. I was rather like Lisa Simpson.

So: I took the highest level classes, wrote the longest essays, and read every book on the syllabus.

And somewhere in there, I forgot about how I loved stories. I was so busy finding the symbolism in Frankenstein and parsing the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare and translating the Old English of Beowulf that I forgot about the pure joy of story.

The number one thing that I've gotten flack for on my website is my often-proclaimed loved of YA books and how, in my opinion, YA books are better than adult literature. People seem to think that means I hate adult literature, or that my love of YA somehow degrades or insults their love of adult lit. The thing is, I don't hate adult lit. I spent five years of my academic life researching adult lit and getting two degrees in it. I like adult lit.

But I love YA lit.

So here I was in college, surrounded by Moby Dick and Walt Whitman and Henry David Thoreau, and I went to a bookstore with my roommate, also an English major. We were browsing the shelves--on the adult lit side, of course--and she leaned over and whispered, almost like it was a secret, "I sometimes like to read the books over there."

Over there was the YA section.

My first instinct: turn up my nose and scoff. Over there? Yeah, right. We were adults now, we read adult books. We were scholars! Academics! Why waste our time over there?

But I glanced at the titles on those shelves.

It was like being greeted by an old friend.

You know how a dog always loves you, no matter what? How a dog is always excited to see you, tail wagging, ready to jump in your lap, and it doesn't care what you look like or if you'd been mean to it before, it just wants to love you? YA books are like that. Adult books are like the housecat who does what it wants and often ignores you, but YA books are the happy dog with a tail wagging just waiting to be picked up.

From that point on, I started reading YA books for fun. I fell back in love with story.

And the first books I read, the first ones that reminded me of the joy of story, were Harry Potter.

PS: I love Harry Potter so much that I'll be a guest speaker at Ascendio 2012, a Harry Potter conference taking place in July, in Orlando, home of Harry Potter World! Hope to see you there!

Oh, and, meet my dog...named Sirius.


Tere Kirkland said...

Harry Potter definitely helped me find joy in reading again, during the rigors of college when if it wasn't academic, I didn't really have time for it. Well, I MADE time for the Harry Potter books, and made sure to pre-order each new one to be sure it got to me on the release day.

After Hurricane Katrina, I realized life is short, and it had been so long since I'd written anything (8 YEARS!!) that I decided to start up again. Partly because of the joy, optimism and creativity I found in Harry Potter.

Like meeting an old friend, indeed.

And congrats on speaking at Ascendio 2012, that's awesome news!

Kait Nolan said...

YES! This! I was not an English major in college, but I definitely did the snobby academic grown up track. Since I got out of college and grad school I've gone totally BINGING on reading for FUN. People keep recommending these "grown up" or "literary books" and I just can't be bothered. Because there are so many books and so little time and I'm not going to waste mine on books I don't LOVE. Great post!

Lily Meade said...

I am sooooooooo glad you posted this. I said my book I was most grateful for was Harry as well, and I thought I'd get a weird reaction. I must of forgotten that I write YA.

Unknown said...

Funny enough, I had the opposite experience with YA to adult lit. I was an English major in college and grad school, but my thesis studies and early writing career were all in Children's books. I became so entrenched that I flipped the switch complete a few years later and dove back into adult lit. But...

I love YA AND adult lit! :D

AmieSalmon said...

This was the book(s) I'm most thankful for! They have made my life more (yep I'm gonna say it) magical.
And so jealous of you speaking at that conference. And your dog, Sirius? Tres cool.

Rena said...

Ack! I was going to post this!

I love Harry Potter.

Patricia T. said...

I think Harry Potter tops the list. My experience with Harry was similar to yours -- just completing graduate work. When I was done with the third book, I was lost to escape. I turned to the Chronicles of Narnia. :) I want to post something on my blog today, but have run an author interview with Tom Lichtenheld on his new release "E-mergency." So I will wait a couple of days. Nice to find your blog through Abby!

Vera Soroka said...

I only read the last two Harry Potter books. They were good but and I'm going to get in trouble for this but I just couldn't get into her voice.
The book I'm most grateful for is Cornelia Funke's Ink Trilogy. It was the second one in particular-Inkspell that inspired me that one February morning to start writing and I've never looked back.

Unknown said...

Love Potter! It's been something our family at all ages could share. My husband read them all aloud to the family and it continues to be strength that we all are thankful for.

In fact, after the last movie my daughter cried for nearly a full day. She felt like she had lived with Harry this entire time and looked at the final movie as the time for her to now grow up. Just as Harry did... (She's now starting high school, driving, and preparations for college)

Melissa/welachild said...

Great post! I read Harry Potter around the time the 5th book was coming out, so I got to read them back to back. I can't wait until my daughter can read them. My "Harry Potter" is the Anne of Green Gables books. I used to pull them out every summer vacation and get lost in the "magic" of PEI. I still reread them as an adult, just not as frequently.

Monica Mansfield said...

I approve of all of this, especially of Sirius. Looks like such a sweetie.

I bet you will have fun at Ascendio, with all the kindred spirits who are thankful for Potter.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Rowling gets flack for too free use of adverbs and some passages that could use tightening, but I still listen to the audio books for fun and laugh out loud at her sense of humor and get anxious when times get tough for HP and friends. And that's after reading the books when they came out and seeing all the movies. The storytelling in these books is fantastic and that's what a fictional piece of writing needs more than anything else. There are reasons the Potter books brought many non-reading kids into the fold and enchanted adults, too. They are magical.

Gabi said...

Now that I'm in college and it's hard and all grown-up-ish, I really wish I could go to Hogwarts instead. I would wear capes and have a magic wand and learn potions and spells. It seems like so much more fun. :]

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Melissa Spence said...

I've fallen behind on blog reading. Did you have another English major roommate?

This post makes me smile so big. I love Harry Potter because of you and you forcing me to read it. Remember when the power went out and I read by candlelight because I just had to know what happened next? What a completely dorky wonderful memory!!

I hope you got to go to Harry Potter world after the conference!!!

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