Happy Birthday JK Rowling!

JK ROWLING_0

“I would like to be remembered as someone who did the best with the talent she had.”
– JK Rowling

Today (July 31) JK Rowling turns 50, and Harry Potter turns 35 years old. In honor of this festive occasion, I am listing 50 things I love about Harry Potter (in no particular order).

  1. I love how Harry Potter came to be. In her own words:
    “It was 1990. My then boyfriend and I had decided to move up to Manchester together. After a weekend’s flat-hunting, I was travelling back to London on my own on a crowded train, and the idea for Harry Potter simply fell into my head.
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    I had been writing almost continuously since the age of six but I had never been so excited about an idea before. To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a pen that worked, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one…I did not have a functioning pen with me, but I do think that this was probably a good thing. I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, while all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard became more and more real to me.
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    Perhaps, if I had slowed down the ideas to capture them on paper, I might have stifled some of them (although sometimes I do wonder, idly, how much of what I imagined on that journey I had forgotten by the time I actually got my hands on a pen). I began to write ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ that very evening, although those first few pages bear no resemblance to anything in the finished book.”
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  2. These books took JK Rowling from a life as an impoverished single mother to a world-renowned millionaire. It’s one of my life’s great wishes to shake her hand (and give her a hug!).
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  3. Landon, Me, & Connor wearing our house ties

    Landon, Me, & Connor wearing our house ties

    Harry Potter is a gorgeous study in friendship and love, and it taught me so much growing up. I have made (and continue to make) so many friends by connecting through this marvelous series.
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  4. Rowling didn’t hold back in making her books highly intelligent narratives dealing with subjects of incredible depth, such as love, fear, friendship, loyalty, selflessness, and death. I remember they were the first books that helped me feel intelligent as I read them, and I came back always wanting more.
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  5. timeline-image-the-rowling-family-1332761644-ccw

    Joanne, her sister Di, and mother Anne

    One of the great inspirations for the books was JK Rowling’s mother. Anne Rowling died before the Harry Potter books saw the light of day, and it was her passing that drove JK Rowling to write these books, partly as a coping mechanism. As such, every page is colored with Rowling’s love of her mother and grief at her passing. You can see this in the sacrifice Harry’s mother Lily makes on behalf of her son, in Harry’s stricken reaction to Sirius’ (and others’) death, and in the longing for family that pervades Harry’s every moment. Rowling writes her heart onto the page, and I believe that this openness of hers is one of the greatest reasons the books are so very endearing to so many.
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  6. The series acts as a marvelous teaching tool by taking such complicated topics like racism, bigotry, oppression, and privilege, and makes them simple enough for young children to understand.
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  7. 7 is the magic number: 7 years of school, 7 books that I proudly display on my shelves. (And yet it still doesn’t seem enough…)
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  8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (originally Philosopher’s Stone) – this is the intro to Harry’s world, the perfect blend of childhood delight with life’s darknesses. It’s about good and evil, love and power, and it’s a dream of a book. Short, sweet – just like Harry, year one. There’s a reason so many people love Harry Potter, and it all starts here.
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  9. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – a classic murder mystery, and the first greater intimations of the depths of Voldemort’s evil.
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  10. Harry_Potter_and_the_Prisoner_of_Azkaban_(US_cover)

    My fav of the series

    Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – my favorite of the whole series, and one that I have read countless times. It introduces two of my favorite characters – Remus Lupin and Sirius Black. The book grapples with themes on success (they win the Quidditch cup!), fears (the dementors – literal embodiments of fear and depression), and friendship (embodied in good – Sirius, Ron, Hermione, Remus – and awful examples – Peter Pettigrew). The reveal of Sirius’ innocence still represents one of my favorite moments in all of literature.
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  11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – this was the first midnight release I attended. I was 9 years old. I still remember reading the first chapter of the book after midnight on the couch, and being absolutely mesmerized. If the first 3 books were build-up, it’s with this book that the series really gets going.
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  12. Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix – Rowling ups the game in this book as her characters deal with psychological trauma from the series’ events, and with abuse at the hands of an adult in power – the 100% evil Dolores Umbridge. In many ways, she represented an evil more alarming and jarring than Voldemort because she was so very, horrifyingly real (I had a 2nd grade teacher just like her).
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  13. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – where we finally learn about Voldemort’s origins, and say goodbye to Dumbledore himself. It’s the final exit from childhood for Harry, and the segue into the unrelenting adulthood calling for him.
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  14. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – a perfectly suiting end to the series, and one that had me in tears. It’s about death and love, as the series always was, and Rowling delves into the subject matter and finishes off the beloved series with grace and elegance.
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  15. My Harry Potter experience composed a decade of my life: from the first time I picked up a Harry Potter book to when I finished the 7th installment.
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  16. I was 17 when the last book was published, making me the same age as Harry Potter in that last book.
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  17. Finding community with other HP fans and trading theories online basically taught me to use the internet.
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  18. midnight release

    MADNESS!

    Midnight release parties!
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  19. The Harry Potter fandom in general. Harry Potter fans are passionate and overall good people. You get a group of HP fans together in one room, and you can expect a party.
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  20. Wizard Rock. It’s an entire genre of music based off Harry Potter. It sounds crazy, but you’d be surprised just how good it is. Educate yourself and check out one of my favorite tracks.
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  21. I love the vividness of each place Rowling takes us. The first entrance to Diagon Alley – it’s Harry’s breakthrough moment, his first encounter with the magical world – and ours as well. Probably the most enchanting moment of the books.
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  22. hogwartslogo1Hogwarts, of course. Who wouldn’t want to go there?
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  23. House sortings. (Fun story: I always secure in my belief that I was a Ravenclaw. But then JK Rowling released an officially endorsed quiz, and I discovered that I was Gryffindor. Weird.) Speaking of houses, let’s talk about why they are all awesome:
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  24. Gryffindorwhere dwell the brave in heart. Who wouldn’t love the house of Harry, the Weasleys, Hermione, and Dumbledore?
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  25. Ravenclawfor those of wit and learning, and a ready mind. It’s the house for those on a quest for knowledge and truth, and home base for Luna Lovegood. I love Ravenclaws.
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  26. Hufflepuffwhere they are just and loyal. JK Rowling herself stated: “Hufflepuff’s got pretty much a clean record” – meaning, no bad guys. That’s no small thing. It’s the house of those who will always have your back, and since it’s where Nymphadora Tonks hails from, we know they kick butt too.
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  27. Slytherinfor those of great ambition. You know, this house gets a bad wrap, but I think that most fans are unkind. Some of my best friends are Slytherins, and lets not forget one of Slytherin’s great unsung heroes – Regulus Black – was the first to destroy one of Voldemort’s horcruxes. Oh, and Merlin was a Slytherin. ‘Nuff said.
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  28. leviosaaaGotta love those pseudo-latinate spells. Levi-O-sa, not Levi-o-SA.
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  29. Mythology references galore! Whether we are talking three-headed dogs from Greek chappies, entire families named after stars or constellations, or swords awaiting within English lakes, Rowling left many an easter egg to discover.
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  30. In a similar vein: Teasers scattered everywhere. One of my personal favorites occurs in the very first chapter of Book 1: on page 14 of the US edition, Hagrid mentions that he got the flying motorbike from Sirius Black – a character who doesn’t formally appear until 2 books later. This is only one instance of HUNDREDS that Rowling slips in all sly-like.
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  31. Yum...

    Yum…

    Detailed feasts. Rowling said that one of her favorite things in reading is to come across in-depth descriptions of food in books. She did her best to put her powers to the test on this one, and boy did she succeed! I still crave butterbeer most days.
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  32. Unending cast of characters, and such thought put into each of them. Let’s talk about a few:
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  33. Harry – the hero himself. I don’t know that I have ever come across a character with such a pure, good heart (excepting perhaps Superman). He lives his life out of love for those around him. I say he’s a model for us all (though he would hate me for saying that 🙂 ).
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  34. HAGRID! Probably the least selfish of all characters, and a good friend to the bone. Plus, I don’t know which entrance is cooler – his first, zooming in on a flying motorbike, or his second, breaking down the door of a hut at midnight in a storm.
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  35. Remus. Lupin. – Hands down, my favorite character of the series. He was the best teacher Harry ever had, the first connection to Harry’s parents, and an all-around good guy and hero. I sobbed like a baby when he died.
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  36. trioHermione – I identified with her so much – because I too was (well, am) “an insufferable know-it-all”.
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  37. Ron – A sense of humor and a tactical mind (he’s brilliant at chess) that Harry and Hermione both needed.
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  38. Fred and George -These two: where do I even start? They are the first to meet Harry at the station, and they promptly help him aboard. They are kind and supportive the instant he joins the Quidditch team, and constantly have his back: giving him the Marauder’s Map, or taking Umbridge out. Gred and Forge taught me about friendship and humor and taking a stand.
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  39. Basically the whole Weasley family – loving, accepting, and loyal to a fault, these guys gladly take up the task of being Harry’s surrogate family. And they perform marvelously.
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  40. Minerva McGonagall – What a lady. Besides Molly Weasley, she is the closest thing to a mother for Harry in the books – she makes him seeker (when he should have been expelled), gives him advice, stands up for him at every point, and doesn’t put up with his crap. Add to that she’s named for the Roman goddess of wisdom and war, and you have one of the most hardcore characters in the series. She’s awesome.
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  41. Marauders1997

    Marauders: Peter, Sirius, James, & Remus

    Sirius Black – the godfather that Harry needed. He was a direct connection to the father Harry never knew, and created a whole space for Harry to feel loved and protected. Threats of his attack held the Dursleys at bay for a few good years. And he could turn into a dog -that’s pretty cool too.
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  42. Dumbledore – the man is part kind wizard, part madman, and part enigma. By common consensus, he is the most illustrious and remarkable headmaster Hogwarts has seen, and he inspires loyalty like none other in the Harry Potter universe. Yet he’s a highly complex figure. I do not at all agree for a single second with his decision to place Harry in an abusive home, and that’s not his only questionable action by a long shot. But his moral ambiguity adds a nuance and dimension to the books that only serve to make them more rich and thought-provoking. And, to quote Kingsley Shacklebolt, “you can’t deny – Dumbledore’s got style.”
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  43. Neville Longbottom – deserves all the love in the world. His journey from zero to hero is the stuff of legend. I positively cheered the moment I read he chopped of the head of Voldemort’s snake. Such a feat!
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  44. Mad-Eye Moody – The mildly neurotic Scotsman who hunts down bad guys for breakfast. CONSTANT VIGILANCE.
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  45. Luna Lovegood – a prime example to prove that as weird as the world of Harry Potter is, it can always get weirder. And Weird, in Harry Potter, is wonderful. I dare you to find a single person who doesn’t like Luna Lovegood.
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  46. Unending mockery of the Dursleys. They deserve every second of it.
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  47. quidditchQuidditch – Rowling created the game after arguing one night with her ex-husband. She says it was great therapy. Now there are professional Quidditch squads in the US.
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  48. Comeuppance. Though it’s intrinsic to the book that real justice doesn’t exist (just like in the real world), that only makes those moments where the bad guys get theirs all the more sweet. Umbridge has a bad run-in with some Centaurs, Draco gets turned into a ferret, Lockhart’s memory spell backfires, and Molly Weasley takes out Bellatrix Lestrange. It’s not tit-for-tat, but it does bring a smile to the face.
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  49. Nuance. As I said before with Dumbledore, the characters of the books are not merely good or bad. They are deeply layered. Everyone operates in shades of gray, and none are more exemplary of this than Severus Snape. Snape was a bully and a man in power who used his position to abuse children. And yet, Rowling reveals his past and motives that make up the man. She doesn’t do this to explain away or justify what he does. She does it to bring understanding, and that humanizes the man who made terrible choices. Snape was not a hero, but he nevertheless served an irreplaceable role in saving Harry. People are not merely good or evil. There’s more to it than that.
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  50. In the end, Harry Potter is all about choices.The choices of the characters dictate the entire structure of everything that occurs, with all the consequences those actions imply for the characters who made them, and for everyone else who is affected. It’s about empowerment, about using our choices to take charge of our lives and use them in a way that will create more love and goodness in the world. That is what makes Harry Potter so great, and such an inspiration for millions of readers.

I could easily continue my list for another 50, and another 50 after that. There are so many reasons I love Harry Potter. It is something that has changed my life in so many ways. And I thank JK Rowling for that immensely.

Though she could have had no idea of it at the time, right at the very beginning of the first book, JK Rowling had written the following about Harry Potter:

“He’ll be famous – a legend – I wouldn’t be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter day in the future – there will be books written about Harry – every child will know his name!”

This prophecy was fulfilled in reality as surely as it was in the books. I am so grateful for the remarkable woman who wrote these books, and for the main character that drives them. Happy Birthday Harry, Happy Birthday JK Rowling. Thank you for all you have done.

jk rowling

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“The stories we love best do live in us forever, so whether you come back by page, or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.”
– JK Rowling

 

 

 

 

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They are starting to put ads on our blog. We do not approve these and are not getting any residuals whatsoever, so I apologize for the content. I’ll see what I can do about it.

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