If you know me, you’ll know I love to read. If you don’t know me, chances are that you’ll know this too. Whether it’s a new book haul on Instagram or quotes and discussions on Twitter, I love to talk about books and stories and why I read them but have never really delved into why this is.
I examined my literary history and had a little think.
My reading experiences are very common both with what I’ve read and how I went about discovering them. The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Shirley Hughes’ Alfie books shower my early childhood memories along with smatterings of Captain Underpants and various Enid Blyton stories.
I steadily continued with my reading thanks to school but just before my tenth birthday I was given a Christmas present from my dad and sister, A small, heavy box with sharp edges and a smooth case. When I ripped open the paper and revealed the mystery within, I looked at them both with a puzzling look on my face; it was the Harry Potter box set of the books, 1-4.
The puzzling look came because the both of them had been trying to get me to read HP as they both had. For whatever reason, I wasn’t interested. I can’t remember what I was reading at the time or if I was reading at all instead of playing football or playing Spyro on my PS2.
I remember leaving them for a time in my cupboard with my other discarded books and going about my days as I did. I can’t remember the moment but obviously one day I decided they were worth a go. That was me at ten years old. Lets fast forward to 2010 Alex and meet sixteen year old me. I had read more books, I now had really long, curly hair and most of my clothing consisted of black band tees and red converse (this honestly still applies to me now). I had changed in some ways but one thing that hadn’t changed was my reading of Potter.
I struggle to remember the other books I read during those six year simply because I read Harry Potter SO MUCH. Like I would read 1-7 and then just repeat. I couldn’t get enough, no other books interested or grabbed me like they did. The films were at their most popular around this time, a lot of my friends had read them, I dissected them, re-read, analysed, wrote fan-fiction, had the audio books on in the background, loved the characters like they were my own friends and completely lost myself in the magical world J.K. Rowling had created.
As I got older though and met more people like me, it was obvious that my wider reading had been neglected in my key reading years. I tried hard to remember what I’d read but Harry kept popping up. Around that time I made a conscious decision to take a break from HP in order to delve more into the world of fiction because after all I loved reading in general and had forgotten that. I was forcing myself to read more because I had been chained to this series I was ardently addicted to.
I can admit that I’m still on that break seven years later. I talk about my love for that series frequently in person and online and always feel bad when I know that I haven’t read them for so long but this break has given me some amazing times, some of the best books I can think of and a world of ideas for my own writing.
Every so often I teeter on the edge of picking up Philosopher’s Stone and diving in but I hold back, knowing there’s more I haven’t read. I can feel the moment approaching again when I’ll land on Platform Nine and Three Quarters and board the Hogwarts Express. I’m waiting for it eagerly and hope it arrives soon.
I’m glad I forced myself to stop and then start another journey. Writing about it now it seems strange to me that I didn’t just realise to myself I didn’t HAVE to read it over and over and over. That’s what a real love is I suppose, not wanting to let go and clutching on forever.
That sentence in itself may sound ridiculous but it’s completely true and I can’t be dishonest about it. Those books gave me a place to escape too when I needed it most, a fun filled adventure that I grew up with because as the characters got older I did too.
It’s primarily fantasy based but one thing I admired is how grounded in our own reality it is. Muggles exist, wizards suffer the same problems we do, boys are embarassed to talk to girls, quidditch is as competitive as football, evil does exist and where’s there’s bad people there’s always good.
Harry, Ron and Hermione can be any one of us: Strong, brave, resilient, smart, sometimes clumsy and stupid but loyal and caring. They were my friends and those books still help me discover who I am and what I like and what direction I want to head in. They helped me discover new stories, literally forcing me into a wider library in my life.
So, I guess all I can say is that I always did like to read but Harry Potter made me love to read.