The Magic of Words: How the Harry Potter Series Shaped a Generation

“Is this the moment?”—Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

There are some moments in our lives that we remember forever—defining moments we can recall with crystal clarity as having shaped our lives in a certain way. However, it is far easier to recognize such moments in hindsight than as they happen.

When I was nine years old, my friend and I had a sleepover. We both liked to read before bed, but I’d forgotten to bring a book.

“Here,” my friend said, grabbing a book off her nightstand. “You can read this one.”

I was already an avid reader, but this book was different, somehow, and although I didn’t know at the time how much it would impact my life, I knew it was special. I stayed up long after my friend had fallen asleep, hiding my head under the covers and reading by flashlight so as not to wake her. I only put the book down when I could no longer hold my eyes open.

The book was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in the Harry Potter series and, though I didn’t know it yet, the beginning of a life-long journey.

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”—Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

It’s safe to say most people have at least heard of the Harry Potter series and its staggering success over the years. It has received worldwide recognition, countless awards, and set many records. With 500 million books sold in 80 languages (as announced on Pottermore in February 2018), it’s the best-selling book series in history. And, although the final book in the series was published in 2007, the books continue to evolve even today, with new covers, editions, illustrations, and translations being released from time to time.

So, what makes this series different from similar literature? Over the years, people have offered many different explanations for the series’ popularity, and while it’s hard to pinpoint the exact formula that led to its extraordinary success, there are some prominent contributing factors.

First of all, the series gave new life to the fantasy genre—which, at the time of Harry Potter’s introduction, was beginning to stagnate and fall out of favor with readers—by offering something both unique and accessible, as there were precious few fantasy stories written for children.

Harry Potter also revolutionized the children’s publishing industry. Before Harry Potter, many publishers did not view children’s literature as a valuable investment. It was uncommon for children’s books to be more than approximately 140 pages, as publishers didn’t believe children could tackle longer books with a large cast of characters. Additionally, it was unusual for the heroes of children’s books to grow older as the series progressed.

However, after the first few book releases, publishers suddenly saw children devouring books that were hundreds of pages long. Moreover, adults were reading Harry Potter as well, not only to make sure it was appropriate for their children but for their own enjoyment. This, too, was rare.

J.K Rowling’s writing also contributed to the success of the series. In addition to crafting interesting, complex, and relatable characters, her incredible worldbuilding allows readers to fully immerse themselves in the world she created. The specific details she includes turn the wizarding world into something palpable, letting readers picture it clearly and leaving them with no doubt that such a place could exist. The series combines good old-fashioned escapism with the thrill and newness of childhood discovery.

However, the series offers far more than simple entertainment. It also contains many powerful truths that shape its readers and help them make sense of the world (both real and fictional). It teaches readers about the power of love and friendship, the importance of bravery and standing up for your beliefs, the impact (and harsh necessity) of loss, and the value of acceptance. In fact, a 2014 study found that children who read Harry Potter were more likely to be empathetic and less likely to be prejudiced than their peers.  

“Love is the most important force.”—J.K. Rowling

Despite all the wonderful qualities of the series and the ways in which it revolutionized the publishing industry, I believe there’s a more straightforward reason for Harry Potter’s lasting impact. J.K. Rowling said in her emotional speech at the London movie premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2—the final movie installment—that “No story lives unless someone wants to listen. The stories we love best do live in us forever.” Therefore, the series’ success comes simply because it was (and still is!) loved by so many people.

The Harry Potter books hold far more than just words or stories; they hold memories. I grew up alongside Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the characters. They were my friends in a way that was different, but no less real, than my other friendships. I spent time with them. I knew them. I loved them.

When I pick up a Harry Potter book, I think of lining up for midnight book releases, the air crackling with excitement and anticipation. I drew lightning-shaped scars on my forehead with red lipstick to fit in with the other costumed patrons. I stayed up late into the night to finish the books, even though I had to get up early for school the next day. I huddled in the treehouse on the school playground with my friends, our heads close together as we discussed plot points and theories while waiting for even the tiniest scrap of information about the next release date to be spread around. I read fanfiction to get through the agonizing three-year wait between The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix.

Even the mere mention of Harry Potter calls to mind a specific era and a certain nostalgia for its readers, all of whom have their own unique memories of that time.

“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”—Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

For many of us, the books have become a vital part of our identities. They’ve influenced who we’ve become and continue to impact us today.  

Additionally, the books have connected us. They’ve brought us together with other people, creating a diverse, ever-growing family. We’re devoted to the books, feeling an instant kinship with anyone who brings up Harry Potter in conversation. The series has introduced countless people to the simple joy of reading. It’s also inspired art, relationships, and even spin-off books and movies.

The books have so perfectly captured the struggles, dreams, and secret hopes that many of us have. Without even trying, they’ve woven themselves tightly into the very fabric of our identities, and it’s almost impossible to tell who we’d be without out them.

“All was well.”—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—the final book in the series—was released in the summer of 2007, I finished it in three days. As I read the final sentence, I had the distinct sense that my childhood had officially ended.

Like Harry, Ron, and Hermione, I had grown up, matured, and would now go on to different things. It was bittersweet: I wasn’t ready for the series to end, but I was so thankful to have been a part of the journey, and I took comfort in knowing it would never truly be over.

Although the books themselves have come to an end, the series will live on forever, and, as JK Rowling said, “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome [us] home.”

To me, that’s pretty magical.



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I’m a writing major at Grand Valley State University. Creative writing is my passion–although I also enjoy professional writing and copywriting–and I will defend the Oxford comma to the death. When I’m not writing, I’m re-reading Harry Potter for the hundredth time, searching for new ice cream parlors to try, playing the flute and piano, or watching the Food Network (and sometimes doing a little baking of my own).

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The Magic of Words: How the Harry Potter Series Shaped a Generation

“Is this the moment?”—Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

There are some moments in our lives that we remember forever—defining moments we can recall with crystal clarity as having shaped our lives in a certain way. However, it is far easier to recognize such moments in hindsight than as they happen.

When I was nine years old, my friend and I had a sleepover. We both liked to read before bed, but I’d forgotten to bring a book.

“Here,” my friend said, grabbing a book off her nightstand. “You can read this one.”

I was already an avid reader, but this book was different, somehow, and although I didn’t know at the time how much it would impact my life, I knew it was special. I stayed up long after my friend had fallen asleep, hiding my head under the covers and reading by flashlight so as not to wake her. I only put the book down when I could no longer hold my eyes open.

The book was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the first book in the Harry Potter series and, though I didn’t know it yet, the beginning of a life-long journey.

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.”—Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

It’s safe to say most people have at least heard of the Harry Potter series and its staggering success over the years. It has received worldwide recognition, countless awards, and set many records. With 500 million books sold in 80 languages (as announced on Pottermore in February 2018), it’s the best-selling book series in history. And, although the final book in the series was published in 2007, the books continue to evolve even today, with new covers, editions, illustrations, and translations being released from time to time.

So, what makes this series different from similar literature? Over the years, people have offered many different explanations for the series’ popularity, and while it’s hard to pinpoint the exact formula that led to its extraordinary success, there are some prominent contributing factors.

First of all, the series gave new life to the fantasy genre—which, at the time of Harry Potter’s introduction, was beginning to stagnate and fall out of favor with readers—by offering something both unique and accessible, as there were precious few fantasy stories written for children.

Harry Potter also revolutionized the children’s publishing industry. Before Harry Potter, many publishers did not view children’s literature as a valuable investment. It was uncommon for children’s books to be more than approximately 140 pages, as publishers didn’t believe children could tackle longer books with a large cast of characters. Additionally, it was unusual for the heroes of children’s books to grow older as the series progressed.

However, after the first few book releases, publishers suddenly saw children devouring books that were hundreds of pages long. Moreover, adults were reading Harry Potter as well, not only to make sure it was appropriate for their children but for their own enjoyment. This, too, was rare.

J.K Rowling’s writing also contributed to the success of the series. In addition to crafting interesting, complex, and relatable characters, her incredible worldbuilding allows readers to fully immerse themselves in the world she created. The specific details she includes turn the wizarding world into something palpable, letting readers picture it clearly and leaving them with no doubt that such a place could exist. The series combines good old-fashioned escapism with the thrill and newness of childhood discovery.

However, the series offers far more than simple entertainment. It also contains many powerful truths that shape its readers and help them make sense of the world (both real and fictional). It teaches readers about the power of love and friendship, the importance of bravery and standing up for your beliefs, the impact (and harsh necessity) of loss, and the value of acceptance. In fact, a 2014 study found that children who read Harry Potter were more likely to be empathetic and less likely to be prejudiced than their peers.  

“Love is the most important force.”—J.K. Rowling

Despite all the wonderful qualities of the series and the ways in which it revolutionized the publishing industry, I believe there’s a more straightforward reason for Harry Potter’s lasting impact. J.K. Rowling said in her emotional speech at the London movie premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2—the final movie installment—that “No story lives unless someone wants to listen. The stories we love best do live in us forever.” Therefore, the series’ success comes simply because it was (and still is!) loved by so many people.

The Harry Potter books hold far more than just words or stories; they hold memories. I grew up alongside Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the rest of the characters. They were my friends in a way that was different, but no less real, than my other friendships. I spent time with them. I knew them. I loved them.

When I pick up a Harry Potter book, I think of lining up for midnight book releases, the air crackling with excitement and anticipation. I drew lightning-shaped scars on my forehead with red lipstick to fit in with the other costumed patrons. I stayed up late into the night to finish the books, even though I had to get up early for school the next day. I huddled in the treehouse on the school playground with my friends, our heads close together as we discussed plot points and theories while waiting for even the tiniest scrap of information about the next release date to be spread around. I read fanfiction to get through the agonizing three-year wait between The Goblet of Fire and The Order of the Phoenix.

Even the mere mention of Harry Potter calls to mind a specific era and a certain nostalgia for its readers, all of whom have their own unique memories of that time.

“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”—Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

For many of us, the books have become a vital part of our identities. They’ve influenced who we’ve become and continue to impact us today.  

Additionally, the books have connected us. They’ve brought us together with other people, creating a diverse, ever-growing family. We’re devoted to the books, feeling an instant kinship with anyone who brings up Harry Potter in conversation. The series has introduced countless people to the simple joy of reading. It’s also inspired art, relationships, and even spin-off books and movies.

The books have so perfectly captured the struggles, dreams, and secret hopes that many of us have. Without even trying, they’ve woven themselves tightly into the very fabric of our identities, and it’s almost impossible to tell who we’d be without out them.

“All was well.”—Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

When Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—the final book in the series—was released in the summer of 2007, I finished it in three days. As I read the final sentence, I had the distinct sense that my childhood had officially ended.

Like Harry, Ron, and Hermione, I had grown up, matured, and would now go on to different things. It was bittersweet: I wasn’t ready for the series to end, but I was so thankful to have been a part of the journey, and I took comfort in knowing it would never truly be over.

Although the books themselves have come to an end, the series will live on forever, and, as JK Rowling said, “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome [us] home.”

To me, that’s pretty magical.



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