Technically it all began with the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the UK in 1997. But that’s only technically. The true beginning was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, published July 8th, 2000. Potter Mania can all be traced to that one date. It was when Harry Potter began its term as the reigning king of the publishing world, breaking records and setting the rest of the world on fire.
I had started reading the Harry Potter books about a year earlier. The first book had been given out as a school reading assignment. I scoffed at the assignment. A story about a boy who fins out he’s a wizard and then has to go to a wizard school? Why would I ever want to read such a thing? I was already a snob at the ripe old age of eleven. In retrospect, I was a total moron. Thank Jeebus I had a teacher who forced us to read good books!
When I started reading that first book I was exactly the same age as Harry. That right there was a perfect entry point. Even still, I found getting through that first book a little shaky. I enjoyed it, but it took me a while to get past the opening chapters, and I remember thinking, even at that time, that the ending was a bit too rushed. But my appetite was whetted and I could not look back. I devoured Chamber of Secrets in about two weeks, which was extremely fast for me as an eleven-year-old. I went out immediately and bought Prisoner of Azkaban, which I cleaned up in two days. In fact, I loved the book so much I did something I had only ever done with a few Roald Dahl books before: I read it twice.
And then the waiting game began. I scoured the internet for anything even remotely related to Potter. Only a couple months earlier, Emerson Spartz started MuggleNet. Let’s just say I spent way too much time reading and re-reading the same information on that site. By the time the release of the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was announced, I was a full blown Potter-head. And from what I know about sales figures and the general mood at the time, apparently millions of others were going through exactly the same thing as me.
Goblet of Fire came out, and due to sheer length, and other distractions such as camp, it took me about two weeks to read it. I remember when I finally finished that book. The shock at Cedric Diggory’s death. The amazement at the Mad Eye/Barty Crouch Jr. twist. The ghosts of Harry’s parents. Voldemort in full form. All of it hit me in just the right way. J.K. Rowling was now my god, Harry Potter my bible.
Though I say that with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, there really is a truth to it. I’ve read the Bible, but no story in it, no character, no lesson it preaches has ever given me the sense of comfort, familiarity or morality that I have gotten from the Harry Potter series. The series taken as one whole is an incredible, indelible work of fiction; the kind that rarely comes along. And the fact that I could experience that story unfold one book at a time, eagerly anticipating each new volume, soaking in all that I could of the stories and their universe, well, that’s what takes Harry Potter to a whole other level for me. And although Goblet of Fire is not my favourite book in the series by a longshot, it will always hold a special place in my heart because it represents the time that my Harry Potter mania truly began.