This summer, I re-read the Harry Potter series. This was my first time doing so, meaning I hadn’t read these stories since they first came out. I had remained somewhat active in the fandom, taking sorting hat quizzes and enjoying comics like these when they circulated around social media (warning: not-safe-for-work language in that link). Upon re-reading the series, though, I became re-addicted. One of the biggest appeals of getting back into the books was simply re-entering the world they create. While I remembered most (but not all) of the key plot points and characters, I had forgotten just how much minutiae is there, how much texture J.K. Rowling has given this world. In the throes of my nostalgia-ridden, anxiety-filled post-graduate days, I wanted more Harry Potter magic. I logged back into Pottermore, I obsessed about my upcoming trip to the Wizarding World (the details of which I covered in a previous post), and I knew I had to get my hands on as much content as possible. This is where the Hogwarts Library comes in.
The Hogwarts Library is a series of three books, all written by J.K. Rowling (who, for each book, is writing as a different character from the Harry Potter universe). The proceeds of these books go to two different charities (Comic Relief for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through the Ages, and Lumos for The Tales of Beedle the Bard), and they are published as though they are real wizarding textbooks being made available to Muggles. As such, they are minutiae-tastic, a creative and fun welcome back into J.K. Rowling’s imagination. (Also, a note: for the ease of the rest of the review, I’m going to speak of fictional events and people as if they are real, without using quotation marks or winky-face emojis or anything like that. I hope you won’t mind playing along 🙂 ).
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is probably the hottest item right now, given the film that’s in the works, but this was surprisingly my least favorite of the three (although it was still a delight). The book is written by magi-zoologist Newt Scamander, but to add further texture to this, the copy itself is a duplication of the one Harry and Ron shared in school, complete with their marginalia. The book itself is a pretty straightforward encyclopedia of the magical creatures in the Harry Potter universe, which is really enjoyable (and shows just how much research and thought J.K. Rowling has put into this world). The marginalia provides a bit of humor, but I preferred the entries themselves the most.
Quidditch Through the Ages surprised me. I’m sure I would enjoy Quidditch if I lived in the Harry Potter universe (I did attend a Big Ten school, after all), but the matches were often the least interesting parts of the books for me. I found this book to be a lot of fun, though. It details the history of Quidditch’s formation, ending with a detailed explanation of the rules, teams, and culture of the sport as it’s currently played. It also takes some really funny jabs at real-life sporting culture. There are a couple of instances in Quidditch’s history in which some of the more dangerous elements were removed, and the book details the outrage at these changes, with fans saying that the sport was ruined now that they could no longer witness grave injuries or set fire to equipment. There is also a funny note that Quidditch isn’t as popular in America because it has to compete with our home-grown broom sport (a jab, I’m sure, at the unpopularity of soccer compared to football). Overall, this book gave me a new appreciation for this element of the Harry Potter universe.
Of course, my favorite of the series was The Tales of Beedle the Bard. This is a book of wizarding fairy tales, and this particular edition comes from the copy Dumbledore passed on to Hermione Granger and includes his notes on each story. This means that you get the story AND a literary analysis of it, all of which is lovely and smart (and what a great way to recruit future English majors!). This is the only book in which J.K. Rowling’s voice appears, and in her introduction, she makes a point of noting that one of the biggest differences between wizarding fairy tales and Muggle ones is the agency of the female characters. So, to sum up, you’re getting fairy tales, literary nerdiness, and feminism. It’s like all of my favorite things rolled into one.
Obviously these books are short, and they’re written in a way that is accessible to all ages. If you’re looking for something with meaty plot and dramatic twists, this isn’t it. But if you’re eager for a little more time in the Harry Potter universe, and you want to support a good cause, these books are a really enjoyable answer.