I was three years old when I first met the Boy Who Lived. When my brother and I unwrapped two beautifully illustrated hardcover books on Christmas morning in 1999, we had no idea the world we would soon enter.
As three and five-year-olds, we weren’t quite ready to dive into the books on our own yet, but with the help of our parents, we slowly eased into the world of Harry Potter. We tried a chapter here and there before bed, but always ended up returning to the start, thanks to our brief toddler memory spans.
Two years later, I waddled into the movie theater to see “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” and that’s when it really began. On the car ride home, we decided as a family to read through the book together, from start to finish without any do-overs.
“That’s not how it happens, Mommy,” I’d interrupt my parents as they read, convinced what I’d seen on screen was the only real account of Harry’s adventures.
By eight, I was ready to blaze my own trail – jumping right in with “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the series’ fourth installment, to ensure I’d be caught up in time for the film’s release. Before Harry Potter, I’d never been much of a reader, but here I was flying through a 734-page book in third grade. Thanks to Rowling, a less-than-enthused reader had suddenly turned into a bookworm.
Vacations couldn’t be made without multiple noses in Harry Potter books. Late nights were spent in line waiting for midnight book and film releases. Even summers spent learning spells and playing Quidditch at Harry Potter camp.
When the final book, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” was released in July of 2007, my entire extended family was on vacation at Sunset Beach. Instead of lounging on the beach, all of us kids dragged our parents to the nearest Barnes and Noble for a night of trivia, games and anticipation – camping out for Rowling’s grand finale. Four copies were purchased that night, and not a single child played on the beach until the final word had been read.
For 13 years, Harry Potter encapsulated the childhood of an entire generation, but it didn’t end when the last film was released – and it will never end. That’s the beauty of it. This is the defining story of an entire generation, and it will always be with us. It’s timeless.
Sure, it’s technically considered a children’s book, but it’s a classic tale of good versus evil that’s overflowing with messages applicable to those of all ages. Life, death, love, loss, friendship, family, forgiveness, loyalty, courage. The list goes on and on.
As I now reread the books for the sixth or seventh time as an adult, I’m still in awe of the magical world Rowling created for so many to enjoy. Instead of simply focusing on the story, I can appreciate the way Rowling so expertly crafted each and every chapter, weaving them together to form one of the greatest stories of all time.
While a class assignment may have triggered my most recent reread of “Sorcerer’s Stone,” the critical analysis delivered by The Ringer’s Binge Mode podcast convinced me to continue through the series – not that I needed too much convincing.
Like so many others, Harry Potter has played a critical part in my life. From sparking my passion for reading and writing to influencing my morals and values, and even shaping my personality, Harry has been there through it all.
One day, I’ll pass my beloved, tattered collection of books to my future children, and eagerly watch them as they explore the magical world I hold so dear.
After all this time? Always.
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.