Many of us have fond memories of the magical times we had with the Harry Potter series in years past. Whether your memory is going to the midnight release for The Order of the Phoenix or camping out to get the first tickets for The Deathly Hallows — Part 2, it’s clear that The Boy Who Lived has had a profound impact on our all of our lives in one way or another.
Between the slew of new stories J.K. Rowling has rolled out of Pottermore, the stage play for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and the upcoming release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them—2016 has marked the beginning of a Potter renaissance in pop culture. The Harry Potter movies always make for a fun marathon, but let’s not forget the the incredible source material. The book series single handedly inspired an entire generation of readers and writers and delivered the Star Wars of our generation before “Young Adult literature” was even an officially coined term.
To celebrate the return of Harry Potter, we’ve ranked the movies and now we’re taking a look at Every Harry Potter Book, Ranked From Worst To Best.
Pottermore Honorable Mention 3: Azkaban
There are few places as immediately recognizable and full of dread in the Harry Potter series as Azkaban. In her post on Pottermore, J.K. Rowling revealed the wizard prison full of Death Eater scum and villiany had actually been around since the fifteenth century. Originally, the island was actually home to a hermit wizard named Ekrizdis who was obsessed with the Dark Arts. Eventually, the Ministry of Magic discovered his misdeeds and decided to use the Dementors’ home as the prison we would learn more about in the third entry to the Harry Potter series.
This post on Pottermore is chalk full of interesting nuggets of information. Fun fact: The infamous prison borrowed its name from the American prison of Alcatraz and the Hebrew term for place of destruction, Abaddon. If you’re a Harry Potter fan who has yet to dive into the online world of Pottermore, make Azkaban one of your very first reads.
Pottermore Honorable Mention 2: The History of Magic in North America
This more recent Pottermore feature has been the source of a great deal of controversy related to its portrayal of indigenous people, which makes it that much more curious. This history is the perfect way to get primed for the 1920s American setting of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The article details every major development in the magical American West, starting as far back as the 13th century and going right up until the beginning of the 20th century.
As with most of Pottermore’s best articles, this feature gives us loads of Snitch-sized tidbits about America’s big decision to segregate muggles (or “No-Majes” in America) from wizards in 1790. If we were a betting group of flobberworms, we would expected to hear a load more about this big decision in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in just a couple of weeks. Why not get a head start?
Pottermore Honorable Mention 1: The Magical Congress of the United States of America (MACUSA)
Hold onto your brooms, government policy Potterheads– this article, penned by Rowling herself, just might blow your mind. This brief history details the birth of the organized wizard government in America before those pesky muggle colonists came over and started causing trouble. America was a tough place for witches and wizards in their earlier years. The constant suspicion of their existence led to persecution, burnings, and hangings. Do the Salem Witchcraft Trials sound familiar to anyone? They even fostered a certain amount of distrust between witches and wizards alike.
MACUSA makes for a fascinating read that highlights the differences between the US and British philosophies on magic and ethics. This is yet another article recently published on Pottermore in anticipation for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It’s definitely one of the more interesting works on the site. Channel the brightest witch of her age and do the advanced reading before you see the movie!
11. The Cursed Child
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child really didn’t have much chance at ranking high on this list. The two-part script made for a really fun read, but ultimately playwrights Jack Thorne and John Tiffany just didn’t bring the same level of original storytelling as J.K. Rowling to the wizarding world. We’re instead treated to a fun romp that reads like highly polished fan-fiction in the very best way.
There isn’t much new brought to the established mythology, but The Cursed Child does succeed in bringing some interesting ideas and themes to Harry Potter after he and his family have been living “happily ever after.” The biblical theme of “the sins of the father pass down to third and fourth generations” runs strong through the play and remains one of the more emotionally impactful ideas at the conclusion. Many fans have already decided to shun the series follow-up, but we think it’s worth the time and consideration for your shelf.
10. Quidditch Through the Ages
Did you ever want to learn the ins and outs of the greatest sport in wizarding history? You will definitely want to take a look at the sport’s detailed history in Quidditch Through the Ages. The book was written by J.K. Rowling as one of two companion pieces to the main series back in 2001. It was designed to be an actual handbook in the fictional world of Harry Potter, written by proclaimed Quidditch expert Kennilworthy Whisp, who covers the history of the game, the intricacies of each position, and even offers a few winning strategies.
Quidditch Through the Ages may not be required reading for you muggle friends, but diehard fans will be endlessly fascinated by J.K. Rowling’s specific and detailed vision for the sport. Snape unjustly punished Harry for reading this book in The Sorcerer’s Stone. It’s pretty magical to realize you’re reading The Boy Who Lived’s favorite book.
9. The Tales of Beedle the Bard
The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a brilliant little five-part anthology series Rowling whipped up almost immediately following the release of The Deathly Hallows. The book is composed of five of the most popular children’s stories in the wizarding world, including The Wizard and the Hopping Pot, The Fountain of Fair and Fortune, Babbitty Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump, and the infamous tale behind the Hallows, The Tale of the Three Brothers. These all serve as very fun and surprisingly dark Grimm-style tales. The book was released shorty after the conclusion of the main series, but it does little to add to the narrative outside of creating a fun point of reference. This is another must read for fans who want to continue to deepen their breadth of knowledge in the world of witches and wizards.
8. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
We’re just a few of short weeks until Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’s highly anticipated release, and we bet you’re wondering if you need to summon the book of the same name before catching the movie. The answer is– not necessarily. J.K. Rowling’s script is inspired by the adventures of the fictional writer, Newt Scamander. Unlike the narrative film set in the 1920s, the book of Fantastic Beasts is meant to read like a textbook from Harry’s first year at Hogwarts. Like Quidditch Through the Ages, Fantastic Beasts is meant to be supplemental reading that enriches your appreciation for the unusual and exotic creatures of the wizarding world.
The inside cover and certain pages features the scribblings and doodles of Harry Potter himself, with some input from Ron and others. This is a must-read for diehards, especially if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get excited for this Newt Scamander’s first big screen outing.
7. The Chamber of Secrets
In the original Harry Potter book series, there’s not really a “bad” book per say, but there are certainly entries less meaningful and impactful than others. That’s right, The Chamber of Secrets, we’re pointing our wands at you!
The second entry in Rowling’s wizarding world falls into a bit of a sophomore slump by following the formula of the first to a T. Harry arrives at Hogwarts only to quickly discover something malicious is lurking in the shadows. Through solving a series of puzzles and mysteries, Harry, Ron, and Hermione investigate the secret of the chamber to discover an altogether different conspiracy that is going on right under their noses. Sure, it teases us with glimpses of Voldemort’s past, but ultimately the book feels like another entry of the Hardy Boys series instead a major milestone in the Harry Potter series. Complaints aside, can you believe we got a basilisk, a flying car, and a giant spider in a single book?
6. The Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is the book that started the craze that would change young adult literature forever. What made The Sorcerer’s Stone especially magical at the time was its appeal to both children and adults. It was the perfect children’s bedtime story that also happened to provide enough depth, mystery, and suspense to entice adult readers. It was the beginning of a coming of age story, a battle between good and evil, and also a compelling whodunnit mystery novel. It ranks lower on this list only because Rowling was able to take the lessons she learned with the already exceptional first book and apply them to a series that only had greatness ahead of it. This wasn’t going to be just another disposable series for children. The Sorcerer’s Stone was going to go down in history.
What’s more even inspirational than the impact of the series on pop culture is J.K. Rowling’s rags-to-riches story of getting the book published after years of development and going through clinical depression and unemployment. Rowling’s powerful story has inspired an entire generation of authors around the world. We’re just shy of the series’ 20 year anniversary and it’s hard to remember what libraries or young adult reading was like in the mainstream before Harry first boarded platform 9 3/4 for to begin his first adventure at Hogwarts.
5. The Deathly Hallows
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows had the impossible task of wrapping up ten years worth of storytelling and character arcs, in addition to fleshing out the newly introduced mythology of horcruxes introduced in the previous entry. We’re sad to report the results from the hugely ambitious novel were mixed. The book encountered some severe pacing issues, especially in the first half of the book, which featured the least thrilling camping trip in the history of magic.
Issues aside, the second half of the book contains some of the most emotionally rich storytelling of 21st century literature. It answers major series-long questions, includes a number of poignant character reveals, and concludes with the most epic battle Hogwarts any of us could have hoped for. All of that was followed by a rather subpar epilogue that would become the launchpad for the stage play follow-up, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It’s far from perfect, but we can’t help but admire Rowling’s ambitious goals and more-or-less solid delivery of The Deathly Hallows.
4. The Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire marked the crucial turning point in the series when Voldemort returned and Harry’s world suddenly became much darker and less fanciful. This entry to the hugely popular series began with all of the usual suspects and tropes of the Harry Potter formula. A giant mystery at the center of Hogwarts; Snape acting especially suspicious; a new and unstable Defense Against the Dark Arts professor arrived at the school. These devices were all in place only for the rug to be pulled out from underneath us in the final third of the book, when the hugely exciting Triwizard Tournament goes sour and Cedric Diggory is needlessly murdered. The Goblet of Fire takes away Harry’s last bit of innocence and leaves him with great danger.
The Goblet of Fire is an especially well-written book that layers Harry’s Triwizard tasks on top of the underlying mystery of who put his name in the Goblet of Fire and how the ominous prologue would tie in to the rest of the novel. The book may have included weightier drama, but it also gave us dragons, The House Elf Liberation Front, sphinxes, the Quidditch World Cup, and most importantly, Ludo Bagman’s obscene wizarding John Madden impression. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire will forever be remembered as the book where J.K. Rowling decided to take the gloves off.
3. The Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix holds a special place in many of our hearts due to the three year publication gap between it and The Goblet of Fire. Readers around the world were on pins and needles just waiting to find out what Voldemort’s return meant for the Wizarding World and luckily, this book did not disappoint. To our surprise, the return of Voldemort actually meant very little to the public or the Ministry of Magic, who denied the Dark Lord’s existence. The Order of the Phoenix was notable for putting Harry right in the middle of a battle of politics between Dumbledore and Cornelius Fudge as he investigated the secrets behind the Department of Mysteries. This makes way for one of the most diabolically infuriating characters ever written to the page of young adult literature: Dolores Umbridge.
The Order of the Phoenix is also especially notable for spotlighting Harry’s relationship with the fan-favorite Sirius Black, one of Harry’s many surrogate fathers, who represented an escape from from Harry’s miserable childhood at the Dursleys’. Rowling set up a warm, if reckless kinship between the two that ended with us all in tears. Cedric Diggory’s death was tragic, but the passing of Sirius Black is a moment that will stick with readers forever.
2. The Half Blood Prince
Harry Potter and The Half Blood Prince is one of the greatest penultimate novels in any young adult series. It brings everything we’ve loved about the book series through the years into one last hurrrah for Harry’s time at Hogwarts. The mystery, the teen drama, the Quidditch matches, and the whimsical journey into the unknown are all present and accounted for.
In addition to the usual suspects, The Half Blood Prince also gives us the long awaited insight into Voldemort’s elusive past. Once the truth is revealed, it is very clear that the villain of the story was driven by ambition and a total lack of love throughout his entire existence, all the way back to before his birth. The story behind his origins make for an especially tragic tale that was altogether removed from the film series. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention the shocking death of Dumbledore at the hands of one of his most loyal followers, Severus Snape. Upon release, this moment shook the entire fanbase, leaving us all in tears of anger and sadness as we awaited the final story in Harry’s adventure.
1. The Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the quintessential Harry Potter reading experience. It perfects the reliably fun procedural formula established in the first two books and brings countless new contributions to the mythology along with it. There’s an extra layer of emotional weight and complexity added to the story when Harry begins learning more about his godfather, Sirius Black, and the complicated history of the Marauder’s Map. Loyalty and betrayal are themes that run throughout the series, but no other book handles it on the same level as The Prisoner of Azkaban. Harry’s new friendship with Sirius and Remus Lupin gave him a hope that readers could share. It makes the tragedy of Sirius’s convictions and Peter Pettigrew’s cover up even more gut-wrenching to read.
Outside of the outstanding character drama, this book also introduced us to some of our favorite new lore, including Hippogriffs, werewolves, the Knight Bus, Hogsmeade, and of course, the Patronus charm Harry learns from Lupin to ward off Dementors. It also laid the groundwork for bigger things to come from the series. The Prisoner of Azkaban ranks as our number one because it benefits from brevity of the first two books, with the more nuanced character interactions and richer mythology of the later novels. If you were only ever going to recommend or revisit one Harry Potter book, make it The Prisoner of Azkaban.
Are you planning to revisit the Harry Potter book series before Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them? How would you rank your favorite books in the series? Let us know by posting in the comments!