Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling
I listened to this on Spotify, as they did a “Harry Potter at home” series with a different reader (or readers) for every chapter. It was fun to hear so many actors who portrayed various characters in the series read the book (and a few who didn’t get to be in the movies but are great readers). This exercise shows that not every actor is great at reading, but it was still fun to hear different voices and experience the story this way.
In case you need a brief refresher on the story… Harry Potter is an orphan who lives with his abusive aunt and uncle. When he turns eleven he discovers that 1. his parents were a witch and wizard 2. he’s been invited to attend a special school for witchcraft and wizardry because 3. he himself is a wizard.
Hijinks ensue! Harry makes friends (and enemies) at Hogwarts (the aforementioned school of witchcraft and wizardry), learns about his parents, learns about the evil wizard who killed them and who was unable to kill Harry as a baby, and starts his magical education.
It’s a boarding school adventure with a mystery to unravel, and Rowling’s world-building is pretty great. I think her writing got stronger as she continued the series, and listening to this book made me want to revisit the series. While there’s only the one book on Spotify (at least for now), we have the rest of the series, so look for more to pop up on my 2020 books….
Update: it looks like they’ve taken the episodes off Spotify?? You can find them on the Wizarding World website under “Harry Potter at Home,” but they have them in reverse chronological order and you have to register on the site (for free) to access them. THIS IS TERRIBLE; I’M SO SORRY EVERYONE!
★ ★ ★
Barchester Towers, by Anthony Trollope
As with others for my Classics Club list, I’ve reviewed this book on its own here.
★ ★ ★
The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” This is an iconic first line, and it feels like wrapping myself in a warm blanket. It’s been a crazy year (understatement), so I’ve felt the pull of re-reading familiar books as a way of coping. This cozy adventure fits squarely in the biliotherapy category. I know the story so well, going back to when I was a child and my mother read it to us, and it’s always a delight to visit Middle Earth again.
Bilbo Baggins lives a slow agrarian life as a well-to-do hobbit, the picture of respectability in his fine home. But one morning Gandalf the wizard pays a visit and sets an adventure in motion. Soon Mr. Baggins finds himself out in the wide world with thirteen dwarves, camping in the rain, escaping from trolls and goblins, in a quest to recover the dwarves’ treasure from the dragon Smaug.
The story moves briskly but never rushes too much, and while there are too many dwarves for many of them to have a lot of characterization (also, there are no women in this story), Bilbo himself goes on quite the journey physically and internally.
Middle Earth is a fascinating world, and I’m always glad to visit. I especially wish I could visit Rivendell, the last homely house where trouble and care stay at the doorstep and one’s strength is replenished. And I would love to know more about Beorn, the skin changer who is both bear and man and who is gruff, but ultimately on the side of good. Especially if you tell him a good tale and earn a welcome. And Gandalf. We can always use more Gandalf, a stout companion on an adventure and useful in a tight spot.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★