No Book Is Perfect (Or, the Harry Potter Problem)

7:00 AM


Buckle up, kids, because things are going down today.


I've said this before and I'll say it again, just so we're all clear: I don't like Harry Potter. I've read all of them, and I just...don't. I don't hate it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns, I don't wish Harry Potter didn't exist, I don't think people who like Harry Potter are stupid or stuck-up or whatever I could say. It's just not my thing.
If you didn't think I would use gifs from the HP movies for this post, you were very wrong.
The problem is when that's a problem.

(Note: Harry Potter is not the only example of this, and I'm not taking the time to bash Harry Potter fans exclusively or something. This is just the most popular example I can think of, that most if not all of you would recognize.) 

There's this thing in the bookish community, an almost unspoken thing, that makes Harry Potter into some kind of weird little book god. Everyone loves Harry Potter. Everyone has alllll the feels over Harry Potter, everyone has made Harry Potter their life, everyone loves to fangirl over it. Harry Potter is the ultimate book. The best book. The best series of all time. Maybe people don't mean to give off that feel, but they kinda do.

When I briefly confessed to not liking Harry Potter at a writer's group meeting, I received shocked glares and one "how could you not???"

One of the last times I mentioned disliking Harry Potter in more detail here on the blog, I got a whole bunch of comments talking about how people were sad that I didn't like it, or sad that I'd missed out on that part of my childhood, like the fact that I hadn't read Harry Potter was some kind of disappointing thing I'd been missing out on for a while. We do this with other books, too.


Again: I don't care if you like Harry Potter or not. I don't care if a lot of people love Harry Potter or not. The issue I have is this culture we create around certain books, the attitude that said book/movie/show is absolutely perfect in every way and a part of an educated life and if you don't like it/having read it, you're either missing out or an absolute idiot. These things can do no wrong.

Here's the deal, in my humble ranting opinion: No book is perfect. No author is perfect. No book is perfect or universal. Lots of people may like it, but it's not some kind of standard. 

Different books mean different things to different people, and that's okay. I don't like Harry Potter, but lots of people thought it was incredibly deep and get a lot out of it. That's okay. I love The Great Gatsby with all my heart and soul. Some people thought it was lame. That's okay. Actually, that's normal. Books weren't meant to be flawless and appeal to everyone all the time and mean something to everyone who reads them; a book created for that would just be boring and/or dumb in itself. Maybe it wouldn't even exist, because that's kind of impossible.

Love the books you love. Take everything you want out of them. Fangirl about them. Share them with your friends. Don't be ashamed to love a book. Don't be ashamed to dislike a book, either. You don't need to feel like you have to apologize for not loving a book everyone else loves, because that's normal. 

*end rant*

36 comments

  1. ... this is so rational and logical but at the same time I have gasped in horror when people didn't read Harry Potter or [insert other very popular book series]. This is definitely something I need to think longer about ... I don't think I've run into this situation before personally. But this is definitely an important point. *nods*

    *feels like this post was kinda like a George Orwell book in the best kind of way where you read it and suddenly feel your past collapsing behind you and spend the next few minutes staring into space reflecting on your life*

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    1. *flails because mention of George Orwell and I feel that feel xD*

      Yeah...I've gasped in horror when people haven't liked my favorite books too, and I don't think that's a problem. I'm mostly just annoyed by the assumption that you're *wrong* for not liking a certain book, or that a certain book is the book to end all books and how could you not like it and still be intelligent.

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  2. I didn't read Harry Potter until about a year ago, when I read the whole series in about a week's time and then sat in a daze of Post-Potter Hangover for several days afterward. I love the series. That doesn't mean I think it's perfect; sometimes the character development can be a bit lacking, and though the writing is good it's not outstanding. There's also the regrettable 'Chosen One Cliche' thing going on, so that's not good. Anyway, having spent several of my younger years berating people who disliked Tolkien and eventually realizing that, as you said, no books are perfect and everyone likes different things, I definitely agree with you.

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    1. I enjoyed bits of Harry Potter when I read it, as well. I don't think it's beyond being good at all, or think it's evil in any way. I just wish there was a little more of a good attitude about personal book/genre preferences. :P

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  3. Yessss.
    I have not read Harry Potter. Not because of I disapprove of magic, or I've never had the opportunity, or I just don't want to like it because everyone else liked it, like a lot of people assume. It's not even because my parents don't really like it or particularly want me reading it, though that's true. I haven't read Harry Potter because I've read the summaries, reviews, and fangirl posts, and-- it doesn't arouse my interest at all. And I don't want to read a book that doesn't sound interesting.
    That's normal, right? With almost every other book I've heard people talk about, I can say "Eh, doesn't sound like something I would be interested in," and everyone accepts it, no problem. Because just because they enjoy historical romance doesn't mean everybody does. But if I say, "Harry Potter doesn't sound like my thing," cue the gasps of shock and horror!
    What if I just don't like Fantasy? What if I just don't like stories set at boarding schools? What if tales of magic wands and noseless villains and weird sports just don't sound all that appealing? Does that mean there's something wrong with me?
    I hope not. *shrugs* Someday I might read Harry Potter, and I might love it as much as "everyone" else, but I don't like being pressured into doing it when I don't WANT to.

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    1. I feel you there. I was never explicitly told I *couldn't* read Harry Potter when I was younger, nor did I ever feel like I wanted to. Fantasy and things with magic just aren't my favorite genre in the first place, for the simple reason that that genre doesn't appeal to me in most cases. So I'm glad I read it when I did, and I'm okay with the fact that it's not my favorite. I definitely don't appreciate being treated like I missed out on something or my taste in books is any less fabulous because something's not my preference. *nodnod*

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  4. I haven't read any of the books and I've only watched five of the movies. They were good, but not I desperately need these in my life good. I didn't watch any until I was 21, so clearly my childhood was fine. I'm more of a LOTR girl anyway. :) Just know, you're not alone! :p

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  5. You're absolutely right about Harry Potter(and other books, like the Hunger Games and Percy Jackson that are like giants of the book world). I personally really like them, but I think I am beginning to grow out of HP. I think just because it is so wildly popular, even now, over a decade after the first one was published, it gets a lot of attention and love. That's great, but I think you're right that Harry Potter fangirling can also have a side effect of judging people who don't love HP, even though that wouldn't be acceptable for other series, say, Maggie Steifvater books (or maybe not. I didn't love shiver and some people were a bit disappointed about this). Interesting (if controversial) discussion!

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    1. (For the record, I didn't love Shiver at all either. Or anything Stiefvater writes.)

      I think it's great that people love it and that it's popular, but I can also recognize that it's not my thing, and I think both sides are okay as long as we don't start bashing. Percy Jackson is something I loved when I was younger and am starting to grow out of now, but I don't think that makes me any sort of a failure or jerk. It's just a preference and sometimes people have trouble with that.

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  6. I still haven't read Harry Potter, and it's not something that is on the top of my TBR list.I agree, it's not a big deal to(not) or to like something. I hate when people act like you have to like something, drives me nuts.

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    1. Fandoms do this a *lot* and it kind of makes me want to hide and enjoy or dislike things in peace. xD

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  7. Great post! I think one of the dangers that any fangirl/fanboy can run into is assuming that everyone has the same emotional response to a book/TV show/movie. I have A LOT of emotions surrounding HP which makes talking about it to other people who don't have the same positive emotions difficult, but it is something I am trying to work on. For many people HP was the first books series that they really loved or even read, others (like myself) may have read it at a time where they really connected to it. These emotions are great but we have to remember that not everyone has them about HP. The book community, including myself, needs to be less judgey of other reader's reactions to books.

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    1. There are lots of books that I can really emotionally connect to that a lot of other people didn't enjoy, so I feel ya there. That really is great, and I genuinely don't care what book people love and have that attachment to because it's a beautiful thing, but there is always that danger (in me, too) of turning that book into a sort of god that no one is allowed to dislike. Especially with something as wildly popular as Harry Potter.

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  8. HP is my baby. However, I understand it is not everyone's baby.

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    1. Yeah, I think a lot of people have a hard time realizing that not everyone has to love the thing they love or think it's the greatest thing in the whole world, and it creates a lot of conflict.

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    2. I honestly get surprised when people say that they haven't read it. Not that they didn't like it, but that they haven't read it, because it's everywhere.

      One thing I believe J.K. did get right, though, were the houses. I really do think it is one of the best ways to categorize motivations and such. Paired with Myer Briggs, it can really be a powerful show of who a character is and why they do what they do.

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  9. I do love Harry Potter, but I have a bit of the same problem with The Hunger Games series--I don't hate them, and they're not badly written (at all) but at the same time, they're not quite my thing and for some reason I've always felt a bit guilty about that.
    Thanks for posting this--it's a great reminder that everyone's tastes are different, and that's what makes reading do great in the first place.

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    1. I just so happen to love Hunger Games :P But like you said, I don't hate Harry Potter, or think they're poorly done books. It's just...not my thing. Different opinions is something that I think we should celebrate more in the book world, because that's what makes books so unique and awesome!

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  10. I like Harry Potter. I don't *hate* it, but I don't *love* it. So... yeah. :P

    What I struggle with are classics. *dies* I just... can't get into them. I've tried. SO many times. But no matter what they're just blah compared to all the other stories. And then I feel bad admitting that because all the bloggers just adore classics and I'm sitting over here chucking them out the window. :P Oops.

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    1. Classics are my heart and soul, but I suppose I can forgive you. xD

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    2. I deleted and rewrote that comment several times before I posted it because I knew how much you like classics. xD *hides in the corner of shame*

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  11. *nods* I think I agree with this, because NO book can fit everyone. The problem only comes when either a book-lover decides to bash people for NOT liking the book, or a hater of the book bashes the book/author/fans. So really: no bashing. hehe. And otherwise why can't we just dislike a book and not get bulldozed for it?!? I only started reading HP recently and I do like it (a lot, hehe) bu tI have a LOT of problems with it. Like how everyone reverse Snape. Nopity no. There is no excuse for bullying. I don't care if you're saving the world secretly: no. excuse. for. bullying. And I absolutely HATE the Ron and Hermione ship. Ron is horrible. But otherwise I really like the series and I'm reading the last book right now, hehe. :D
    bUT YEAH.
    No book is for everyone and that should be okay.

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    1. Ughhhh I never could stand Snape.

      Bashing is absolutely the worst bookish thing and makes NO sense to me, because shouldn't loving books be about recognizing that there are books for everyone out there and we don't all have to read and love and connect with the exact same books all the time? But whatever.

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  12. I'm this way with the Hunger Games...the hype kinda ruined it for me. :P

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  13. JUDGING YOU (just kidding, I've never actually read Harry Potter, so I don't have an opinion on the books either way). I totally get what you mean here. There should be no reason for anyone to feel bad about admitting to not liking a book or to worry that people will look at them differently/treat them differently because of their individual tastes. I mean, sure, it's great to enjoy a book and then encourage others to read it in hopes that they will share that interest, but there's no need to get nasty if someone else just doesn't have the same impression of it. I think the only time I get a little annoyed when someone doesn't like a book I love is when they slam people who like it or slam the author or review it in a way that makes me wonder if they've really even thought about what they're writing. But even so, it's still a personal thing, and it's not like other people's enjoyment of a book is even specifically relevant to my daily life. That being said, I'll probably be disappointed if someone reads a book because I recommended it and then say they don't like it, but that's life and it just means that I'll need to find someone else to fangirl with.

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    1. I definitely look forward to people liking my favorite books and then feel a bit devastated when they don't enjoy them, so I get the feeling. And I love that people can have some books that mean a lot to them, and I'm not about to bash those books for that reason. But you're right, people like to make it *personal* and I think that's problematic.

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  14. Oh man, YES to everything in here. Harry Potter wasn't my thing, either - I thought it rather boring, to be honest, and I've been side-eyed more times than I'd like to admit for saying that. It's sort of ridiculous to think that there could ever be a "one size fits all" book, and it seems that the bookish community is trying to jam HP into that role, you know?

    Thank you so much for sharing. This needed to be said.

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  15. I have to say that I agree with you. I found it neither overly wonderful, but at the same time, I can appreciate why others do. I do love all Rowling's little secret inclusions (the way her characters are named often alludes to mythology that gives insight to their personalities) but apart from that, if you examine the plot of the thing, it's really rather common. Which isn't to say that commonality can't be good, by any means, and perhaps her use of it has led to its commonality.

    All that meandering to say that you are not alone in your neutral view of Harry Potter. And that I feel the same way about the Inkspell trilogy and Twilight (as a book, it's really not exceptionally terrible. The key to my passionate hatred of it lies in its widespread status as a cultural phenomenon that dictates the views of young teens).

    That went overly long, but so it goes.

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  16. I've never read the book or seen the movies, nor do I plan to. (ever)

    Everyone I've ever known has been VIOLENTLY pushy when I say I haven't read the books.(except the commenters here, THANK YOU FOR RESTORING MY FAITH IN HUMANITY!)
    I'm talking serious pressure issues here, which generally makes me rebel.

    The conversation usually goes something like so: "Oh. (long pause - looking at me like I'm a sinner) Well then you must not be much of a reader." "No way! Reading's my life." *Come to think of it this is the ONLY book I've heard of you reading* OR: "WHAT?! do you even have a BRAIN!?" *walks away muttering before I do something I'll regret tonight*

    And, call me close minded and superstitious but I have a gut feeling not to.(heh.)
    I usually follow my feelings and it's saved my life four times. (literally)
    ...not like I'd die from reading a book though... ;p

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  17. Yeah, so far about half the HP books I have read were great, so I see where you're coming from on #1 and #5. Also I had a similar problem with Percy Jackson... I just didn't really get why all the people in my class were so obsessed with them! I mean they're ok, but not literally cry over it ok. So yeah, it's fine to like what you like and dislike what you dislike. [oh look there's my Fi coming out again.]

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  18. Hello friend who does not adore Harry Potter, I also do not adore Harry Potter! *greets you with cake* I never thought I would meet another one :). I find that I like Harry Potter in the same way I like the song "Uptown Funk." With the original I was just like "*shrugs* meh." but I LOVVVVEEEE all the spoofs/spinoffs of it. Anyway. Glad to meet you!

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  20. I have to disagree with you on the topic of there not being a perfect book... The Bible is perfect because it is God's Word and God is perfect in every way; He doesn't make mistakes, thus His book is perfect.

    I didn't read Harry Potter until I was a teenager because my parents didn't want me to, but when I did, I fell head over heels for it: I relate to Hermione, I love Ron, I understand Harry, I sympathize with Draco, and I was forever changed by Snape.

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