Day 2: Your favourite book
So I kind of have two. I pretty much always tell people it’s Prisoner of Azkaban, which it is, really, and come on, pretty much everyone’s favorite book is PoA. I think it’s one of the best written ones, for one thing. I mean, all the HP books are funny and engaging, but PoA is always funny and engaging, even when things are happening you don’t particularly care about, like the whole Buckbeak subplot. And the climax is completely brilliant. I mean, it’s five chapters long, and it’s completely intense, but afterward you realize that two-and-a-half of those chapters are just people standing around having a conversation. No one is in any real danger, no one is shouting or screaming (I would get into the whole “this is why the third movie sucks” thing now, but I’m saving that for Day 27), it’s just people standing around going, “Okay, here’s what happened,” and yet you’re on the edge of your seat the whole time. Even more brilliantly, you don’t realize until your fifth (or fifteenth) reread that this is an incredibly dark, intense, and suspenseful book that has no villain. This is the only book where no one is trying to kill Harry – everyone just thinks someone is. It’s is a stand-alone suspense thriller with no villain. That’s pretty masterful storytelling. (You could argue that no one is trying to kill Harry in HBP either, which is pretty much true, but I don’t think that works in the brilliant way it does in PoA because I think you sort of realize that the first time you read it; in many ways HBP is a lot less a stand-alone story, and a lot more a very long prologue to DH.)
Also, PoA introduces the Marauders and gives a lot of the backstory of Harry’s parents, and I really love that. “Where is he, Sirius?” kills me every single time I read it. There are so many subtleties and nuances in Remus and Sirius’s interactions that you don’t pick up the first time through, as well as both their interactions with Snape. In fact, I would argue that PoA isn’t even about Harry at all: it’s about Sirius, Remus, Peter, and Snape – everything they’ve been through and everything they’ve lost. That’s what’s really going on in the Shrieking Shack conversation. Sirius is like, “Here’s what really happened,” and Remus is like, “Wow, that makes so much sense, and I kind of feel better now,” and Snape is like, “I refuse to listen to your explanation because maybe if I blame you for Lily’s death, I’ll feel less guilty for making Voldemort aware of her existence in the first place,” (and you don’t even get that that’s what’s going on with Snape until after you read DH) and Peter’s like, “This totally sucks, there is no possible positive outcome of this situation for me,” and Sirius is like, “This would be so much easier if these kids weren’t here,” and Remus is like, “Yeah, but since they are, I guess we should maybe tell them what’s going on,” and Sirius is like, “Fine, but I’m still going to kill Peter,” and Remus is like, “Well of course, me too, no wait, I guess we should honor Harry’s wishes, he is James’s son and all,” and Sirius is like, “Yeah, okay.” And meanwhile Harry, whose point of view we’re seeing all this from, is about twenty steps behind and mostly stuck on, “So wait, Scabbers betrayed my parents?” and Ron is all, “I am totally traumatized that the pet rat I slept in the same bed with is actually a person,” and Hermione is all, “Since no one is actually trying to kill Harry, I really hope we don’t get expelled.” And you, the reader, have no idea that this is what’s actually going on until you’ve read the entire series and reread PoA at least three times.
Which is all to say that PoA is just a really well written book, and I think that’s why people love it so much.
Having said all that, I think if I were really honest, Goblet of Fire is probably my favorite book. I think if GoF had been written over two years instead of one, there wouldn’t even be a question, because I think it probably suffered a lot for having to be written so quickly. There is just so much to love about GoF. Everyone always talks about how this is the book where you realize it’s not just a kid series anymore, which is true, but I don’t think it’s just because Voldemort comes back and someone dies. I think it’s easy to forget ten years later, but before GoF, the HP universe was actually pretty narrow. So much world-building and world-expanding happens in this book. We’re introduced to international wizard sports, international wizard politics, and international wizard education. It’s this huge wake-up call that there’s a wizard world beyond Hogwarts, and that there’s more at stake here than just Hogwarts. Harry is truly fighting for the world.
I’m always fascinated by relationships and character dynamics, and GoF really explores that, especially among the Trio. A lot of stuff that happens in DH really wouldn’t make sense without everything that happens in GoF. I think I’ve talked here before about how Harry and Ron’s relationship has always been the most important aspect of the books for me, and in GoF you really see how much Harry needs Ron. The chapters where they’re fighting are just awful, but they also explain so much about the tensions in their relationship. “You might even have a scar now, if you’re lucky. That’s what you want, isn’t it?” basically sums up the problems in their relationship, and why there’s this underlying resentment between them: they both feel like the other has everything they’re missing. I think without that fight, Ron walking out in DH wouldn’t make as much sense. But then Ron is also “what Harry would miss most”, and Harry’s utter panic when he finds out they’ve got Ron, especially when you remember how much he fell apart when they were fighting, shows you how much Harry can’t do this without Ron. Hermione too, of course, I don’t want to downplay that, but especially Ron.
There’s so much else to love about this book. Fake!Moody, who is without doubt the most awesome DADA professor in the whole series. All the stupid high school “does she like me?” drama that is so realistic, and another way Jo shows she’s such a master storyteller. The Triwizard Tournament and everything that goes with it. Jo’s brilliant little “Take that!” at gossip journalists with Rita Skeeter. And of course, the resurrection of Voldemort. I honestly think that if Jo had had more time to write it, GoF would be the best book of the series, no contest, and that is why it is my favorite.