Five stars, read (listened to) throughout the summer of 2012.
I’ve read the Harry Potter series several times, but this was my first time listening to the audiobooks, and I’m so glad I finally heard them that way. Audio will never replace physical books for me, but I’ve discovered a particular love for them in the last few years—and when you think about it, that makes perfect sense. Because now I can read even when I can’t read. How could that not be a win?
But for me, the Harry Potter series is kind of a paradox in this format. The quality is brilliant; Jim Dale is one of the best narrators I’ve ever heard, and these audiobooks are especially well done. They’re more fun to listen to than the movies are to watch. My problem is just the way I get sucked in every time I read this series. Each time I start over with book one, it takes only a few chapters before I essentially drop everything else and spend every possible minute reading until I finish book seven. And with the audiobooks I couldn’t really do that. It takes longer to listen than it does to read. I loved these recordings, but I have to admit, this slowing-down of the process was pretty hard for me—it took three months to finish what usually takes me only a couple weeks. These are books I want to devour, but this time I was forced to savor.
It baffles me that there are still people who refuse to read HP. My dad is like that (he won’t see the movies, either). He likes to go on about how predictable the plot is—”and Harry saved the day”—even though that is (a) false and (b) absurd coming from the guy who would watch the Bourne movies every single weekend of the rest of his life if my mother would allow it. It’s kind of a joke in the family, and hey, it’s not my loss. But I definitely don’t get it, because honestly, these books are a pretty important part of my life. (I refuse to feel silly about saying that, because reading is one of the most important things in my life, and Harry Potter occupies a prominent place in that realm. It’s basically just math.)
But I digress. Here’s the other thing about listening to the audiobooks: I cried a lot more.
(In case any of you refuse-to-read-ers are reconsidering at this point, you should know that there are massive spoilers ahead.)
I still always cry when I read these books, but after the first time through each of them, the tears have been a lot fewer. Listening to the books, though—hearing human voices for each of the characters—it was like the first time all over again.
I cried for Hedwig, Moody, Dobby, Fred, Lupin, and Tonks. I cried when they were at the Burrow, waiting for all the Harry decoys to come back, and worrying that they wouldn’t. I cried when Harry thought Hagrid was dead, and when Hagrid thought Harry was. I cried when McGonagall came out of the castle and saw Harry in Hagrid’s arms. I cried when Ron left, and when he came back. I cried when Hermione talked about wiping her parents’ memories. I sobbed through Snape’s memories, when Harry used the resurrection stone, and when Ron had to drag Percy away from Fred’s body. I was crying all over the place; it was ridiculous.
Isn’t it funny how, no matter how many times you’ve read the series, you still feel that emptiness when you finish it again? For a few crazy seconds, I usually consider starting over again immediately—or at least just skipping to a place in the middle of the book and going from there. I definitely considered it this time, because I was in the middle of a walk when the last book ended. Instead I thought about what I was going to write in this post, and hurried home to start it.
It will probably be another couple years now before I jump into the series again—although I’m sure in that time I’ll watch all the movies at least once, just for fun. I feel really great about having finally listened to the audiobooks and added this new dimension to the Harry Potter-shaped space in my life.