Harry Potter Books – Worth a Revisit?

Sometimes, in order to determine whether or not a contemporary work is a piece of literature or simply a popular novel, we have to wait a few years and come back after some of the hype has died down.

This is most certainly the case with the Harry Potter novels. Since they skyrocketed to instant popularity as soon as they debuted in the early 2000s, the novels have enjoyed immense success and game worldwide, leading to seven books, eight movies, and countless other pop-culture reference points, including a theme park adventure!

With that level of craze around a series of novels, it becomes difficult to extract yourself from it, and evaluate the works on their own terms. The movies inevitably distort the books, and color your perceptions.

See a side by side movie vs books comparison for Harry Potter in this video:

Now that it’s been 9 years since the final book of the series was released, and 5 years from the release of the last film, we’ve had a chance to step back a bit from Harry Potter, and look more deeply into the writing.

In my view, these works are excellent, and while they may merit the title of children’s literature, they don’t quite stack up to high literary form in the way that so many other works do.

What I like about the books is their consistency. Many themes introduced in the early novels proceed throughout the series, and its only in the last book where the true interconnected nature of all the others is revealed in full form.

That, however, does not necessarily make them literature. Many popular books have common themes spread throughout; indeed, consistency should be the standard of any decent writing.

To become a work of literature a book must stand the test of time in terms of how it critiques and moves society forward. I don’t see that coming from the Harry Potter books. They’re great fun and very entertaining, but I don’t see them becoming a great part of the literary canon.

Download The Prisoner of Azkaban mp3 or The Half Blood Prince mp3 for more information, or get the entire Harry Potter book series from Scholastic.

Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed

fifty shades of grey booksThe Fifty Shades of Grey series, which includes the debut novel of the same name, along with the sequel Fifty Shades Darker and finale Fifty Shades Freed, is a popular series written by EL James.

The novels are most popular among a younger demographic, since they target the story of a sexual coming of age of a young woman, and the often twisted romantic relationships she ends up becoming involved in.

The novels bring out a number of themes that are consistent with other works detailing coming of age or transitional periods from childhood to adolescence and from adolescence to adulthood, but the different with the 50 Shades novels is that EL James presents these themes in such a way that it seems to almost glorify the darker side of the emotions experienced.

The offbeat style of the works, plus these darker sexual and almost abusive content, makes it popular among teens, but has also stirred up a lot of controversy about whether or not these books are actually appropriate for young adults to be reading.

From a literary perspective, this type of controversy is nothing new. In fact, it is almost a rule of good literature that when it premiered it was found to be either controversial or simply uninteresting. Having such critiques is often a measure of literary success in its own rite, and one thinks of works like Ulysses by James Joyce, which was banished for years due to several of the more intimate scenes it depicts.

While I’m not trying to argue that EL James is quite on par with Joyce, it would be irresponsible, in my opinion, to critique a work solely because it has dark or sexual scenes contained within it.

If you can look past those elements, the novels are worth your time. If for no other reason than to know what all the fuss is about.

Download the Fifty Shades Freed audio from fiftyshadesofgreyaudiobooks.com.

Or, buy the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy from the official site.

Reading Lord of the Rings As an Adult

fellowship of the ringWhen I first read Lord of the Rings (and The Hobbit), by JRR Tolkien, I was 11 years old. Actually, I think I read the Hobbit a few years earlier, when I was in 4th grade, and then read the rest of the trilogy when I was 11.

I was fascinated by just about everything about the books, from the compelling story to the intricacy of the interwoven plot lines, to how easy it was to read and enjoy, while still providing a lot of literary value.

Of course, I’m not sure how much “literary value” I truly understood as an 11 year old book snob, but you get the point.

At any rate, because of that experience, I wanted to go back and re-read The Lord of the Rings series as an adult, and see if it still had the same appeal.

Remember, when I first read it, it was years before it became the popular culture phenomenon and movie franchise it did. I was a geek, and only geeks read Tolkien.

Well, it turns out, after a re-read, that these books are truly incredible. The movies and other cultural elements surrounding them don’t even begin to do justice to Tolkien’s keen literary style and imaginative writing.

If you haven’t read these books, I strongly encourage you to do so. If you have read them but it’s been a while, try to pick it back up and see what you think today.

Get the audio book from lordoftheringsaudiobooks.com, or buy the book from Amazon.

Check out the video below for a few clips from the movies to whet your appetite!

Understanding the Divergent Series

divergentVeronica Roth’s Divergent series is the latest in a string of trilogies and other extended multi-part works to surge in popularity in recent years.

The appeal of this series comes from its critique of a post-war Chicago that has reorganized the principles of society to be based around the primary character traits of individuals.

The society is organized into a system of castes, which allow them to express fully a single trait. Thus, individuals are defined solely by one aspect of their personality.

Although everyone gets to choose their caste when they come of age, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of children choose the caste into which they were born, and there is limited social interaction among the castes. Choosing to leave your native caste, then, means abandoning all of your family and friends.

There are other individuals who are Divergent, meaning they do not fit clearly into any one caste. These individuals are outlaws in society, and are a threat to the order and structure of the system.

In the series, we follow the path of a young divergent woman, who inadvertently finds herself on a path to change the way their world is organized for good.

Click here to get the book or audiobook for Divergent.

Themes for Middle and High School Students

theme literatureHere at doirongallery.com, one of our main focuses is to think critically about the books and literature our students read, starting from their first days in middle school through college.

While this encompasses a large range of authors, books, and topics, depending on the grade level and reading level of the individual student, there are inevitably a number of common themes that stretch across much of the literature taught in our schools.

In this video, we take a deeper look at these themes and how they are expressed in several different types of middle and high school class reading projects.

For more information, see this great reference on teaching universal literary themes.