As a tutor, the best advice I can give is simply to read as many books, in as many genres, as you can! You may have noticed my slightly more-than-healthy interest in Harry Potter by now – this old writing piece of mine makes me laugh a little at my naivety. Yet I still hold the opinion that in life broadening your literary horizons is one of the best things you can do, and that falling in love with a book is even better.
From the archives, an essay by my 16-year old self (October, 2014)
During my earlier childhood, beginning at the age of 6, I developed an addiction, which only grew unhealthily in strength over many years. As in the case of many addictions, I was heavily in denial. I could not stop obsessively reading the most popular children’s book series of all time.
I first read Harry Potter in grade 1; a friend was hosting a Harry Potter party. I read the subsequent books over many years, and slowly my fascination intensified and grew. By the age of 8 or 9, I constantly read and reread the series, to the annoyance of my parents, who tried, in vain, to persuade me to read something else.
I remember clearly when I went to Borders to pick up my copy of the Deathly Hallows on the day it came out – I got a free toy Hedwig with it because the book was pre-ordered for me for my 9th birthday. I read the first few chapters in the adjoining café.
In year 9, aged 14, I realised that I was stuck in a rut. I wanted something to read, but, to my own surprise, did not want to start Harry Potter again. I embarked on some awful teenage fantasy series recommended by a friend, to find that over 7 days I had read 7 novels. The idea sparked in my head – I would continue to read a book every day for a month. I did so, successfully (I obviously had a lot of time on my hands in year 9). At that point I decided I couldn’t give up – I kept going for another month. And another. And another. Once I reached one year of reading a different book every day, I stopped. The experience was a little irrational (I only continued because I’m stubborn), because, yes, I was reading lots of diverse books that were not Harry Potter, but one day is really not enough time to process an entire book. A lot of the time I was just going to the young adult section in the library and getting a pile of entirely forgettable 200-page novels that I could complete as fast as possible.
Despite this, my 365 project taught me so much, the main thing simply that there is so much amazing (and not so amazing) writing out there. Reading leads to more reading; a whole new world opened up to me beyond the limitations of Hogwarts. After that year and to the present day, I have continued to read different books, and try to stay open to new things.
Whilst I was wrapped up in the world of witchcraft and wizardry and obstinately refused to enter any other, my universe was severely limited. I tend to act differently based on what I am currently reading. For example, once, in an essay for school, I found myself using rhetorical questions, which I was sure I had never done before. On reflection, I realised I was reading this philosophical book full of them, and it was influencing my writing style. Even now, I think I am writing more formally than I usually do – probably because I am reading a book published in 1920.
Harry Potter was first released the year I was born. When reflecting on memories of my primary school days, one of the first images that will inevitably come to mind is my dog-eared Harry Potters with their ugly three-coloured spines, and these images are associated closely with my childhood. Harry was so important in my life for so long (he is still important, just not in the same way), and I am surprised at the fact that I am not upset to let him go. My 365 project helped me realise that there is much more than Harry.
Harry Potter is important to me because it also helps me to ground myself. It curbs a little of the pride I feel for reading so widely – my love for Harry Potter tells me that I am not special in the slightest. I admit, I cannot tell you proudly that, oh, you probably haven’t heard of my favourite book. I can’t revel in my own uniqueness. My first, and still remaining, greatest literary love was in fact virtually the most widely popular series to ever have existed.
I have not read a Harry Potter for nearly 3 months now. Of course every now and then I’ll fall back on the series, but the feeling I get now when reading them is intensely nostalgic rather than absorbed. Reading Harry Potter is like looking back on my younger years, and I am content that they are over.