While with some series the books don't have to be read chronologically, it's important to read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books in order. The seven books in the series evolve from the shorter, earlier books about a young magician to more complex, darker stories and much longer books as Harry and his friends grow older.
You can start reading the Harry Potter books to kids from the age of around six and it's a lovely experience for both child and adult. Another option, especially on long car journeys, is listening to the audiobooks, which in the UK are read by the talented (and funny) British actor Stephen Fry. By the age of 9 or 10, kids can enjoy the earlier books in the series on their own.
Below, we've listed all Harry Potter-related books on our site, from the most beautifully illustrated books in the original series, to some of the books J.K. Rowling (and occasionally others) have written as companion volumes. The books are also available as e-books, included for free in some Amazon subscriptions, like Amazon Kids+.
If your kids have read all the books and caught the bug badly, we also have suggestions for books like Harry Potter to read.
“If you are looking for a gift for a Harry Potter fan who already identifies with one of the four houses at Hogwarts but who doesn’t yet have the books, the house edition would be perfect. These books are sparsely illustrated and may therefore seem a surprising pick, but they are thoughtfully designed volumes in either hardcover or paperback.” Read more...
“Harry Potter: A History of Magic is also an exhibition catalogue and a fascinating coffee table book, available both in hardcover and paperback. The British Library exhibition, which marked the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter, encouraged visitors to think about the magical traditions that underpin the Harry Potter world.” Read more...
“Fantastic Beasts: The Wonder of Nature, the catalogue from an exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London, is a lovely spin-off from Fantastic Beasts. The catalogue contains a foreword by Sir Ranulph Fiennes and chapters by various experts in aspects of natural history, animal behaviour and biodiversity. A perfect gift book, it is available in either hardcover or paperback and – like the exhibition – is something that adults and children can enjoy together.” Read more...
In print, for older children who know to be careful with the interactive elements, for collectors, or for anyone who gets joy from an exquisitely produced book, the MinaLima editions are truly special.
“In print, for older children who know to be careful with the interactive elements, for collectors, or for anyone who gets joy from an exquisitely produced book, the MinaLima editions are truly special.” Read more...
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, published in 1997, is the first book in the Harry Potter series and introduces the character of Harry Potter. It’s no secret that this is the book that got a whole generation of children reading, and the book doesn’t disappoint. We learn about Harry’s miserable life living in a cupboard under the stairs in the house of his ghastly aunt and uncle followed by the liberating news that he is a famous wizard and will not remain the downtrodden orphan forever. Leaving the direness of suburbia behind, he goes off to boarding school at Hogwarts.
Stories of English children going to boarding school have been popular fare for generations, and the combination of clever wizarding/magical touches with the boarding school format are a fun backdrop to the various adventures that take place. Also, unlike later books in the series, it’s not an overly long book.
Note: In the US, the book was published as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which isn’t as good a title. At the time, J.K. Rowling was an unknown writer, and probably not in a position to point out it didn’t make as much sense.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second book in the Harry Potter series, first published in 1998. The format follows that of the first book, the events taking place in Harry's second year at boarding school. It's a nice, neat storyline, full of suspense and with little jokes along the way for the adult reading the book. For example, we are introduced to a new teacher: a publicity-obsessed narcissist by the name of Gilderoy Lockhart, who has written an autobiography with the inspired title, 'Magical Me.'
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third book in the series and was published in 1999. In it, J.K. Rowling really gets into her stride. For younger kids, this is the book in the series that possibly hits the sweet spot, more complex in plot and tone than the first two, but not yet as long a read as the last four. We start to learn much more about Harry's parents and what happened before he was left on the Dursleys' doorstep as a baby, a vital step in the feeling you get from the Harry Potter books that this is not just another boy magician who features in a book, but a person you're getting to know.
By the time Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire came out in 2000, the series was already a major international publishing phenomenon, with kids lining up at bookshops to buy the latest instalment. The book was over 600 pages long, but rather than being seen as a hurdle, its length was welcomed by many readers as a chance to spend longer in the magical world J.K. Rowling had made so vivid. By now, the three main characters, Harry, Ron and Hermione are aged 14 and romantic interests start playing a role in the stories. That said, it's not the main plotline, and the main draw of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a compelling wizarding tournament.
Having kept to a schedule of one book a year for the first four books in the series, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix took JK Rowling a little longer to get out, with the book finally appearing in 2003. At nearly 900 pages, it would end up being the longest book in the series, following the lives of the three friends, Harry, Hermione and Ron, as they experience their 5th year at Hogwarts.
Despite the centrality to the plot of magic/wizards and the battle between good and evil, the deeper appeal of the book is that it's a boarding school novel: about wonderful teachers you love and horrible ones who treat you unfairly; about the ups and downs of relationships with friends and with kids who don't seem to like you—or those who you don't yet know how they feel about you. Age 15/16 is also the year kids in the UK have to deal with the stress of sitting important exams: GCSEs or 'General Certificate of Secondary Education,' known as O or Ordinary Levels in JK Rowling's day. It's no surprise that teenage wizards aren't off the hook and have to sit stressful OWLs or 'Ordinary Wizarding Level' exams in the summer term at Hogwarts.
Although one of the attractions of the Harry Potter series is the sense of humour and likeability of the main characters—by now aged 16 or so, and experiencing the highs and lows of teenage love—what drives the books forward is J.K. Rowling's ability to plot compellingly. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, published in 2005, the plotting really starts accelerating. There is not only a striking, unexpected plot twist to end the book but also the buildup to the seventh and final book in the series when everything will come together and fall into place.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the 7th and final book in the Harry Potter series, was published in 2007 and, in principle, is about the final year at school for the three friends. Their relationship with teachers, especially Harry's relationship with headmaster Dumbledore, is front and centre and underlines how this is still very much a children's book, where adults are looked to for a guiding hand as practical and moral decisions are made.
More than 600 pages in length, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a pageturner. J.K. Rowling keeps a number of plotlines in the air, gradually tying everything together. She maintains complexity and interest—like the introduction of "The Tale of the Three Brothers," a story inspired by one of Chaucer'sCanterbury Tales—while also giving the satisfaction that everything across the series makes sense and culminates in the book's final pages.
It’s quite fun to acquire the books in the Harry Potter series one by one, but if you want to get them all in one go, there’s a variety of boxsets to choose from, including fancy gift sets and versions that are specifically for adults. If you’d like to listen to the Harry Potter books as a set of audiobooks, they are all read by British actor Stephen Fry, but there does not seem to be an option to buy them as a complete set.
Entering the magical world of Harry Potter is a wonderful gift for any child, and finding a beautiful edition can be an important part of the journey. Here, our Children’s Editor selects personal favourites among the most beautiful Harry Potter books and recommends the best gift editions.
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