Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter #1) by J. K. Rowling
Published 1997 by Bloomsbury.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: Purchased.

Genre: children's fantasy.

My rating:

Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard!

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Ahh, the nostalgia.

I’m going through a re-read (or re-listen) of the entire series and I started at the beginning. I haven’t changed any of my ratings so far, they’re all at five hearts/stars but I wonder continually whether I would have loved this series as much as I do now if I only read it as an adult. My parents both got through three books, I think, before giving up on Harry and friends, but then they never were huge readers of fantasy. But I think that my reading taste was shaped at least in part by reading and re-reading Harry Potter as a kid so perhaps I wouldn’t be a fantasy fan if it wasn’t for J. K. Rowling. I guess we’ll never know!

I decided to save all my reviews of HP books for Harry Potter Month which is a cool event hosted by Micheline and Faith. In case you’re wondering – I’m a very proud Gryffindor! ;)

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My favourite part from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the beginning. Not the “let’s leave Harry with awful people” part but when Harry is told (by Hagrid – seriously, who’d send Hagrid to break such news to a 11-year-old – not that I don’t love Hagrid to pieces but he isn’t the most tactful person out there, is he?) that he’s a wizard. The trip to Diagon Alley and the first view of Hogwarts made me fall in love with this story, I think. I wanted to get a Hogwarts letter so badly when I was a kid, though I was more than 11 years old when I first read the series.

My least favourite chapter is the one with the Mirror of Erised; I could have done without it. I can’t really say why, it’s just that I feel like the story wasn’t moving anywhere and I was kind of bored. It also took me years to decipher “Erised”, especially since it was translated as “Ajneneperh” in Slovenian (hrepenenje = a very deep, heartfelt desire).

I would have preferred if the Dursleys weren’t so absolutely horrible, though. All through this book – and for most of the series, really – they are very black (and Harry is seen as very white). I know loads has been written about this but I would have loved to see more positive muggle characters! Especially since the readers were essentially all muggles.

You can expect more reviews as the month progresses, I strongly suspect I won’t be able to do all seven but I’ll slowly chew my way through them.

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How old were you when you first read HP (I’m just assuming here that you all read them)?

What’s your favourite/least favourite part of this one?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

  • Ah yes, nostalgia nostalgia. I can’t wait until my girls are older so I can read this to them :)

    ~Mogsy

    • Yeah, I’ve been thinking the same thing during this re-read of the series. But how do you stagger the books over the years? Because I’d gladly let a 10- or 11-year-old kid read Philosopher’s Stone but the books from Goblet of Fire onwards? Not so much. And putting my copies on the top shelf won’t work, that’s for sure :)

      • I’m thinking of introducing the series to my children using the release schedule of the books as a rough guide. I think that’s why our generation remembers those books so fondly, because it “grew” with us :)

        • Yeah, exactly! I think I was 20 when Deathly Hallows released. Well, I’m sure the kids will love the series all the same – my husband read all 7 books in under a year, I think, a couple of years after we started dating (I may have… umm… done a bit of badgering on the topic) and he really liked them.

  • It is very nostalgic to see a review on Harry Potter, although I doubt I could ever be so critical of the books as you because even the parts I don’t like I still enjoy. I remember reading the first one on holiday with my nan when I was about 8 or 8. She had bought the first 2 books for my brother to read, and he read them and enjoyed them, so, being the younger sibling, I instantly had to steal them and read them for myself. I read them in a couple of days, I think I had my nose buried in those books the entire time we were away. I was hooked. I remember begging my mom to buy me the third book when we were in town one day. I was always way more obsessed with Harry Potter than my brother ever was. I still have those original two books my nan bought us on my shelf and well loved is probably the word to use to describe their condition.

    I would love to reread the series, but it’s finding the time with all the other books I have to read. It has been a few years since my last proper reread though.

    • Ahh, am I being too critical? Wait till you see my review of Chamber of Secrets! ;) Kidding, it’s still a 5-heart read, of course!
      You have an older brother? What’s that like? Mine’s 2 years younger and we get along pretty well. But I always liked HP way more than he did, though he did read all the books (that was practically a requirement for having a social life for a while!). I read books 1-4 in Slovenian first but from book 5 onwards I got the English versions first and I never even read books 6 and 7 in Slovenian. My battered Slovenian copy of Philosopher’s Stone is at my parents’ apartment still, I think.

      • No, being able to be critical of HP at all is impressive to me. I have yet to remove those rose-tinted glasses on the books yet, but I cannot wait for the 2nd books review.
        And yeah, I obviously don’t mention him enough on my blog. My brother is four years older than me so I obviously idolised him when I was younger. I think I gave him a false sense of self-importance from that, I have been trying to rectify that error ever since. I do kind of miss Harry Potter being the thing that helped you pick your friends, there were always those that had read it and those that hadn’t. I do sometimes think I need to get new copies of all the books so they match, but I just love my old copies so much, how could I do that to them?

  • Yay, Harry Potter! My favourite series of all time. <3 I don't remember exactly how old I was, but I was pretty young, because my parents read the first few books to me before bed time. I don't really have one favourite (or least favourite) part of the first book. I just love it to bits!

    • Aw, my mom would read to me and my brother as well, though we were both old enough to read the HP series on our own. But a lot of my childhood favourites were even better because we all read them together – Roald Dahl’s books in particular. :)

  • Ahhh the nostalgia! I reread the books 7 times in total and I always love them just as much as the first time around. Granted, I haven’t reread them in 3-4 years so I REALLY want to do so now. I wish I had the time, and I might try to squeeze them in! My favorite part of the book is definitely when Harry gets to go to Diagon Alley and pick out all the fun, magical stuff too ♥ Although I do love the Mirror of Erised chapter too. My least favorite bits are when poor Harry is stuck with The Dursleys because they were so terrible to him. Lovely review Kaja^^

    Oh and if you want, you can link your review up on Faith’s House Cup Post: http://www.geekyzoogirl.com/2015/07/01/harry-potter-month-house-cup/ so other participants can find it. That way you can comment too and claim your points for Gryffindor :D Happy reading!

    • Hm, I never really counted my re-reads. It’s been a while since I completed the entire series, though, so I’m hoping I’ll get through the whole this time – though probably not in time to write all the reviews for HP Month.

      I found Faith’s post, thanks! :) This event is so cool, I like that it spans the entire month so I have time to write the posts (planning is not my forte at the moment).

      Ohh, I’d love to visit Diagon Alley, all those shops! I’d go buy all the books and a set of witch’s robes + a wand, of course :)

  • Maraia

    Let me sit for a moment with a silly grin on my face before I comment…

    The fact that you were unsure if your rating would change after the re-read astounds me. I wish I could ADD a star for every re-read, because each time I love the books a little more. My dad read them as an adult, and he re-read them whenever I took them out to re-read. Since my tastes are modeled after his, I’ve never once questioned whether I would like HP just as much if I’d started as an adult. :)

    I believe I got the first book for my 11th birthday. Rather fitting, no? When did you start reading them?

    I hope you’ll read them aloud to your son when he’s older. Some family friends of ours read every book aloud as a family (well, that might have stopped after book 5, since by that point they didn’t all live at home), even though it took longer and the suspense was dreadful. The third book came out while my parents and I were on a trip to visit them (in Australia!), so I got to experience that for one book. I never could have waited so patiently with the last three books, but it was quite lovely to make it a communal event.

    Which narrator are you listening to?

    I’m really bad at answering “favorite part” questions when it comes to HP, because I always want to say “everything.” The only thing I can say with absolutely certainty is that the 5th book is my favorite. I’m glad you brought up the Mirror of Erised, though, because I always wondered how that worked in translation. (Not as well, I guess.) Also, I do think you’re right that the story dragged during that bit.

    • Naah I didn’t think the rating would change because of the re-reading, I’ve re-read it too many times to count, but I’ve never read it for reviewing purposes – and analytically. But as you see, my opinion didn’t change much! :)

      I had to check – I was 12 when I read the first book in Slovenian and read the first 3 books in Slovenian first but by books 4 and 5 my English was good enough so I didn’t have to wait for the translation anymore.

      Book 5 is my least favourite :D I’ve seen some good arguments for being a favourite of other people.

      • Maraia

        Oh good. :D

        I think you’re a year older than I am (?), so I guess we probably started at about the same time! Obviously English is my native language, so I’m biased, but I really think a translation can’t do this series justice. The ones I read in other languages weren’t as funny (although maybe my language skills just weren’t good enough). You’re the translator, though, so you probably have a better idea!

        Ughhh, you’re one of *those* people. Hmph. ;)

        • Um I was born in April 1987 :) But the Slovenian translation was pretty good, I mean, I was as hooked on Harry as anyone reading in English, apparently! Once I knew enough English to read the originals, I never went back to translations but I’m like that with all literature in English and French, I just prefer to read the original. But I wasn’t really conscious of reading a translation back then, I think I would read it differently if I tried it now.

          Well, I’m definitely re-reading book 5 this summer (it might take a while, I’m about 1/3 into Goblet of Fire now) so I might change my mind about it! ;)

          • Maraia

            And i was born in March 1988. I only remember because I found your blog through your birthday post, haha.

            I hope you change your mind. :D

          • Junior ;)

          • Maraia

            :D

  • YES the trip to Diagon Alley is everything! I think that’s when I fell in love with the series, too. Didn’t take long, did it? Haha. My dad actually read the first four books out loud to me…I think I was eight or nine at the time. The best part of that (besides father/daughter bonding) was how good my dad was at voicing all the characters. Kind of like having a live-action audiobook! My least favourite part of this book – and every book in the series – is how many unnecessary secrets people keep from Harry. Like, hello people, maybe if you hadn’t kept so many secrets then things would’ve turned out better, yeah? God. Still makes me so angry. Like…why did the Dursleys lie about Harry’s parents? Why wouldn’t anyone tell him about Sirius? Etc.

    • Yeah, you would have been younger then I was :) My mom read to my brother and me for a long time, too, but I think we both read HP on our own.
      Ugh yes, especially books 5 and 6 are terrible in that regard – Dumbledore doesn’t tell Harry anything and LOOK! Horrible things happen.
      The Dursleys are so atrocious it’s sometimes not even believable anymore. But hey, when you’re reading as kid, black-and-white mentality makes more sense.

  • I was in my mid-20’s when I first started reading HP after seeing the first film. I really can’t narrow down a favorite or least favorite part about book 1 (or any of the books) because I loved absolutely everything, lol. It’s been quite some time since I reread the series, and that’s something I definitely need to get around to doing soon.

    • My husband also read the series as an adult (my badgering might have had something to do with it….) and he loved them! :)

  • Alex @ The Book Banner

    Oh I love rereading and re-listening to the Harry Potter series. I’m in the middle of a re-listen myself. Jim Dale is just fantastic. Sometimes I wonder if I love the books so much because I discovered them when I was young. I also wonder if I would like them as much if I’d been older. My guess is yes because I like to read fantasy now, but I know that I like to read fantasy because I read Harry Potter. It’s just a cycle. Oh, what would I like to read if I never read Harry Potter? That’s a scary question to ask myself.
    Great review! :D

    • Haha, yeah, that’s an interesting question! I think Harry Potter was one of the reasons I wanted to become a literary translator (that’s what I do now). I read HP and the Goblet of Fire in English – I was 14 at the time, I think, possibly 15 – and really wanted to chat with my friends about it but none of them had read it yet so I had to wait and wait until the translation came out. I decided I wanted to translate books so I could talk about them with my friends :)

      And yes, HP definitely had a role in shaping my book taste – though I read The Hobbit before I read HP so I was well on my way to becoming a fantasy fan anyway!

  • I could re-read these so many times. I read them first when I was about 17 and absolutely adore this series. I understand what you are saying about how awful Harry’s muggle family is, but thankfully there are some good ones mentioned throughout the series as well (like Hermione’s family). I love that Hagrid is the one that he meets first in the wizarding world…after him the rest have to seem a little more normal LOL. Great review!

    • Ah, yes, I would have loved to read more about the Granger family! How did they let Hermione go to a school for wizards nobody has ever heard about in the muggle world?! It must have been so hard.
      Haha, that’s true, once you get used to Hagrid, everything seems normal ;)

  • I actually was an adult when I read them. My sister foisted the first book on me like Sept or Nov before the first movie came out. So, I never loved the first three books as much as a lot of people. Because I was in my mid-twenties reading middle grade novels. They were good middle grade novels but weren’t deep enough to really pull me in. Then something like four years later when I got to the Goblet of Fire, they really became much more adult novels and I was much more interested. That’s really the point where I became a fan :)

    • Mhm, I agree! The first three books also have separate plots – and from Goblet of Fire onward, it’s really a continuous story of trying to defeat Vodemort, no?
      My husband read them as an adult too, and I could tell by his pace that he enjoyed the second half of the series better than the first :)

      • that’s a good point. I hadn’t thought about how the first three books are more stand alones and the 4th is when they all link into the bigger story. interestings :)

  • I was an adult when I first read them and loved them pretty instantly and steadfastly. I think the last three were pre-ordered which I don’t think I’ve done with any other books ever so…. maybe your parents just really don’t have the fantasy love?

    I agree with you that the opening chapters are so great and set up the books and the world perfectly. BUT I really like the Mirror of Erised stuff because it helped me to really understand Harry as a character and it gives the book just a little more weight and gravitas which for me balances really well with the fun quidditch playing awesome nonsense.

    Finally I totally agree that the Dursleys are pretty much caricatures and it would have been nice for them to be a bit more real. By making them so extreme though she can make them truly horrible while not invoking the true horror that would normally come along with such abusive guardians.

    • Yeah, I guess they’re not much for fantasy, they read A LOT but they always preferred non-genre lit. I went my own way with that :)

      Hm, you’re right about that chapter with the Mirror bringing some substance to the story. I don’t know, maybe I just read it too many times :D And yes, I’d easily remove some of the quiddich scenes from this book – but especially from Prisoner of Azkaban, where the Quidditch house cup just takes over the entire plot sometimes!

      Well maybe that’s a pity, with not touching on the horror of having an abusive relationship – I know this entire series avoids some important issues (like sexuality) and perhaps it would have been nice to deal with that, too. But it’s good escapism, seeing Harry triumph over them, so I guess that counts for something.

      • Part of me definitely wishes that HP dealt with some of those things head on. Part of me recognizes that I can be a pretty shallow reader particularly of escapist lit. Book 5 is by far my least favorite in the series simply because Harry acts pretty bratty throughout – totally realistic for a teenager in his situation and I could appreciate that… but I didn’t enjoy reading it. Bad shallow reader! I AM glad that the Dursley’s in all ways get the shorter end of the stick at least.

  • It’s so fun to see your review because I just got done “rereading” this one via audiobook yesterday! It’s been my first time revisiting the HP books in YEARS and gosh, it really does feel like coming back home. I don’t know if I really have a favorite scene, per se. I sort of just love all the little scenes that introduced the characters’ personalities. You know, Hagrid letting things slip when he shouldn’t have and Hermione because so nosy. They are very much like caricatures in this first book, but I think it really helps each character be easily recognizable and gives the readers a good foundation to start with. I can’t wait to start the second one tomorrow :)

    • Ah, yes, Hagrid’s “I shouldn’t have told you that” slips are awesome :D He’s one of my favourite characters. And OF COURSE Hermione’s nosy, wouldn’t you be? ;) I love reading series for this exact reason, they give the author a chance to develop characters more slowly. (Though I’ve been tring to avoid starting any NEW series… without much success…)

  • I was about 10 or 11 when I first read the Harry Potter books. Which is perfect timing, right? So, I grew up with the characters, and it was an amazing experience.

    My favorite thing about book 1 is…it’s where the magic started! I loved reading about the feasts, and the sweets on the Hogwarts express, and all of the new classes. My least favorite part? Goodness, that’s tough. I guess I would have to be the Mirror of Erised too. I definitely understand it’s purpose, but I got a little bored by it too.

    • Ahh yes, the new classes! I was (and still am) pretty nerdy so learning about magic sounded like the absolute best thing one could do in life. I never understood why Harry complained about his classes, I’d have loved to do the homework and all! :)