I have probably reread the Harry Potter saga over three times as a whole, with special attention to my favorite books in the series hitting near double digit rereads. It’s not a perfect series by any means, but it will always be my go to escape from reality. A sense of belonging and comradery with people that also read and grew up with the adventure is also something I will always cherish. These rankings don’t account for the movies at all and I put emphasis in the rankings on how likely I am going to reread the book over my first impressions of when I read it. Now, let’s start!
Last Place: Chamber of Secrets – While I love all the books one of them had to come in last place and the monster packed and petrified survival game slithers to the Long bottom of my heart. Sure Lockhart was the most flamboyant and unintentionally humorous Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers, but keep in mind this book also introduced the readers to Dobby, a character more annoying than cute, and Moaning Myrtle, just as annoying as the house elf in my opinion. Chambers set up the foundation for the horocrux concept later on and gave a little insight to a younger Voldemort via Tom Riddle. There were many moments that I enjoyed during the book such as Fawkes and the Chamber itself being in the woman’s bathroom, Herminone turning into a cat from the polyjuice potion, but this book felt lacking compared to the others. How none of the teachers realized it was a Basilisk wrecking terror is beyond me, I would have at least expected Hagrid and his vast knowledge of magical creatures to be able to figure this out seeing as he gets shipped off to Azkaban for it.
Highlight: “Why spiders? Why couldn’t it be “follow the butterflies?”
Defense Against the Darks Arts Teacher Grade: He owns the key to my Hart
6th: Order of the Phoenix – The longest installment of the series, but I felt the climax at the Ministry of Magic failed to live up to the cumulation of events and detail throughout the 5th year. It just seemed silly to me that Mr. Weasley was gravely injured and Sirius died protecting a prophecy that Dumbledore already knew. Why didn’t they just destroy the prophecy instead of going through all the trouble to protect it? This book brought many things, but Dumbledore’s Army meetings in the Room of Requirement will always be one of the most enjoyable creations in the series for me. I thought it was a concept Rowling should have ran with when she flash forward 19 years with Harry becoming the permanent DADA teacher. Mr Weasley being the Muggle Studies professor is another concept I would have enjoyed. Umbridge was the worst DADA teacher, and I’m including the Carrows who straight up tortured people in the 7th book. She’s wonderful as a character though, she made the stone faced McGonagall crack in frustration and managed to make me feel sympathetic towards Trelawney! Quidditch felt more in the spotlight this year with Ron joining the team and Umbridge banning players, Hagrid’s family gets a little bigger, the wonderful Luna Lovegood gets introduced, and the only Asian person in the Potter universe had her heart broken, again. Overall the small moments during the 5th year shined, but teen angst/constantly angry Harry clearly was at his worst in the series. The lack of Dumbledore and a disappointing climax left me wanting more substance, the content was certainly more than enough however.
Highlight: The Weasley twins leaving the school and shouting “give her hell for us Peeves,” and him respecting them enough to listen warmed my heart. I also loved the fact that none of the teachers helped Umbridge with the swamp the Twins created.
DADA Teacher Grade: I must not tell lies, the best written series villain
5th Place: The Deathly Hallows – Everything wraps up in a satisfying manner and the Battle of Hogwarts was a fitting final battle; when the book first came out I thought it was the best in the series, but on rereads it’s just not as exciting as some of the other books. The Hufflepuff Cup horocrux simply being in Gringotts felt like a letdown, especially considering they essentially went with the same plan earlier in the book to break into the Ministry of Magic, with the bank less intimidating than the Ministry somehow. The Ravenclaw Diadem being in the Room of Requirement felt like an afterthought, and after Draco didn’t identify Harry earlier when he had the chance I thought he turned a corner as a character or at least saw that being a Death Eater wasn’t the right path for him, but then he goes back to his bullying ways during this scene. The Prince’s Tale was one of the most satisfying chapters in the series because it answered so many questions about one of Rowling’s most complex characters. Where we seemed to have learned so much about Voldemort in the previous books, it was Dumbledore’s history that was explored here, with some intriguing revelations, and placing him in a rare negative light. Fred dying still has me upset, but it’s hard to find too many faults with how Rowling concluded the series.
Highlight: Neville’s character in general, but him cutting off Nagini’s head after pulling the sword of Gryffindor from the Sorting Hat was a personal favorite moment for me.
DADA Teacher Grade: I honestly couldn’t even remember the character’s first name
4th Place: Philosopher’s Stone – Where it all started, the world that Rowling created was magical, but it didn’t feel that way on page one, no, Harry and the reader had to suffer through the Dursleys. It always annoyed me how he got sent back to these terrible people every year, but it felt like they were focused on for a quarter of The Philosopher’s Stone. Even so, the scenes back home actually felt enjoyable compared to his time spent with them in later books where they were starting to get redundant. I think all lonely people wish Hagrid would barge down their doors and whisk them away to Hogwarts on their birthday. And who doesn’t know what House they would theoretically be sorted in? This book started it all! Quidditch made no sense to me when I first read the book and it still feels silly now that I’m older, but it was exciting to read about and it inspired a real life version of the game. The trials for the Philosopher’s Stone that the three first year trio were able to overcome are still entertaining and even though it’s the biggest Gryffindor bias ever, Dumbledore awarding the points to the trio and Neville at the last minute still puts a smile on my face.
Highlight: The Mirror of Erised touching realization with Dumbledore has a deeper meaning after finishing the series and still rattles around my brain occasionally on what I would see in the mirror.
DADA Teacher Grade: I will always believe there is a face on the back of people’s head until proven otherwise
3rd Place: The Goblet of Fire – There is a significant tone shift with the 4th installment as Potter tackles more adult issues and house points aren’t as important. This book felt so different than the others with the Triwizard tournament during the school year, but in a good way. The Yule Ball was adorable and when I first read this section as a kid I had no clue that Ron was upset with Hermione because he liked her, that went straight over my adolescent head. It’s a little weird to think that Harry still considers he has a good relationship with Moody despite never actually spending any time with him. And so what the 2nd and 3rd events during the tournament no one was able to watch anything, this book was exciting throughout! Using “Accio” to summon his Firebolt to overcome the Hungarian Horntail! Genius. Cedric Diggory at least brought some depth to the Hufflepuff house that was then regulated to background duty afterwards, but the way the two boys bonded during the whole ordeal, and were actually very similar in personalities, even liking the same girl, and helped each other made his death all the more impactful. Between the Quidditch World Cup and the schools Durmstrang and Beauxbatons coming to Hogwarts the small world Rowling had crafted doubled in size in this book. The portkey charm at the beginning taking them to the World Cup coming back again at the end of the book and used on the Triwizard cup was amazing foreshadowing. Somehow Harry’s bath scene in the prefects bathroom is the scene I think about the most, I may never be able to perform magic or fly on a broomstick in my life, but that bathtub seems relatively attainable!
Highlight: Harry giving his winnings to Fred and George so they can start their Joke Shop or them actually getting their outrageous bet right with Ludo Bagman during the Quidditch World Cup
DADA Teacher Grade: Method acting at it’s finest
2nd Place: Prisoner of Azkaban – It’s one of my favorite uses of time travel in any medium and on rereads one of the most enjoyable because of the double meanings on multiple readings. For example when the Firebolt was sent to Harry for his birthday, but Hermione getting it confiscated because she suspected Sirius sent the broom. Sirius’ animagus being confused for the Grim by Harry throughout the book brought another level to Trelawney’s divination class predictions and shows how much Sirius cared for Harry. The Dementors are terrifying, but brilliantly thought out and I love how eating chocolate after encountering them makes relieves their depressing symptoms. Hippogriffs were never really talked about ever again, but at least Buckbeak kept Sirius company, and this was the year that started Hagrid’s teaching career. Learning about James Potter’s past and the other Marauders is one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much. The climax to Azkaban is the best in the series, from encountering Sirius in the Shrieking Shack, and having Snape and then Lupin interrupt was only the beginning! It still frustrates me when Pettigrew escapes, it was Harry’s first chance to leave the Dursleys! I always thought Harry trusting Sirius and wanting to move in with him happened too quickly considering he wanted to kill Sirius less than an hour ago, but the Dursleys are that terrible. I think Lupin would have made a great god parent too regardless of his furry little problem. Even repeating the events of that night, I was still in suspense. It was touching that Harry thought his father saved him and Sirius when it was actually just him using the time turner, Harry’s purity and innocence still melts my heart in the early books. Expecto Patrnonum is easily the most fun spell to say.
Lowlight: Scabbers being a grown man and sleeping in Ron’s bed every night is creepy.
DADA Teacher Grade: Easily the best and one of my favorite characters
1st Place: Half Blood Prince – This is the Empire Strikes back of books. The bad guys completely and utterly win. Dumbledore was murdered and the locket he and Harry risked their lives to get that weakened Dumbledore was worthless! Harry and Ginny end their brief relationship and Snape appears to have shown his true colors, the ending, the sense of foreboding, I love these kinds of endings because they’re so rare and putting the characters on such a low point makes the eventual end of the journey more satisfying. Just like in life, things don’t always go according to plan.
Apparently a lot of people felt that Harry and Hermione should have ended up with one another instead of Ron and Hermione, JK Rowling even said so, but after Cursed Child came out with her “approval” I think it’s safe to say her opinion shouldn’t be the end all, right? If you read Cursed Child and believe that’s cannon, then sure Hermione and Harry are the better couple. Personally I believe that the movie marginalizing Ron to a comic relief role and changing Hermione into the perfect girl influenced this opinion, but not mine. The books are law, not the movies. Ginny in the movie didn’t really have any screen time, but in the book their relationship arc was perfectly paced and satisfying when they finally come together. Harry kissing Ginny in the spur of the moment after Gryffindor won the cup after rushing over from detention worrying about it the whole time, up until that point Quidditch was so the most important thing to Harry, and none of it mattered compared to Ginny! The scene is probably the most satisfying part in the series for me. When Harry marries her he officially becomes a part of the Weasley household, making the original trio an actual family! Anyway besides the romance that was amped up in this book, this book also inspired me to write in all of my textbooks and stir my ramen several times counterclockwise and once clockwise. This book encouraged me to think outside of the instructions.
The first two chapters are my favorite opening chapters as both are not from the point of view of Harry when usually the books start off with the Dursleys . The Other Minister was a humorous and unique take on how the muggle side of England handles the events that have been happening in the book and it was fascinating to see the other perspective. Then we have the Unbreakable Vow between Snape and Narcissa Malfoy, it seems so obvious on rereads what the vow is about and by making it he gained the trust of Bellatrix, someone who never trusted him. The whole scene, Snape in control of the situation with his demeaning attitude honed for years talking down to his students. Voldemort’s past is explored and Draco becomes a sympathetic character outside of his one dimension school bully role. I thought for sure Voldemort would end up being the Half Blood Prince, but Snape being the book owner was a better choice because he had just “betrayed” Harry and for the irony that Harry and Snape could never get along in person but through the Prince’s notes Harry learned so much about Potions that Snape could never teach him! It’s tough choosing between Half Blood Prince and Prisoner of Azkaban, but the 6th installment just barely edges out that honor for #1.
Highlight: Molly Weasley accepting Fleur as a daughter in law after Bill gets attacked by Greyback.
DADA Teacher Grade: Dumbledore only gave the job to Snape because he knew it would only be 1 term. “Hey remember when I told you that you could have the Defense Against the Dark Arts position over my dead body? I’ll give it to you early if you promise to murder me.” – Dumbledore to Snape probably