As a new Harry Potter book is launched, let's admit that Hogwarts destroyed the reading habits of a generation

There's something particularly hypnotic about Rowling's writing that prevents our generation from growing up

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The Independent Online

Harry Potter’s birthday falls on the 31st of July. To celebrate this year, a brand new boy wizard book will be released to the general public. A general public who, no doubt, will have been queuing outside the local Waterstones for at least the preceding thirteen hours, clutching stuffed owls and sweating up the fabric of set upon set of The Complete Hogwarts Robes, size 11-12 years.

Yes, for everyone who spent their childhood sheepishly sidling up to logs and willing them to fly - the moment is here: that longed-for extra dip into the Butterbeery warmth of the wizarding world. There have been other moments, of course; after the books came more books – slim volumes of wizarding trivia flogged for charity – then hurried in the films, the studio tours and, most recently, tidings of this summer’s play Harry Potter And The Cursed Child.

But still, a real Harry Potter book! A tangible tome holding within its pages sacred updates on the life of the Chosen One. Who cares that, as JK Rowling herself has pointed out, it’s not a new novel but rather just the rejigged script of the aforementioned play, which centres on now-overworked Ministry of Magic civil servant Harry and his youngest son Albus?

I for one don’t, being among the 99.9 per cent of the population that subscribes to the view that the fruits of JK’s labour are worth experiencing in as many forms as possible, seeing as nothing she touches could be less than life-alteringly fantastic. The prospect of clutching a shiny new Harry book to my muggle breast makes my mind swirl with excitement. But also, I’ll admit, it causes a small amount of apprehension too.

I’ve read the Potter books at least seven times each; I dip into them every few months, much to the detriment of the grand plans outlined on various reading lists compiled over the years.

Look, if it was between a stuffy Booker nominee and scanning back over the riveting bit in The Prisoner of Azkaban when - I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence by plonking a spoiler alert in here - Hermione employs the powers of the Time-Turner to save both Sirius and Buckbeak from a sorry end, which would you choose?

When it comes down to it, there’s nothing more captivating, funny or comforting than Hogwarts. 

I’d feel concerned that expressing this would amount to outing myself as a unique specimen of intellectual stagnation, if I wasn’t well aware that my peers do the same. One friend, for instance, has been stuck on the same page of Heart of Darkness for the past four months because she keeps getting distracted by the section in Goblet of Fire when Ron and Harry basically compete for the title of Rubbishest Date Ever at the Yule Ball.

Another spent the day before a job assessment centre interview in bed with The Chamber of Secrets. The adult woman sitting next to me on the tube this morning was engrossed in Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone.

I’d posit Potter's well on the way to becoming a veritable 21st century mythology, being as it is unifying, known collectively by heart and the first port of call for a bracing parable or a neat simile (I’m unable to describe someone as tall without following the word with ‘as Hagrid’). 

Is it the case that just as Rowling's magnum opus ignited twenty-somethings' passions for reading, so has it snuffed them out? Has it birthed a generation greedy for sentences, but only those it first experienced on a scratchy municipal carpet just before the bell rang for home time?

Had my throat not constricted with the horror of turning on the thing I love most, I’d add that another instalment will surely worsen this phenomenon, leading to more discarded new literature in favour of ‘just looking back at the Mirror of Erised bit one last time’. 

Still, despite concern that all I'll have read in the next few years is Harry Potter And The Cursed Child Parts I & II, forty-two times, me giving Hogwarts the heave-ho any moment soon is as unlikely a compliment from Snape.

Now, where was that set of robes?