A (Self Proclaimed) Definitive Ranking of the Works of the Great J.K. Rowling

My wife challenged me to a post today that ended up being a lot more challenging (and enjoyable), than I thought it would be.

I think you should write a post ranking all of J.K. Rowling’s books.

No. Everything she writes is perfect and wonderful. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.

I did it anyway.

I should start by saying that J.K. Rowling is my absolute favorite author for a multitude of reasons. Personally, I admire the hell of out her. She’s insanely creative, humble, generous, intelligent, witty, and open-minded. I love how often she makes headlines just because of her kind  (and often hilarious) words. She stands up for others, and for what’s right. She’s also mind bogglingly talented.

I’ve added the list here without detail for anyone who hasn’t read and doesn’t want to risk spoilers.

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  2. The Casual Vacancy
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  7. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
  8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  9. Career of Evil
  10. A Cuckoo’s Calling
  11. The Silkworm

Fair warning, there are spoilers ahead. Continue at your own risk.

11. The SilkwormScreen Shot 2016-03-26 at 10.00.10 PM.png

I can still remember where I was and what I was doing when I found out that J.K Rowling (that sneaky minx) had been writing under a pseudonym. I tried desperately to find a copy of her book at every book store in the area (this was before I started buying everything I own on Amazon) only to find that it was completely sold out. Everywhere. I did eventually get my hands on a copy, and became an instant fan.

This is the second installment in her Cormoran Strike series, and my least favorite of all of her work. While I really enjoy reading about the adventures of Strike and Robin, the subject matter of this one was just too dark for me. At times, it was so graphic and gruesome that it made me feel nauseous. Don’t get me wrong, this book is still awesome, but definitely one I wouldn’t be able to read again and again.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 10.12.08 PM.png

10. A Cuckoo’s Calling

This is the first installment in the Cormoran Strike series. I find that I tend to enjoy a series more as it goes on because of character development. Rowling is a master of creating memorable, relatable characters, and Cormoran is one of my absolute favorites. I had a lot of fun reading this one, and getting to know him and his assistant Robin. It was full of plot twists and I was not able to predict the outcome, which is always a fun personal challenge.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 9.42.34 PM.png

9. Career of Evil

The third and most recent installment is by far my favorite. This one was really dark as well, and at times hard to read, but not because it was overly violent. In several instances throughout the course of this story, we see through the eyes of the killer. He’s incredibly angry and cruel and he absolutely hates women. Reading the thoughts he has about his victims was really scary because there are actually men out there who think and feel this way.

While that was not fun to think about, I enjoyed this one the most because of the relationship between Robin and Strike. I’m totally on team Strike, and I want Matthew to hit the road. This one ends on a major cliffhanger in that regard and I cannot wait to read the next one! Also, despite giving it my best detectiving (that’s totally a word) I could not guess who the killer was.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 10.27.56 PM.png8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Despite being my least favorite out of the HP series, I still love book two more than all of the Strike books combined. In all fairness, the Harry Potter series is on my top 5 favorite books of all times list.

I had an easy time putting this one at the bottom of the list for a number of reasons. I absolutely loved the scene with the flying car and getting to experience the Burrow for the first time. But in book two, Doby is at his most annoying, we have to deal with Moaning Myrtle, and we’re forced to endure Lockhart. Vom.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 10.32.45 PM.png7. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

There are a lot of reasons why I love this book. The scenes with the Pensieve were so incredible to read, and I loved learning so much of the character’s history. Harry and Ginny finally get together. I’m a total sucker for some romance and their scenes together were so sweet and so perfectly written.

This book was also one of the hardest ones for me to read. The last few pages left me in tears, and when I closed the book I was truly depressed. Things were never going to be the same again, and I felt (despite everything else that had already gone down) a loss of innocence and feeling of safety after Dumbledore’s death. It was raw and awful, and having to wait for the next one to come out was really hard. I contemplated not finishing the series, I was so upset.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 10.39.55 PM.png6. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

This book brings us Dumbledore’s Army and I effing love it. When faced with the cruel and absolute tyranny that is Umbridge, the kids stand up and take things into their own hands. Umbridge is without a doubt the most infuriating character I have ever read, and I was positively gleeful to see her get hers.

It is in this book that we finally learn all of the details about Neville’s past and meet his parents. When you consider everything he has gone through, and what has been taken from him by the dark wizards, it makes his triumph and bravery even more incredible.

This is also the book where we lose Sirius. I get it, and I totally understand why Rowling did it, but it still sucks. I wish there had been a way to get him out of the picture and force Harry to go it alone without having to kill him off.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 10.45.11 PM.png5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The beginning of this book was incredible! I loved reading about the Quidditch World Cup. All of the detail she put in to building this world, the tents, the mascots, the team merchandise. I remember thinking that I could not wait to see how it was all portrayed in the movie.

It’s because of the Triwizard Tournament that we get to meet the other wizarding schools -Durmstrang & Beauxbatons! Viktor Krum’s crush on Hermione is one of my favorite details in all of the books. It was hilarious to read their interactions through Ron’s jealous and downright flabbergasted reactions.

I also really enjoyed finding out how Rita Skeeter gets her information. She’s such an annoying character and it was true justice when Hermione was able to trap her in that jar.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 10.54.37 PM.png4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

I was a pretty late HP convert. My grandmother bought my sister a copy of the first one when it initially came out, and I remember thinking that it sounded really dumb. Not until I was extremely ill with dry socket after the removal of my wisdom teeth, did a friend convince me to watch the first movie. I watched it every day on repeat for as long as I can remember after that. Thanks, Taylor!

Because of the late start, it was not until my freshman year of college that I found myself reading book three for the first time. I remember being totally sucked in and locking myself in my dorm room on Friday night and staying up all night to finish it. I finished it and thought, woah, shit just got real. This was the end of a fun children’s story, and the beginning of the greatest most epic story ever written.

It’s in this book that we are introduced to Sirius and the Marauder’s Map. But my favorite part is the Night Bus! It was such a neat concept, and one of my favorite parts of the HP universe.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 10.59.57 PM.png3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

This book sat on the bottom self of the server in our kitchen for YEARS before I finally picked it up and read it. For someone who has always loved books as much as I have, I still can’t believe I was such a brat about it. I have read a lot of rankings of the series, and almost no one puts this as their number two. And I can totally understand why. This first book is just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the overall story, and is very much a children’s book.

But this is the book where it all begins. It’s absolutely hilarious. Meeting the Dursley’s is funny from the very first line. Harry learns he’s a wizard, he gets his letter to Hogwarts with his list of school supplies. Side Note: School supply shopping is my favorite thing in the world after reading. So shopping for school supplies for WIZARD SCHOOL in Diagon Alley was nerd heaven for me and my brain exploded.

We see the Hogwart’s Express for the first time. We meet Hagrid, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore. We meet the Sorting Hat! We see the castle from the eyes of those first years, and feel the same awe because she writes it so palpably. I can remember relishing in every detail of the Great Hall, the dormitory, the common room. I wanted to go there so badly.

The Christmas holiday where Ron and Harry stay at the school is one of my favorite parts of the book. The castle is so beautifully decorated, the teachers get drunk, Harry gets presents for the first time in his life. I just loved every second of it.

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 11.09.57 PM.png2. The Casual Vacany

I had a really hard time deciding where to put this one. On the one hand, this is truly and without a doubt the MOST depressing book I have ever read. Ever. It made me so sad, that for a while after I wished I hadn’t read it. I had just had my daughter, and I read this one in the early mornings with her asleep on my shoulder. I was hormonal and raw. Probably not the best time to read this one, but how on Earth was I supposed to know?!

Despite all of this, I have to give credit where credit is due. Rowling takes one incident and turns it into an entire novel. Whenever I think of this book, I think of the ripples in the water that get bigger and wider when you throw a pebble in the lake. I felt like I lived in this town, with these people as my friends, enemies and neighbors. I’ve always said that Rowling’s strongest skill is her ability to create characters, and these are the at the top. They are real, gritty, struggling, honest, and heartbreaking.

AND THE WINNER IS…..

Screen Shot 2016-03-26 at 11.09.34 PM.png1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

The second I read the last page of this book, I turned it over, and started again from page one. I read through it so quickly the first time, desperate to know what was going to happen, and the second time around I savored every page. I loved loved loved this final installment in the HP series. There are so many sad parts, and a lot of my favorite characters are lost, but ultimately they overcome. Harry, Ron, and Hermione stand together at the end victorious.

I wasn’t sure how Rowling was going to end this series. Was Harry going to die?Wasn’t he? I speculated and talked about it with everyone I knew who would listen. I remember thinking immediately after I read it that she wrote it exactly as if she had asked me for my opinion. It is truly perfect.

Phew, that took a long time. I’d love to hear what you guys think. Would you rate them the same? Where do we disagree?

 

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “A (Self Proclaimed) Definitive Ranking of the Works of the Great J.K. Rowling

  1. I think for a book to transcend into a literary piece of art, you have to be able to couple strong, well developed characters with a unique, in-depth plot. Among many reasons, I believe it is these two things that drove the explosion of the HP franchise. We love the characters. We love the wizard world. We love what these characters had to do in this world.

    With that said, the HP franchise is interesting in that it grows with the reader. The HP1 and HP2 were on a much lighter, world building, character introducing level that they almost stand alone as their own two book arc. Once HP3 was introduced, I think it’s the first time as I reader I acknowledged the plot was going to expand beyond the pages and into the next several books. HP3 was the first time we had to start plotting points and tracking character development and relationships. It was the “swing” book that took the story out of the light and plunged it into some pretty deep, pretty dark materials. The next four books highlights just how much momentum these books carried title to title and how interwoven the plot was throughout.

    Unlike HP, I find the RG novels to be hugely plot oriented and less character development and for what they are – crime genre – this makes the most sense. While I enjoy the relationships and quirks of CS and RE, who they are is usually secondary to the storyline. CS is a good PI because of a previous military experience, but his characters inability to maintain supportive/healthy relationships with women doesn’t factor into his professional fortitude. He’s good at what he does REGARDLESS of who he is as a person.

    Since I find the plots of the RG books to be incredibly well developed and entertaining, I don’t mind the lack of character substance that we usually find in JKR’s work. The plot stands on it’s own in these novels and all are well worth the read because of it.

    For the Casual Vacancy, the character development is so prolific that the book could have been about hanging clothes on a line and it still would be, in my opinion, her best piece of literature. No one gets inside of a character and develops them so fully as JKR and most of the time, I’d say a plot needs to work to carry these characters, but in this novel – a novel literally about a single event that doesn’t even truly MATTER to the book – it’s astonishing how invested I was in the people of this small town. I thought about them for days after, mostly because it’s all sad, but these characters unlike any I have ever read were three-dimensional. I expected to read about them in my own papers. They blurred the lines of reality almost in that I felt they were fully formed, functioning members of the society I live in and not a collection of words pouring from JKRs computer.

    So, with all that said:

    1. Casual Vacancy
    2. HP3
    3. HP7
    4. HP4
    5. HP1
    6. HP5*
    7. HP6
    8. The Silk Worm
    9. Career of Evil
    10. The Cuckoo’s Calling
    11. HP2**

    *Forever bitter that JKR waited so long to introduce the idea of NL as the HBP. I think had we been introduced to NL parents earlier and heard that backstory, I would have read through the series always aware that the other shoe might drop. What if HP was just a boy who lived? What if NL was the one they should have been protecting all along? That would have been really neat. When I read through HP5/6 I kept thinking, holy cow what if AD just missed the mark entirely on this one and it’s NL and I think having that be an option throughout more of the story would have been really cool. I mean, you know, it was awesome either way. You do you, JKR, I will never complain of your genius.

    ** Oh, this book. Man, it might be the only HP book I can’t re-read. I think halfway through the book, I started to worry that HP was going to be strictly this partially menacing but ultimately playful book where the good guy always wins and I started thinking, holy boats, just kill Ginny and get this show on the road. Sorry, Ginny!

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      1. I think we value different plot points differently. You’re more attached to they hows and whys and whens of your HP readings and you enjoy immensely the character development of the Strike series.

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