Okay, this has been floating around the ‘Net for… as long as the series has finished. Many people have done it, and many more will do it still. But, I have to fully rank the HP books, and explain why.
A small note: The list, top to bottom, is indeed best to worst.
Prisoner of Azkerban
Many people list this as their favourite HP novel. For me, it hits all the right beats, and the right vibe. The third books of the series. Harry has lived for two years, dealing with Voldemort, and defeating him – twice. This book has no appearance from the villianous lead. That for me worked so well. We had the first book to get established, the second to explore the world, and then something equally different with the third. It didn’t get stale.
It also had Remus. Can anyone honestly say they wouldn’t want Remus as a teacher? He was so awesome. Kind, helpful, and yet cautious. Yes, he gave Harry the map at the end, but while as a Teacher? No, he won’t let Harry go running around putting himself in insane danger.
Included is Sirius as a tragic hero. While Harry also has many aspects of the Tragic Hero, it is Sirius that I personally feel for more. Sirius was betrayed by one he thought of as friend, imprisoned in a hellish experience, and finally completes the Tragic Hero journey in Order of the Phoenix. This chjaacvter was flawlessly written.
No, it is not ‘Sorcerer’s Stone’ that was the US release. Philosopher’s Stone was indeed the original UK title.
This book was the only one in the series I read through in a single night. That was partly due to it being one of the shortest, but also because it was so enchanting. The magic of this book cannot be fully contained in a few minor paragraphs. The warm charm, and fun ride ensured I wouldn’t be able to put it down until it was finished.
That being said, this is the number 2 slot, because while it was good, I felt that Azkaban had stronger characterization, and a stronger conflict. That’s not to say this is a bad book. On the contrary, it is purely magical in it’s entirety. But it does lose out next to the number one slot.
Order of the Phoenix
What I consider the mid-point of the series. Yes, it is technically number 5, out of 7, but Goblet was a rolling story that didn’t allow pause or processing. More on that in the next entry.
Order of the Phoenix is the low-point for Harry’s faith – at the start. Cedric was killed, he told the world, no one listened. When the book opens, he hasn’t heard word one of his friends. Fifteen. Stuck at the Dursley’s for the summer. No contact with his friends. I’d say Harry is allowed to whine. I was actually glad to see it. It was the emotional reaction to all that has been building. The Boy Who Lived is cracking under the weight, and so should he! He’s Fifteen for crying out loud. Savour of the world? He just wants to keep on living, not vanquish evil!
So yeah, while many have said the whiny-ness of him got a bit much, I think it was a human reaction, and why I call it the mid-point. It’s the pause before the storm. The break before everything goes entirely down-hill.
Umbridge was a delightful villain. Yes, she was too pleasant. Yes, she was a puppet mouth for Fudge, yes she was loathe-some. That made her an amazing villain. Dumbledore’s Army, Ministry of Magic, Department of Mysteries. It all came together in the latter half, and created what was one of the greatest surprises the series had, up to that point.
Goblet of Fire
This is where it’s starting to get difficult. Not so much because I love them all so dearly, and cannot bare to anything at the bottom… more that there is a strong divide between those I love, and those I … don’t love. Goblet of Fire runs the fence on that.
It’s not bad, but I didn’t find it entirely compelling. Yes, it broadened the Wizarding world with the Quidditch World Cup, and the Beauxbatons/Durmstrang visitors, and Mad-Eye is – again – one of those teachers you kinda wish you had in school.
However, it really is a case of hit-and-miss with me overall. I can’t really explain why, either. It just didn’t fully connect with me, and while the excitement of the Tri-Wizard Tournament did keep me reading, I felt the confrontation at the very end to be… weak compared to what had gone before.
The Maze was gripping, suspenseful, while the graveyard scene was just… meh. So this is why it gets the middle slot. Not great, not terrible.
Chamber of Secrets
Likewise with Goblet, Chambers of Secrets wasn’t a mixed bag with me. After the fun and exhileration of the first book, I went into Chamber the very next day (I didn’t buy them when they first came out…) and while the tone is very different, for obvious reasons, I struggled to work my way through it.
For one thing, Lockhart is just so obnoxious, I genuinely sighed whenever scenes with him came up. I get that he was written to be arrogant, and egotistical, and all that, but for me, it was written a little too much like that.
The mystery was compelling, the attacks and rising tension did keep me reading, though the Deathday Party almost killed that entirely – no pun intended. And yes, the confrontation with Riddle was exciting, and once we got into the Chamber, I didn’t put it down for a whole evening, because I wanted to finish it, so yes, I did enjoy it to a degree.
It’s failings, though, did kind of out-weigh those of Goblet, which is why it gets the lower slot, I both liked and hated parts of both, but Chamber really did come out somewhat worse for me.
And so, we come to the final two. I will come out and admit it right here. I did not finish Deathly Hallows. I haven’t even seen the second film. It’s not that I dslike Harry Potter. I still have warm feelings for the series, but this book was… maybe I was just not in the right frame of mind for it, and maybe I would feel different if I read it again now, I’m not sure. All I can say is, I didn’t get pulled into this like I did the others.
The last. While you may be thinking “Hang on! You didn’t even FINISH Deathly Hallows! How can you rank that higher than this?” Yeah, I know. All I can say is, that while I did read this all the way through, I find it… tedious.
To this day, all I can recall about this book is Slughorn, Dumbledore’s memories, and the cave. I have no clue if there was anything else going on, because trying to plod through was quite painful.
It was, by the far the longest for me to read, despite not being the longest book in the series, by far. This is why I have given it the bottom place.
So there you have it. All seven books, ranked according to how much I enjoyed them. This is just my opinion, so please do not scream and shout. Will this list change? Potentially, though I doubt it will ever change drastically. But then who knows.
There are times I would like to have the knowledge of Harry Potter sucked frommy head, so that I can look at the books with a complete blank slate and read them for the first time, with no fore-sight, and take a fresh opinion, devoid of public fandom.
Alas, not to be.