Fantastic Reading Suggestions for the Harry Reader on Your Shopping List, or Yourself!

Image result for harry potter libraryWhether you are shopping for a family member or friend, or perhaps looking for something to read over a school break or a long flight, thoughtful Harry readers are often seeking a text that will be, on some level, as fulfilling, thought-provoking, or entertaining as the Hogwarts adventures we love. Of course, no book can really be “just like” Harry Potter’s adventures, and we would not want it to be, but, depending on the reader, there are some authors whose work you might want consider as you make your list, and check it twice, even if the person who’s been naughty or nice is yourself! But if you are shopping for your own family’s versions of Newt, Fred and George, or Mr. Weasley, we have the goods after the break…

For the younger (or young at heart) reader who loves the Fantastic Beasts and is still not over Hedwig :

If you are shopping for a young person whose favorite things about Rowling’s work are the fantastic beasts, fabulous food, and remarkable parallel worlds, you can’t go wrong with Tone Almhjell’s Image result for twistrose keyThe Twistrose Key and its just-out sequel, Thornghost.

Almhjell, a Norwegian author, is an absolute delight, graciously agreeing to an interview here, but aside from being just a swell person, she is a remarkable author and storyteller who takes readers on an extraordinary journey to a world where animals, once loved by children in our world, have a second life, speaking, walking on their hind legs, eating waffles, and basically getting to do all the things their human children do, and more. Yet, the stories never devolve into Image result for thornghostmawkishness, never seem overly sentimentalized or saccharine. Like C.S. Lewis, who could make “dressed animals” so much more than mere sentimental anthropomorphism, Almhjell masterfully creates characters and settings that are entrancing and immersive. Readers are completely drawn into her beautiful, snowy, dangerous world in Twistrose, joining protagonist Lin and her vole Rufus on an adventure that is at once evocative of the good stories, the old stories, and at the same time, new and fresh. In Thornghost, the adventure involves Lin’s friend Niklas and his lynx Secret, revealing new layers to Almhjell’s rich and detailed world. Complex and thought-provoking, but still appropriate for young readers who will love the concept of their lost pets having adventures in an another world, these beautiful books are perfect for children and creature lovers on your list (and Hagrid will even appreciate the creatures without fangs).

For those who love the humor, insider references, and clever puns of the Hogwarts adventures:

Image result for terry pratchettIf you are looking for a book, or many books, for the reader who is still chuckling over the fact that Diagon Alley does, in fact, run diagonally, or who still thinks it is funny that Uncle Vernon picks out his most “boring” tie to wear to work at a place that makes drills (get it? Drills? Boring? Thank you, James Thomas for pointing out that little gem that I missed in fifteen years and countless re-reads), then the author you need to know is the incomparable Terry Pratchett. I am always surprised how many people don’t know about this incredible author and his fabulous books, most notably the Discworld novels.

What is wonderful about Discworld is that a reader can just jump in anywhere (well, many things are wonderful about Discworld; for starters, it is flat and travels through space on the back of four elephants standing on the back of a giant turtle). One can read any of the books in the order in which Pratchett wrote them, or just pick up any book and fall into this remarkable world peopled with a vast array of characters and creatures that will remind you of ones you’ve met before, only funnier, much funnier. Even though there is some serious, thoughtful insight in every one of the novels, there is also just a darn good time. There are hilarious puns, as when a near-Apocalypse drives thieves to steal stringed instruments off a cart, earning the designation “luters”; there are references to other works of literature from Beowulf to H. Ridder Haggard; and there are people and situations so delightfully complex, and yet so simply humorous, that you won’t believe them until you meet them, and then you will want to meet them again. Any of the books are great, though my personal favorites are The Wee Free Men (featuring a clan of feisty little blue fellas with red hair and kilts who are willing to steal anything and fight anyone. Yep, you guessed it; they are “Pictsies.”), ones featuring the Watch of the totally corrupt yet charming city of Ankh-Morpork, and any of the ones with DEATH (who talks in all caps, is partial to cats, and does turn up in most people’s stories, eventually, but he’s actually not so bad).

While some of the jokes are definitely Fred and George groan-worthy, Pratchett is far more than a juvenile thrill, and most readers above the age of 12 (or older, if parents object to the occasional double entendre or slightly off-color moment) will love his complex, far-flung tales and his huge cast of wild and wacky characters who all deserve Chocolate Frog cards.Image result for terry pratchett


For the more mature reader who admires Rowling’s clever plots and narrative misdirection surprises:

Image result for cormoran strikeFor the adult reader (definitely not for the kiddies), try Rowling’s alter ego, Robert Galbraith, and the fantastic Cormoran Strike mysteries. If you or someone on your list loves the way Rowling weaves a plot so cleverly that the secrets remain secret even when they are in plain view, Galbraith is your “man.” Of course, he’s just a pseudonym that allows Rowling to write books that no schoolkids need to be reading, but he also allows her to have a different voice and style than we’ve known in Harry’s world while retaining her great narrative ear and attention to detail.

In case you’ve missed our thoughts on the adventures of hardboiled detective Cormoran Strike and his tougher than-she-looks assistant Robin, the three novels (so far) in the series are The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Silkworm, and Career of Evil. Each novel follows Strike and Robin on a complex and baffling case, but each also features great literary and artistic allusions, fascinating character development, and a good bit of humor for a series that often involves brutal murders and mutilations (I did say these are NOT for the kiddies, right?).

These are well-written, much better than the usual detective novel, and great for those of us who admire Rowling/Galbraith’s skill with the written word. Read them now, even though the series is not over (we are betting on/hoping for) the usual seven. The BBC is in the midst of adapting them to the screen, and though they will probably fit in wonderfully with the world that gave us the modern Sherlock, it’s always best to read the book first before the telly gets in and mucks things up. Once you, or your lucky gift-recipient has read them, come join our conversations about this series that is sure to start getting much more notice once Cormoron limps his way onto screens large and small.Image result for cormoran strike


Of course, there are so many books, so many authors, and so many kinds of readers! What do you have in mind for the readers on your list and why? Share your thoughts and recommendations!

But remember, if you are shopping for Dumbledore, what he really wants are socks.


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  1. Prof. Hardy,

    Nice to see a shout-out to Terry Pratchett.

    Reading the Discworld books can be a very interesting endeavor. While ostensibly Pratchett never set out with any particular goal in mind, he often appeared to go out of his way to take a kind of generalized anti-Tolkien type of stance. That, at least, is how it always seems to me. In every book Pratchett would find an opportunity various genre tropes, or the thinking that went into them.

    What makes Pratchett interesting to read (and distinguishes him from a writer like Philip Pullman) is just how much he depends on the traditional fairy tale ideas as much as he tries run from them.

    The best instance in his work that illustrates my point is “Interesting Times”. At the center of the book is a prophecy of a “Great Army” of a long dead King that would rise up and save its people. The majority of the book is very post-modern, very skeptical and doubting. Pratchett seems to go out of his way to try and warns his audience away from these old fairy tale traditions. It is all the more ironic that, during a climatic battle near the end, Pratchett falls back on this very trope by admitting that the legend within the story is true, and uses it to bring about a happy ending.

    This same strange back and forth no/and/yes quality is present in all of the Disc books I’ve read. It is both odd, yet compelling to see the relationship that unfolds between a given book’s stated purpose, and how that purpose is either subverted or ultimately submits before the old ideas of folklore.

    If I had to say where all these stylistic and narrative peculiarities come from, then the answer might come as a surprise. Pratchett was at best, an agnostic. Yet the funny thing is his relationship to the idea of Monotheism. He once co-authored the novel “Good Omens” with “Sandman” creator Neil Gaiman. At the heart of the book is a back and forth between an Angel and Screwtape-ish Demon about why the Universe is here in the first place.

    I can’t help but think that the Angel essentially is an expression of Gaiman’s more orthodox views versus Pratchett’s more skeptical outlook. The funny thing is, in the end, the Demon more or less concedes the argument, and the book itself is dedicated to G.K. Chesterton (one of Gaiman’s inspirations).

    I bring this up, because I wonder if, in a way, the writing of “Good Omens” wasn’t like an extended version of the famous Addison’s Walk discussion, pitting Gaiman’s Tolkien centric point of view against Pratchett’s pre-conversion Lewis.

    In a way, the whole book could be looked at as another Addison’s Walk where the argument was never settled (maybe). While Pratchett never seems to have gone anywhere as far as Lewis, I do wonder if (assuming Gaiman ever tried to engage Pratchett in a theological discussion) whether or not the ideas kept lingering in his mind, and the rest of his work is a continuation of that debate, this time in his own mind and on the page.

    I don’t say any of this is true, or that I’m right in my impressions. It’s really just an interesting train of thought born out by trying rap my head around one of the most frustratingly talented authors I’ve ever encountered.

    My favorite Discworld character is a werewolf named Angua. She’s not like everyone’s DADA teacher, however. For one thing , werewolves in Pratchett’s secondary world are natural lifeforms making up a third species distinct from man (his word for them in the books is “biomorph”).

    Also, while Ms. Rowling has said Lupin’s lycanthropy is a metaphor for aids, Angua’s character arc seems to have more elemental themes to it, possibly related to the age old question of man’s relation to animal nature or something like that. It’s a shame Pratchett never got a chance to write more her, as I think she’s perhaps the best idea her ever had and I think her storyline was left open ended. What I like about her is that she seems like the most traditional and straightforward character in the Disc novels. In other words, if you were to take her character and give it to Tolkien, he really wouldn’t have to change anything to weave an interesting dramatic story around her.

    Incidentally, blogger Brenton Dickieson is working on a PhD about Lewis. It is the first time any critic has ever tried to bring up Pratchett’s writings to the Lewisian corpus that I’m aware of.

    He speaks of it briefly in connection with another book in the link below:

    I have to admit, I wouldn’t mind reading that thesis one of these days.

  2. Brian Basore says

    When I went looking for more Harry Potter adventures I found the xxxholic manga series by Clamp (a finished series begun in 2004 that ran 19 volumes). The omnibus reprints are still available. It’s Kimihiro Watanuki of Tokyo instead of Harry Potter under the stairwell but the same boy in a different franchise.

  3. Thank you for the info on The Thornrose! I bought Twistrose Key for my then 9yo daughter based on your recommendation and she loved it so much she wanted me to read it aloud to all her siblings! I will happily purchase the sequel for her (now 11yo).
    I’ve been looking for a good series for my Potter obsessed 14 year old. She has read Hunger Games and many of the Rick Riordan books. I may check out Terry Pratchett’s books. She and I have been enjoying all of the Fantastic Beasts analysis here!
    If anyone has more suggestions about good young adult novels, I’m all ears!

  4. Brian Basore says


    There is a YA series by Sage Blackwood that fits between Harry Potter, Riordan, and Pratchett. The first book is called Jinx. My wife borrowed the books from the public library. Both she and I have read them. There’s a book trailer for Jinx on YouTube, and you can review the trilogy at

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