If you are not a Potterhead, sitting between two loyal readers of this series can be an awkward experience.
Undoubtedly, the Harry Potter fandom is one of the largest, most passionate, and most united communities in the world. Truly engaged fans are quick to see the spark in each other. They are always eager and happy to share their knowledge with a companion, and the mutual love for the Wizarding World can pave the way for all sorts of unusual friendships.
So, when you find yourself getting caught in their endless Harry Potter discussion, it’s hard not to feel like the third wheel… Or you can sabotage the kinship between them and put up an instant argument by asking: “What do you think is the best Harry Potter book?”
Table of Contents
Ranking The Harry Potter Book From Great To Greatest!
If you are not a die-hard fan of this series, you are probably frowning. Picking the best Harry Potter book is like picking a favorite child. Each of them is compelling and lovable on its own.
But because of this, this tricky topic has been rising more and more in popularity. Finding the best and worst books becomes an exciting exercise since everyone has their own bias and loves to voice out their opinions. If you take a tour around the subreddit r/harrypotter, you can find countless posts regarding this, which lead to numerous “friendly” duels.
That said, the argument keeps the fire going in the Potterhead community, contributing to the title “the most passionate literary fandom out there”. While waiting for my Harry Potter hardcover set to arrive, I’d also like to join the fun. Here is my review of all Harry Potter from worst to best—- opps, I mean from amazing to really, really, really amazing:
- Harry Potter and the Chamber Of Secret
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
- Harry Potter and the Order Of The Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secret
Now, if you think I ranked the Chamber of Secrets last because it’s “the least important book in the series”, you are wrong. The second year at Hogwarts gives us a broader insight into the Wizarding World: Flying cars, floo powder, wizard celebrities, and the burrow. I still remember wow-ing as the story follows Harry to the Knockturn Alley: Despite all the plot holes they pointed out after all these years, J.K. Rowling’s creativity is still worth a thousand applause.
Perhaps the opening doesn’t seem to tie in with the major storyline, and it’s easy to mistake book two for a random “adventure of the year” side plot. But that’s only until the question ‘Who is the heir of Slytherin?’ kicks in. We are then led to a critical revelation that hugely impacts the whole series from that point on (you-know-what!). The book feels even more integrated into the plot after you learn in Half-blood Prince that it was the first time we encountered a Horcrux. We just didn’t realize it yet.
Then, why do I place this one in the lowest tier?
Well, my main problem with the Chamber of Secrets is Gilderoy Lockhart. Except for the sixth and seventh, we see a new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor every school year. It means they get the most attention in the story, just after the protagonist trio. And, I’d have to say, Professor Lockhart is the least interesting of the bunch. Unlike Remus Lupin or Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, he doesn’t play a significant role, nor does he reveal any precious knowledge. Lockhart is nothing more than a comedic relief – which is understandable since Secrets is clearly intended for children and not quite in the young adult genre.
“I tried to write the second book in a style that’s accessible for children from 12 years old. Yes, that’s how old Harry was in his second year. You will find the novel more suitable for young Potterheads who prefer adventures and pure magic than the darker themes in the series.” – J.K. Rowling
This can also be seen in Harry’s adventure. With an archetype-rich climax, Chamber of Secrets fulfils its role well as a children’s book: The protagonist ventures into the underworld beneath an ancient magic castle, faces a giant snake that can kill you with a glance, and beheads it with a mythical sword that once belonged to a great hero, gets a fatal wound, and is saved by a miracle. Oh, and don’t forget that he even rescues a damsel in distress!
While it’s not a bad thing, from an adult’s point of view, this kind of development is rather bland. It lacks the depth of other instalments, and, for me, that’s what holds the second book back. Instead of the self-obsessed and rather silly Lockhart, we are introduced to far more complex characters and journeys in the next volumes.
Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone
The fact that I ranked the Philosopher’s Stone second-worst will surely anger many Potterheads out there. For countless children, this book is the beginning of miracles, opening up the door to a whimsical world. Indeed, the first installment holds special meaning for me, and my copy of it is battered beyond belief because I’ve gone back to it so many times.
Despite being the shortest book, the Philosopher’s Stone does a perfect job of setting up the Wizarding World and establishing a provocative backstory. Right from the first few lines, we are touched by Harry Potter’s tragic past. It’s just hard to find a literary character with a background as iconic as his.
And, yes, the first book holds a lot of unforgettable moments. “My favorite is when Hagrid reveals to Harry his true identity. Rowling really knows how to keep us engaged by describing Harry’s attempt to take his letter from Uncle Vernon’s hand. By the time Hagrid bursts onto the scene, we are literally begging for the revelation”, Redditor Mrp5195 wrote.
“Yer a wizard, Harry”
But my favorite is in chapter 10: Halloween, when Hermione lies to the professors to protect Harry and Ron. The author ended this chapter on a wonderful note, and so their friendship began to bloom:
As much as I love Philosopher’s Stone, it suffers from the same problem as the Chamber of Secrets: Since it was meant for children, the book is too simple and straightforward. I would compare the first installment to Anne of the Green Gables or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: All of them are wonderful books for your children, but they don’t lend themselves to in-depth analysis or discussion.
That said, the central mystery lacks complexity compared to other books. Look at how the Chamber of Secrets deals with several questions (How to access the Chamber of Secrets? Why has no one ever found it? What kind of “secrets” are inside? Who is the heir of Slytherin? Why is Harry the only one to hear the mysterious voice?). You will see that the Philosopher’s Stone is even more plain. From the start to the end, Harry and his friends almost never go off the rails. Their only mistake was to assume that Snape was behind everything instead of Quirrell. Still a juicy twist, I admit, but readers don’t have much room to figure things out on their own.
But again, within just 320 words, Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone has a lot of setups to get through. Rowling managed to lure everyone into her realm even though her book was restricted in length (she had to write the first book as short and snappy as possible so the publisher would want to print it). That’s a fabulous accomplishment. Hence, despite the lackluster bits in comparison to book 2, I still want to give Philosopher’s Stone a higher rating.
Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
I tried to come up with something perceptive to talk about Harry Potter book 5, just to realize that Stephen King had said it way before: The boundary between children’s literature and plain old literature has been blurred after reading “Order Of The Phoenix”.
The fifth novel is a glorious turning point. Throughout the series, our Chosen Boy constantly has to face the growing darkness inside of him. Part of it is because of his connection with Lord Voldemort, but let’s admit it: Harry also has his own indignation and grievance.
Even though they are subtly hinted at in previous volumes, these feelings all come to light in the fifth novel: Right off the bat, we see Harry resisting the attempt to curse Dudley with his wand. This is a small triumph for him: Our protagonist was able to take control of his dark side. Harry’s inner struggle becomes more and more intense in the next two books, but Order Of The Phoenix still serves as a milestone: Our hero has grown up (making us wonder, “how tall is Harry Potter in the book?”), and he is dealing with some very not-child-book-aimed problems.
Thanks to that, the fifth installment sets Harry Potter apart from other coming-of-age novels, such as The Red Queen or Percy Jackson. He is not flawless. And, not the I-have-to-save-everyone kind of flaw, Harry has been bearing the weight of being The Boy Who Lives for all these years. With all those mental scars, we come to realize that without the guidance of his mentors, the influence of his friends, and his own vigilance, our protagonist would be on the verge of plunging into the abyss.
The reason Orders is not ranked higher comes down to this: Everything that happens in this book is extremely frustrating. The Ministry of Magic tries to make Harry seem like a lunatic. Half of Hogwarts refused to believe Harry. He is kicked out of the Quidditch team. His first crush goes horribly wrong.
And then there’s Sirius, of course…
I can’t even say it.
All these losses and pains don’t make Orders Of The Phoenix a bad read. In fact, they make the book even more memorable: It showcases Harry at his lowest point in the series, serving as the perfect stepping stone for his strike in books 6 and 7. Nonetheless, since we are finding out the best Harry Potter book, the ones that don’t make you feel like you are being struck in the gut after reading have a huge advantage.
Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
For the same reason, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince ends up in 4th place. Frankly, this novel is just as frustrating as Orders: Harry failed to stop Draco’s plan, the Death Eaters infiltrated Hogwarts, and Bill was severely injured by Greyback and almost turned into a werewolf. Not to mention Dumbledore… you do remember, right?
Even after paying such a cost, in the end, Harry and Dumbledore couldn’t even find a Horcrux.
So, what makes the sixth book rank higher than Orders? Though belonging to the darker phase, Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince’s overall tone is still more optimistic than its predecessor. Here’s why:
Firstly, love remains even in the worst time. Yes, Harry and Ginny eventually part ways at the end of this instalment. Yes, Ron and Hermione have a tough time in the final book. But amidst the chaos, they decided to be with each other. That’s when we know that their relationships are deeper than some random teenage flings.
Don’t forget that we still get some comedic relief out of their love stories. Romione seems defined by jealousy almost from the start, which is irritating sometimes. Nonetheless, the way Hermione starts dating McLaggin to get revenge on Ron is absolute gold. Oh, and Harry’s relationship with Ginny is definitely more fun than his teary little crush on Cho.
Secondly, Half-Blood Prince gives us a sense of direction. If you recall how J.K. Rowling wrapped up Orders Of The Phoenix, Harry still felt like there was “an invisible barrier separating him from the rest of the world”, although everyone had known about the rise of Voldemort. It should have been a victory, but Harry was lost and more isolated than ever.
And here’s him at the end of Half-Blood Prince:
The road waiting for Harry is not strewn with flowers. But even though it’s “dark and twisted”, he finds the direction. In fact, from Order Of The Phoenix To Half-Blood Prince, our protagonists have come a long way: They acknowledge the existence of the Hallows and figure out some of them. With a clear-cut goal and mission, Harry is ready.
And finally… well, this is something all of us want to avoid, but an insight into Book 6 would be incomplete without it: Dumbledore’s sacrifice. Though J.K. Rowling established their bond from book 1, Half-Blood Prince marks the first time they fight alongside each other. Though heart-wrenching, it’s beautiful how the author brings their relationship to a peak in the Horcrux Cave. It shows that, finally, the mentor and student can work together as equals. Dumbledore has always been the father figure that Harry misses in his life, and in the end, Harry has gained his trust.
Harry Potter and Dumbledore’s journey to the cave
Half-Blood Prince has some of the darkest moments in the series. But for me, J.K. Rowling figured out a beautiful way of pairing despair with a glimmer of hope. A light at the end of the tunnel—that’s enough to make it come out ahead.
Best Harry Potter Book – Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
We are getting to the top 3, and for so many reasons, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire deserves a spot here.
The fourth installment begins with an exciting change of pace: For the first time, we don’t see things from Harry Potter’s perspective. A Muggle, Frank Bryce, reveals that outside of Hogwarts, changes are occurring. We get to peek into Voldemort’s past and his plan, meet his “pet” Nagini once again, and find out, to our horror, that he has finally regained his physical form. An ominous start to an instalment that ends on an unsettling note, that’s it.
Out of all the books, Goblet Of Fire expands the Wizarding World the most. We learn about the Quidditch World Cup and other schools of witchcraft like Beauxbatons or Durmstrang. J.K. Rowling’s realm, hence, becomes all the more fascinating: Each geographical location has a unique wizarding culture that sets itself apart from the English one in the previous novels.
Quidditch world cup
Well, the new elements do add some spice to the usual cadence of life at Hogwarts, but the true reason this book is ranked so highly is the secrets it contains. Goblet Of Fire has one of the most intriguing plots among all the volumes, although the initial question seems so classic: Who did it? Who put Harry’s name in the Goblet?
The storyline succeeds because an incorrect assumption is made from the beginning and is never questioned. Whoever tries to make Harry join the tournament wants him dead – that’s what the characters and readers all believe. We trust Moody Mad-Eye because he seems to be helping Harry. We never think twice about the death of Barty Crouch and forget about the fact that Sirius Black is ultimately not a reliable source. In fact, it was Sirius who led us to believe that someone wanted Harry to die in the tournament.
All of these are placed in an incredibly dramatic setting. Readers can never get enough of tournaments, and the Tri-Wizard Tournament takes the buzz to the next level. What’s more exciting than facing a dragon, exploring a mermaid city, and fighting for your life in an ever-changing maze?
The mind-blowing climax is the one final point for Goblet. If I could rank all the chapters, “Graveyard” would secure a place in the top 5. Now that Voldemort finally regained his power, the threat he poses is more apparent than ever before. In the previous books, we only heard of how strong he was. People referred to him as “He who must not be named”, but as readers, we had no idea why the whole Wizarding World feared him.
The Graveyard chapter proved that Lord Voldemort was even more fearsome than everyone said. And, to ratchet the tension, Harry was entirely alone. A whole chapter of non-stop, breathless action will surely keep you up all night, just like it did to me.
Best Harry Potter Book – Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows
Okay so, Goblet Of Fire is packed with a lot of action. But it’s nothing compared to the Deathly Hallows.
Shame on me but, before jumping into the last installment, I had my guard up. Especially when I knew that J.K. Rowling wanted to conclude this series in less than 700 pages.
I had a reason to doubt: This epic series deserves an epic conclusion. And, to make my fear worse, Rowling named the book Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows. “What the hell are the Deathly Hallows?”, I thought. “Is she insane, trying to introduce a new concept when the series is about to finish?”.
But what was I kidding? This was Harry Potter, after all, and all of the novels had never fallen short on our expectations. As I picked up the book and began reading, I felt embarrassed that I even had a doubt.
The action in this book is intense beyond imagination. Aside from the infiltration at the Ministry of Magic, Gringotts robbery, and the Hogwarts battle, Deathly Hollows features enough dramatic climaxes to fill three separate novels. Harry was almost killed at the beginning, the Death Eaters ambushed our trio on Tottenham Court Road, and Ron barely rescued Harry when one of the Horcruxes tried to suffocate him – let’s not forget about those moments.
All of the characters have their own room to shine: It was very shocking when Neville destroyed the last Horcrux, but come to think of it, Rowling has been preparing for this moment since the first book. And there was Dobby. It wasn’t until his death that we realized how lovable of a character he was. From the beginning until the end, Dobby was always on Harry’s side.
Yes, every characters have their moments, and the reason comes down to this: Never once will you feel like a plot armor saves them. Even with the main trio (except Harry Potter, of course), it seems like they could die at any moment. Because of that, readers are always on the edge, which is the greatest thing a novel can do. It pushes the stakes to the highest possible.
The Battle of Hogwarts is all I asked for in the ending. As his mother would have done, Harry made the choice to give up his life for others. He gave Voldemort a chance for remorse. The ultimate showdown was satisfying, and the result did not feel cheaply earned.
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hollows lives up to every Potterhead’s expectations. I can understand if it’s your number one, but in my heart, there’s always a soft spot for…
Best Harry Potter Book – Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
I knew Prisoner of Azkaban was going to be extraordinary when Harry used his spell on Aunt Marge. Seeing her get what she deserved was satisfying indeed, but J.K. Rowling had created a smart turn by forcing Harry to face the consequence of his actions: He was kicked out of the house and had no other place to go. I was totally blown away and didn’t know what to expect.
Did I say that, no matter what you think about Rowling, her imagination is truly out of this world? Well, she flexed her creativity muscles to the fullest in the Prisoner of Azkaban. Everything, from the trips to Hogsmeade to the existence of the Marauder’s map (do you still remember the spell?) feels so… magical. This book is packed with everything you might ask for from an enchanting fantasy tale.
But the most brilliant thing, to me, is the concept of dementors and Patronuses. The Dementor chapter signals a new phase for Harry Potter, as the series is moving from children’s literature to young adults. It adds a dark edge to the series because dementor is a metaphor for depression. Because of these creations, for the first time, Harry comes to realize the weight of being the Chosen Boy. It’s brutal to be the only one who was born with hardships – that’s something us readers can sympathize with.
From that point on, book 3 just keeps getting darker. We learn that good guys don’t always win – the trio rescues Sirius, but Peter Pettigrew gets away. It marks the streak of four straight books that can be considered defeats for our protagonists.
Fortunately, we have the Patronus, the perfect counterbalance. I prefer to think of it as a lesson: To overcome fear and despair, one should rely on their inner strength. It’s those who have been by your side who grant you this strength. No matter how much time has passed, this line always strikes me whenever I re-read it:
Is that everything I love about the Prisoner Of Azkaban? Nope, we are still not done.
In the beginning, we despise Sirius Black. Anyone who works for Voldemort doesn’t deserve love, and the fact that he attempts to murder our hero makes the situation much more intolerable. Our impression of Black goes from negative to extremely negative when we learn that he was James Potter’s closest friend and had betrayed him. Stabbing your friend’s back is the most damned sin, given that it’s a series about the power of friendship.
When Harry confronts an unarmed Sirius, Sirius murmurs, “Going to kill me, Harry?”.
At that moment, it seemed he would.
For a while, the “is it justifiable to kill the villain?” question has been troubling countless writers. I really enjoyed the way they explored the concept in several movies, such as The Dark Knight Rises, Avatar, and the first season of Daredevil. But the Prisoner of Azkaban goes to a greater length. Not only does Harry spare Sirius’ life, he even overcomes the rage to embrace the truth and accept Sirius as a father figure.
The outcome gives me chills in my spine all the time, and that emotional impact is more than enough to make Prisoner of Azkaban the best Harry Potter book.
“It’s Our Choices That Show Who We Truly Are…”
If someone asks which Harry Potter novel to bring to a desert island, it would feel wrong for us Potterheads to choose just one volume. But, as much as we love the whole series, there will always be one installment that holds a special place in your heart. The reason why you pick that book can say a lot about who you are.
So, how about you? Which one is your best Harry Potter book? Share with JobandEdu team in the comment section!
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