Customer Reviews: Harry Potter's Bookshelf: The Great Books behind the Hogwarts Adventures
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on July 7, 2009
In his latest contribution to serious Harry Potter scholarship, John Granger takes on the challenge of analyzing the influence of the "great books" upon the wildly popular series. Rather than a tedious "this looks like that" listing, Granger takes the reader on a delightful journey through the many remarkable literary genres that are woven into Harry's adventures. Using the four layers of meaning (surface, moral, allegorical, and anagogical/mythical), Granger delves into a lively, readable analysis that never gets bogged down in literary jargon, but always remains insightful and thought-provoking. The influences he covers range from the fairly obvious ( Dickens, and all those sympathetic orphans! Austen, and all those surprise endings!) to the more obscure but equally relevant (Sayers's detective novels, Gothic stories whose influence actually puts Harry in a role usually given to heroines).

Summary is used sparingly but effectively. Even "literature geeks" who have read all these books and written papers on them will not find these sections tedious, and they may find handy reminders. Granger frequently unlocks useful insights with his characteristically friendly and accessible "voice." Readers familiar with Granger will not be surprised to see points on alchemy and on Rowling's unique twists on post-modernism, but those who have not read Granger's other works may now be tempted to go further into his work, like the Deathly Hallows Lectures, after getting hints of those topics here.

The text is well documented with readable apparatus, but an index would be nice. This is a valuable addition for any bookshelf of Potter studies, appealing both for novice readers and serious literature geeks. The text will not only help Potter readers to learn more about Rowling's world, but may very well be the key to lead them to read and enjoy the contents of the "compost heap" of literature that influenced Rowling; they may even find this book a safe path into the sometimes intimidating world of literary criticism. Don't worry about the Restricted section; the whole library is a wide-open wonderland with Harry and John Granger.
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on July 7, 2009
In Harry Potter's Bookshelf, John Granger provides an insightful tour through the literary influences that helped to shape the Harry Potter books. He looks at ten literary genres with representative books and authors that he believes were part of the rich mental "compost" from which Harry Potter grew.

But this book does much more than pay respects to Rowling's excellent artistry in "rowling" together various genres, themes and ideas. It teaches us to think about what it means to be good readers, of Harry Potter and of countless other great books, and what it means to let our experience as readers change us. In his forthright, non-jargony writing style, Granger provides HP enthusiasts with teaching on symbolist literature and how it can and should be profitably read on four levels: the surface, moral, allegorical, and anagogical levels. He explains how this kind of reading, which used to be commonplace, is rarely now understood. And he looks at the Harry Potter books, in light of the great books that came before them, on all four of these levels.

If you've never deeply considered Harry Potter's literary family tree, which includes Dickens, Austen, Bronte, Stoker, Shakespeare, Swift, Chaucer, Goudge and Lewis, you will find much literary food for thought in this excellent guidebook. If I had to choose favorites, the chapters on Gothic elements in Harry Potter (Snape as Heathcliff and Harry as gothic "hero/ine") and on the alchemical scaffolding of the HP books are especially golden, but there is much to mine in every single chapter as we consider the amazing artistry of Rowling the postmodern symbolist.

I have no doubt that teachers wanting to mine the literary riches of Harry Potter with their students will be especially delighted with this book. Readers already familiar with Granger's work will find these ten chapters an excellent distillation of some of his most important teaching on narrative voice, postmodern literary characteristics, the hero's journey, literary alchemy and more. If these themes and Granger's work are new to you, I encourage you to step from the chapters you find fascinating here into some of his earlier books, especially "How Harry Cast His Spell," and "The Deathly Hallows Lectures."
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on July 7, 2009
This is the book about Harry Potter that you've been waiting for. John Granger spectacularly presents all of the reasons for why the Harry Potter series have not only been so popular, but why readers will come back time and again to reread the series. Mr. Granger does this by providing the reader the fundamental keys to understanding Ms. Rowling's series. These keys assist a reader in discerning the four levels of meaning contained in the Harry Potter series, but also will assist a reader in appreciating all great English literature.

A must have book for any Harry Potter fan who wants to know the WHY behind how Ms. Rowling was able to entice millions of reader down the rabbit hole into the magical world of Hogwarts, and then keeps you in this magical "wonderland" throughout the Potter series.
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on July 19, 2009
I am writing this review to share with you what I know about John Granger. I met John at the base chapel at Parris Island in 1989. He and I were lay readers, he for Recruit Platoon 1048 and I for Platoon 1050. He was an honors graduate of the University of Chicago from the Great Books program. I had a business degree from Lenoir-Rhyne University in NC. I learned from our talks that he was unlike any character I had ever met. John has a simple philosophy for life. His life is dedicated to becoming more Christ-like each day. I think all Christians have this same hope. What makes John, I think, unusual, is his whole-heartedness in enacting that which he believes will make him a better man.

John's joy and love of life is contagious. It always seemed to me that His happiness was simply part of his nature and he came by it naturally. Several years ago, John wrote The Hidden Key To Harry Potter, giving me a first glimpse into the genius of Granger and was, in fact, the key that unlocked a world I never knew existed, the storehouse of knowledge found through reading great books.

After reading John's books, I found great joy in reading books that I previously had put down because I "just couldn't get into it". Dracula, Frankentein, The Brothers Karamozov, and Tale of Two Cities to name a few. I'm looking forward to tackling Shakespeare and Plato as well. Whoever thought a former Lenoir-Rhyne linebacker and Marine Corps NCO would read Pilgrim's Progress and Boethius' The Consolation of Philosophy? Well I did and enjoyed them greatly.

I recommend Harry Potter's Bookshelf by John Granger because I love what I can see when I stand on the shoulders of the greatest storytellers of the ages. And I thank John for handing me his telescope. Thanks again John, for helping me become a better man.
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on July 8, 2009
I have just completed John Granger's newest tome on Harry Potter. It is a superb linkage of English literary tradition and the master ideas incorporated into JK Rowling's Harry Potter series. I confess to being a huge fan of Harry Potter; I'm in the midst of my ninth re-rereading of the series. Granger's previous works have been on my reading list inter libra potteris. This one is another corker!!! My re-readings have been enhanced in a major way after each of Granger's prior books. His insights and explanations have enabled me to delve deeper into the text and its referents as well as my responses.

I had doubted that there was much to be added, quite frankly. I was wrong. HARRY POTTER'S BOOKSHELF is an outstanding addition to Mr. Granger's prior books. I particularly enjoyed the section on Gothic elements in literature and further appreciated not only Rowling's work but the works of Charles Williams, CS Lewis, and JRR Tolkien as well. I gained further insight into one of Rowling's favorite books by Goudge also.

The literary skeletons of Shakespeare and other English Greats laid bare in the discussion of alchemy are worthy subjects of admiration and dissection alone, but coupled with the usage by Rowling in the HP series, are not mere fossils unearthed by careless diggers, but living ancestors whose heritage is made visible! This is not something discussed in my long ago college literature classes but it is an explanatory message of great power to aid the enjoyment of all literature.

I would like to enlighten you on my enlightenment in each of the 10 genres under discussion in this excellent work! But that would be far too long a review. I encourage you most heartily to purchase this book and open your mind to the glorious literature that anticipates and informs Harry Potter. The gifts John Granger makes available are just waiting your reception and opening of them to further your enjoyment of all your reading.

"Are-you-MENTAL?" is Ron's question to Harry on more than one occasion, but with Granger's insights you will be: for Rowling and Harry, Shakespeare and many of his plays, Tolkien and Middle Earth, even Dante and the Divine Comedy. Get Granger. Get mental. You'll love it!
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on July 10, 2009
I came into the Harry Potter world just out of general interest at first, trying to understand what all the controversy was about in the Christian Press about an orphaned boy wizard in a fantasy world created by a British writer that was turning the literary world on it's head.

As a teacher in the Christian church and a father of a daughter who fell in love with Harry's story I had to investigate further from someone who has the understanding and knowledge of not only the literary classical approach to the Potter series but the theological/symbolistic elements of the story as well.

John Granger in his classical/theological approach through his previous books was exactly that expert I was in search of in the early days of Harry's saga. Harry Potter's Bookshelf is a magnificent addition to the earlier works John has blessed us with in regard to the many genres of the classical literary content contained in Ms. Rowling's world renowned Harry Potter book series. John Granger placed me back in the "classroom" with this book in the elements of John's enthusiasm for the classics, for the appreciation of the literary greats such as: Swift, Chaucer,Dickens, Austen,Tolkien and Lewis. Professor Granger takes these great writers and their respective works and disects them beautifully in how many of their literary, political and poetic works are gleaned within Rowling's work in Harry Potter.
I started out reading this series mainly as a surface and morality reader coming from a Christian backround, John Granger has taken my reading to a new level through this book by learning to appreciate the allegorical, and anagogical levels. The postmodern elements of the seven book series are clearly and intellectually explained as well as the Christian literary symbolism contained in the backround of Harry Potter's journey from 'Sorcerers Stone' to 'Deathly Hallows' in a way that all readers can understand and appreciate.

I highly suggest that every Harry Potter enthusiast from fan, to casual reader, to teacher, to literary scholar enrich their literary library with a copy of 'Harry Potter's: Bookshelf'.
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on July 15, 2009
John Granger was a trailblazer, sniffing out the (not so) hidden Christian and alchemical roots of Rowling's work back when just the first few novels had been published and initial critical discourse was often shallow or misguided (or verged on "Burn the witch!"). John's early prognostications sometimes seemed a stretch back then, but time and further Potter volumes have largely proved them out.

The new "Harry Potter's Bookshelf" updates and confirms John's earlier analysis, but widens the field to show Potter's strong connections to what seems like practically all of English literature. Austin, Dickens, Shakespeare, Bronte, E. Nesbit, Dracula, Tom Brown's Schooldays, Gulliver's Travels, Pilgrim's Progress, The Secret Garden, Lord Peter Wimsey, The Brothers Karamazov, ... the hits just keep on coming! (And not just big names - the "Bookshelf" includes surprises like the obscure "The Little White Horse", which Rowling described as her childhood favorite and most direct influence on her Harry Potter series.)

This "Bookshelf" is truly jam-packed with good stuff, while staying fun and fast-paced to read - a whirlwind tour rather than a pedantic plod. I don't think John Granger will have too many doubters this time around, as his work has become even more direct, well-documented, and convincing. His literary targets are hit dead-on - then resurrected within the Potter corpus, drawing readers in both directions.
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on July 8, 2009
What do Dante, Jane Austen, Bram Stoker, Dorothy Sayers, Charles Dickens, and Charlotte Bronte have in common? They're among the creators of classics in literary genres that J.K. Rowling drew on for her Harry Potter series. John Granger explores the books behind her books to "read" HP on four levels of meaning--literal, allegorical, moral, and analogical/mythic. (Ancient Biblical scholars applied the same process to Holy Scripture.) Granger's liberal arts learning and long immersion in the Potter canon equip him to communicate simply, lucidly, and modestly. Not only does "Harry Potter's Bookshelf" provide fresh insights for Rowling readers, it will encourage them to seek out the books behind her books with renewed appreciation. I highly recommend this and Granger's earlier works on Rowling.
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on July 22, 2009
John Granger has written a fantastic and fascinating exploration into the great books behind J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Not only does this book represent a "must have" for Harry Potter fans and an invaluable gift for those who use Harry Potter in the classroom, but it also offers a compelling defense of the Harry Potter series as literature that is grounded in and built upon some of the finest works in the canon.

Among the thought-provoking and insightful chapters are investigations of Harry Potter as a Dickensian orphan and a hero in a Sayers mystery; how Jane Austen haunts the heart and soul of Rowling's artistry; Harry Potter as a boarding school story in the tradition of Tom Brown's Schooldays; and Harry Potter as both a Gothic romance and a postmodern epic. Granger examines Harry Potter as satire, allegory, myth, alchemical metaphor, and subversive fantasy. In the process, he offers a whirlwind tour of Western literature in an accessible and entertaining manner. This book leaves the reader anxious to revisit the great books - or discover them for the first time - while appreciating all the more the craft and thought behind the Harry Potter series. Highly recommended!
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on July 16, 2009
I've added John Granger's latest book, Harry Potter's Bookshelf, to my own ever-growing bookshelf. In this book, Granger puts all the puzzle pieces together, following the last installment of the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. While reading the books, I was aware of some connections to other literary styles, but it's nice to have all the connections in one book. As usual, John Granger's insight into the deeper meaning of the books is invaluable.

As with other books by John Granger, I found that this one added even more depth to my understanding of the Harry Potter books and sent me to the book store for books that I hadn't read or that I had read so long ago that I'd forgotten them. In this new book, John Granger shows, in his delightful style, how the Harry Potter books fit in the larger literary picture.

Harry Potter's Bookshelf is not only a great read, but one that can encourage the reader to expand their own literary experience.
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