Do Harry Potter Books Have to Be Read in Order?

A common question many Harry Potter fans get asked is: do I need to read the series in order? It’s a valid question because many book series don’t tell the plot chronologically but go back and forth between past and present. But in what order should you read Harry Potter?

You should read Harry Potter books in order because J.K. Rowling tells the story in a linear trajectory. The story follows Harry Potter chronologically when he’s an 11-year-old to a 17-year-old. Not reading the series in order would reveal many spoilers and leave you confused about the plot.

In this article, I’ll give you the best reading order for the Harry Potter series. I’ll also include some reasons why that reading order is the best. Since Rowling published additional books related to the Harry Potter universe, I’ll include those in the reading order.

The Best Reading Order for Harry Potter Books

Many book series love to tell the story using different narrative modes. The most popular of these is following a plot through retrospective narration. It means the plot returns to the past and leaves the present action for later. However, Harry Potter books aren’t like that.

Harry Potter uses linear narration. The plot follows the protagonist (Harry) chronologically. Sure, there are some moments where characters have flashbacks, but the main action always moves chronologically.

That’s why the best reading order for Harry Potter books is the original publication order, which is:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Philosopher’s Stone in the UK): Harry is 11 when he finds out he’s a wizard and has to attend Hogwarts. In this book, he meets Ron and Hermione. The readers find out many things about Hogwarts.
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: In the second book, the Chamber of Secrets was opened somewhere at Hogwarts. Harry, Ron, and Hermione try to find the chamber while many students are left “petrified” by a mysterious monster.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Infamous Sirius Black escaped from Azkaban, and creatures called Dementors are trying to find him. Hogwarts gets a new teacher, Professor Lupin, who possesses some secrets about Harry’s past.
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: It’s the Triwizard Tournament, and Harry’s one of the participants (against his will). The participants need to pass three dangerous tasks. In the meantime, Voldemort plots to return to his true form and kill Harry.
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Harry tries to convince everyone Voldemort is back to no avail. The Ministry of Magic does everything to suppress any fear. Harry and his friends form an Order to fight against Voldemort once he strikes.
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Harry is 16 and returns to Hogwarts, which became a dangerous place after Voldemort’s return. He must find out who the half-blood prince is. Voldemort’s Hogwarts days are also shown in this part.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Harry must find Horcruxes to weaken Voldemort. He also learns about the Deathly Hallows, which Voldemort is trying to find. In the end, Harry and Voldemort face each other in a legendary fight.

Another common question from people who want to start reading the series is: can I skip some books? The short answer is: no. Each book reveals some important clue or character that is relevant for later books.

For instance, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Firedoesn’t necessarily revolve around the main action of the series. The plot is about a tournament at Hogwarts. However, there are some crucial episodes in this part you can’t miss. Otherwise, you wouldn’t understand the action of the subsequent book.

Before you even ask the third common question, let me stop you and invite you to read my article, How Long Does It Take To Read All Harry Potter Books? You’ll find the detailed answer for individual books in the series.

The Reading Order With Additional Books From Harry Potter Universe

If you want to expand your Harry Potter universe, you can do so with additional books and screenplays Rowling wrote after the Harry Potter series. These books don’t discuss the action of Harry Potter directly. They tackle plots before and after Harry Potter’s six years at Hogwarts.

You should start with these books:

The action of these books happened long before Harry was even born, so chronologically, you should read them first. After that, read the seven Harry Potter books in order and switch to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. This book is a screenplay that follows Harry’s son years after Harry defeated Voldemort.

Why You Should Read Harry Potter Books In Order

Of course, you can pick any Harry Potter book and start reading it regardless of the order. However, Harry Potter fans are strict about the reading order because the series is a sacred object that must be read chronologically. There are some practical reasons for reading the series in order:

  • Spoilers: There are some huge moments in this series that you might ruin for yourself if you jump to later books. Reading them in order will keep you from spoiling the ending.
  • New characters: There are hundreds of characters in Harry Potter. It’s easy to get confused with some characters’ backstories and names if you don’t follow the plot in order.
  • Clues and details: Rowling included hundreds of small clues and details for readers to notice and connect with the plot. They may seem insignificant while reading them, but you’ll understand their importance by the end.
  • Foreshadowing: This is an important element of Harry Potter books. Many scenes foreshadow some episodes that might happen three or four books later. That’s why you should follow the plot chronologically.

Final Thoughts

You should read Harry Potter books as they were published because the plot follows Harry, Ron, and Hermione chronologically (most of the time). That’s why the best reading order for Harry Potter is:

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

That way, you won’t spoil any important names or details from subsequent books.


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