Twenty years ago today, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published. Why this is a landmark is worth noting. Over the course of the last two decades, this magical series has had a profound impact on pop culture.
Harry Potter has built and retained an incredibly large and loyal fan base, allowing it to expand out of the literary world and into movies, theater, and theme parks. After inspiring a generation of kids to love reading and becoming the best-selling book series in history, Harry Potter has proven, once again, that captivating storytelling can lead to a worldwide sensation.
The series evolved in ways no one could have expected when it was first released. The books entranced readers and audience members, fundamentally shifting the public sphere. Harry Potter was so popular among readers that “The New York Times” had to create a separate best-sellers list for Children’s Books and then Children’s Book Series when Harry Potter continued to dominate. The fervor Harry Potter caused in the Young Adult Literature world led to series like The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, Twilight, and Divergent to also be featured on The New York Times’ Children’s Book Series list.
Although the final book was published in 2007, and Deathly Hallows Part 2 was released in 2011, the Harry Potter fandom is still alive and well. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is currently on stage in London’s West End, with plans to expand onto Broadway in 2018, and the first of several Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movies has already been released. Further, an interactive website, Pottermore, allows users to get officially sorted into Hogwarts houses and discover their patronuses, while performing digital spells and creating potions for house points. The fictional game of Quidditch has also emerged into the real world, with college Quidditch clubs across the nation. The UCLA Quidditch team was even chronicled in a documentary, “Mudbloods,” released in 2014.
Harry Potter continues to make headlines by embracing and supporting fan engagement, from the midnight book releases that became the norm upon Goblet of Fire (the fourth in the series) being published, to the Guinness World Record for most Harry Potter look-a-likes in one place being broken this past week.
The Harry Potter phenomenon really is about the art of storytelling and about developing it in a way that captures the imagination of the reader. It is an art that can—and should—translate into everyday life, across diverse disciplines.