I love the Harry Potter book series. I didn’t actually get into it until Goblet of Fire came out because my little brother was reading them at the time and I, of course, took this as proof that they were lame. But once I gave them a chance, I didn’t look back. I’ve probably read the series at least a dozen times — even more for the first few books. I remember, I re-read books 1-6 over the course of a month before Deathly Hallows came out, and then I finished that one literally the same night. I stayed up all night to read it, and then immediately regretted it because I knew it would take my friends at least a few days to finish. Knowing how the series ended and not being able to talk to anyone about it sucked. A lot.
So, with the release of The Cursed Child and the apparent end of Harry’s story, I thought it would be fun to go through and rank all of the books. I’ve actually had these ranked in my mind for years, but it’ll be fun to justify my placement to the internet. I didn’t use any “science” for this, it’s all completely subjective. Obviously, this is just my personal opinion, so please leave your thoughts in the comments below!
7. Chamber of Secrets
I think most people would agree that J.K. Rowling’s writing talents increased as the series went on. It’s partially for this reason that Chamber of Secrets is last on this list. I just think it generally has the weakest writing — and the weakest overall story. I should clarify that I don’t think any of these books are bad, but when you’re ranking things, something has to be in last place. Gilderoy Lockheart was a great new character and it was cool to learn more about Voldemort from when he was a student at Hogwarts, but overall I just found this book to be the least exciting. I also never really cared about Ginny, so it was hard to be too upset when she was abducted. That sounds harsh, but it’s true.
6. Prisoner of Azkaban
The third book in the series is the second “worst,” which is also impacted by Rowling’s less than stellar writing early in her career. Part of my problem with the early books is also just how young our main characters are. I mean, Harry is only eleven years old in the first book, and thirteen in Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s hard to believe that kids that young would be capable of some of the things they accomplish. I will say that I really enjoyed the twists and turns dealing with Sirius and Peter Pettigrew, and it was honestly a nice change of pace not focusing on Voldemort’s return, since that was the driving force of the first two books. Azkaban and the Dementors were also really cool concepts, and were put to great use in later books.
5. Deathly Hallows
At the time of its release, Deathly Hallows was pretty damn disappointing. There were still some great highs, like the gang infiltrating Gringotts and the Battle of Hogwarts, but the story was also mired in a confusing ending and a second act where very little happened. I love the dynamic between Harry, Ron, and Hermione as much as anyone else, but spending several chapters with them just bickering in the woods didn’t make for very compelling reading. But, as a send off for our beloved characters and one of the most imaginative fictional universes ever created, Deathly Hallows was a success full of action and emotion — even if the epilogue read like bad fan fiction.
4. Sorcerer’s Stone
Why does Sorcerer’s Stone get a free pass when I railed against Chamber of Secrets and Prisoner of Azkaban for their relatively poor writing? Well, while I still have issues with some of the writing in the first Harry Potter book, the simple fact that it introduced us to this wonderful world more than compensates. Pardon the pun, but this first book was just so magical. Envisioning Hogwarts and Diagon Alley, meeting characters like Hagrid, Snape, and Dumbledore, and going on the ride with Harry, Ron, and Hermione through the trials guarding the stone were such unique and memorable experiences. Despite not being the best-written book in the series, Sorcerer’s Stone holds a special place in my heart.
3. Order of the Phoenix
The longest book in the series is also one of the best. There were just so many cool moments in this book, including the gang storming the Ministry of Magic and Dumbledore’s duel with Voldemort. We also lost Sirius in a tragic scene, and got one of the best and most frustrating villains in the history of fiction in Dolores Umbridge. It’s seriously hard to go back and read this one — she is just so maddening. We learned so much history about the first fight against Voldemort, and his return was finally confirmed to the wizarding world at the end of the book. It was also cool to see the dynamic shift between Harry and Dumbledore, as Voldemort was beginning to take over Harry’s mind. The biggest knock against Order of the Phoenix, though, was its general lack of direction in the early going.
2. Half-Blood Prince
These top three books are all phenomenal in their own ways. While I saw Snape’s reveal as the Half-Blood Prince coming from a mile away, it was still satisfying. I actually had Dumbledore’s death spoiled for me by a friend when I was about half-way through the book, and I still haven’t forgiven him (Yes, I’m talking to you, Marc). It also served to make Malfoy a somewhat sympathetic character, something I wouldn’t have thought possible. The poor kid was just in over his head. This was also the book where we learned basically everything there was to learn about Tom Riddle, AKA Voldemort. It was both fascinating and terrifying. We even got some backstory on Dumbledore that definitely highlighted the fact that he wasn’t perfect.
1. Goblet of Fire
To me, this one is obvious. More than anything, I just loved the idea of the Triwizard Tournament. Not only was the fictional universe expanded with two other wizarding schools, but the idea of pitting wizards against each other during different trials was so cool. And while I personally didn’t care about Cedric, his death had a huge impact on Harry. This was only magnified with the reveal of Barty Crouch, Jr. at the end, right when you thought the climax had already happened and Harry was safe. Some other great things include the Quidditch World Cup, Hagrid’s dragons, and Ron’s feelings for Hermione finally coming to a head. Also, at the time I had a gigantic crush on Cho Chang. I was a loser.
And there we have it, my personal ranking for all seven Harry Potter books. Let me know your thoughts, and be sure to check out my ranking of the Harry Potter movies!