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Harry Potter (Series)

The central character in the series is Harry Potter, an English orphan who discovers, at the age of eleven, that he is a wizard, though he lives in the ordinary world of non-magical people known as Muggles. The wizarding world exists parallel to the Muggle world, albeit hidden and in secrecy. His magical ability is inborn and children with such abilities are invited to attend exclusive magic schools that teach the necessary skills to succeed in the wizarding world. Harry becomes a student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, a wizarding academy in Scotland and it is here where most of the events in the series take place. As Harry develops through his adolescence, he learns to overcome the problems that face him: magical, social and emotional, including ordinary teenage challenges such as friendships, infatuation, romantic relationships, schoolwork and exams, anxiety, depression, stress, and the greater test of preparing himself for the confrontation, that lies ahead, in wizarding Britain’s increasingly-violent second wizarding war.

Each novel chronicles one year in Harry’s life during the period from 1991 to 1998. The books also contain many flashbacks, which are frequently experienced by Harry viewing the memories of other characters in a device called a Pensieve.

The environment Rowling created is intimately connected to reality. The British magical community of the Harry Potter books is inspired by 1990s British culture, European folklore, classical mythology and alchemy, incorporating objects and wildlife such as magic wands, magic plants, potions, spells, flying broomsticks, centaurs and other magical creatures, the Deathly Hallows, and the Philosopher’s Stone, beside others invented by Rowling. While the fantasy land of Narnia is an alternate universe and the Lord of the Rings Middle-earth a mythic past, the wizarding world of Harry Potter exists in parallel within the real world and contains magical versions of the ordinary elements of everyday life, with the action mostly set in Scotland (Hogwarts), the West Country, Devon, London and Surrey in southeast England. The world only accessible to wizards and magical beings comprises a fragmented collection of overlooked hidden streets, ancient pubs, lonely country manors and secluded castles invisible to the Muggle population.

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone

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Rescued from the outrageous neglect of his aunt and uncle, a young boy with a great destiny proves his worth while attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

This is the tale of Harry Potter, an ordinary 11-year-old boy serving as a sort of slave for his aunt and uncle who learns that he is actually a wizard and has been invited to attend the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. Harry is snatched away from his mundane existence by Hagrid, the grounds keeper for Hogwarts, and quickly thrown into a world completely foreign to both him and the viewer. Famous for an incident that happened at his birth, Harry makes friends easily at his new school. He soon finds, however, that the wizarding world is far more dangerous for him than he would have imagined, and he quickly learns that not all wizards are ones to be trusted.

Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second novel in the Harry Potter series, written by J. K. Rowling. The plot follows Harry’s second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, during which a series of messages on the walls of the school’s corridors warn that the “Chamber of Secrets” has been opened and that the “heir of Slytherin” would kill all pupils who do not come from all-magical families. These threats are found after attacks which leave residents of the school “petrified” (frozen like stone). Throughout the year, Harry and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger investigate the attacks.

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The book was published in the United Kingdom on 2 July 1998 by Bloomsbury and in the United States on 2 June 1999 by Scholastic Inc. Although Rowling found it difficult to finish the book, it won high praise and awards from critics, young readers and the book industry, although some critics thought the story was perhaps too frightening for younger children. Much like with other novels in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets triggered religious debates; some religious authorities have condemned its use of magical themes, while others have praised its emphasis on self-sacrifice and on the way in which a person’s character is the result of the person’s choices.

Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban

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Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is the third novel in the Harry Potter series, written by J. K. Rowling. The book follows Harry Potter, a young wizard, in his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Along with friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, Harry investigates Sirius Black, an escaped prisoner from Azkaban who they believe is one of Lord Voldemort’s old allies.

The book was published in the United Kingdom on 8 July 1999 by Bloomsbury and in the United States on 8 September 1999 by Scholastic Inc. Rowling found the book easy to write, finishing it just a year after she had begun writing it. The book sold 68,000 copies in just three days after its release in the United Kingdom, and since has sold over three million in the country. The book won the 1999 Whitbread Children’s Book Award, the Bram Stoker Award, the 2000 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, and was short-listed for other awards, including the Hugo.

The film adaptation of the novel was released in 2004, grossing more than $796 million and earned notable critical acclaim. Video games loosely based on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban were also released for several platforms, and most obtained favourable reviews.

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the fourth novel in the Harry Potter series, written by British author J. K. Rowling. It follows Harry Potter, a wizard in his fourth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the mystery surrounding the entry of Harry’s name into the Triwizard Tournament, in which he is forced to compete.

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The book was published in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury and in the United States by Scholastic, in both countries the release date was 8 July 2000, the first time a book in the series was published in both countries at the same time. The novel won a Hugo Award, the only Harry Potter novel to do so, in 2001. The book was made into a film, which was released worldwide on 18 November 2005, and a video game by Electronic Arts.

Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the fifth novel in the Harry Potter series, written by J. K. Rowling. It follows Harry Potter’s struggles through his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, including the surreptitious return of the antagonist Lord Voldemort, O.W.L. exams, and an obstructive Ministry of Magic. The novel was published on 21 June 2003 by Bloomsbury in the United Kingdom, Scholastic in the United States, and Raincoast in Canada. Five million copies were sold in the first 24 hours of publication. It is the longest book of the series.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix has won several awards, including being named an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults in 2003. The book has also been made into a film, which was released in 2007, and into a video game by Electronic Arts.

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

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Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth and penultimate novel in the Harry Potter series, written by British author J. K. Rowling. Set during protagonist Harry Potter’s sixth year at Hogwarts, the novel explores the past of Harry’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort, and Harry’s preparations for the final battle against Voldemort alongside his headmaster and mentor Albus Dumbledore.

The book was published in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury and in the United States by Scholastic on 16 July 2005, as well as in several other countries. It sold nine million copies in the first 24 hours after its release, a record at the time which was eventually broken by its sequel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows . There were many controversies before and after it was published, including the right to read the copies delivered prior to the release date in Canada. Reception to the novel was generally positive and it won several awards and honours, including the 2006 British Book of the Year award.

Reviewers noted that the book took on a darker tone than its predecessors, though it did contain some humour. Some considered the main themes to be love and death, and trust and redemption. The character development of Harry and several other teenage characters was also remarked upon.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows

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Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is the seventh and final novel of the Harry Potter series, written by British author J. K. Rowling. The book was released on 21 July 2007 by Bloomsbury Publishing in the United Kingdom, in the United States by Scholastic, and in Canada by Raincoast Books, ending the series that began in 1997 with the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone . The novel chronicles the events directly following Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2005), and the final confrontation between the wizards Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort, as well as revealing the previously concealed back story of several main characters. The title of the book refers to three mythical objects featured in the story, collectively known as the “Deathly Hallows”—an unbeatable wand, a stone to bring the dead to life, and a cloak of invisibility.

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Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in January 2007. Before its release, Bloomsbury reportedly spent £10 million to keep the book’s contents safe before its release date. American publisher Arthur Levine refused any copies of the novel to be released in advance for press review, although two reviews were submitted early. Shortly before release, photos of all 759 pages of the U.S. edition were leaked and transcribed, leading Scholastic to look for the source that had leaked it.

Released globally in 93 countries, Deathly Hallows broke sales records as the fastest-selling book ever, a record it still held in 2012. It sold 15 million copies in the first 24 hours following its release, including more than 11 million in the U.S. and UK alone. The previous record, 9 million in its first day, had been held by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince . The novel has also been translated into over 120 languages. The title proved difficult to translate and was often rendered closer to “Harry Potter and the Relics of Death” in other languages.

Harry Potter And The Cursed Child

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a two-part West End stage play written by Jack Thorne based on an original new story by Thorne, J.K. Rowling and John Tiffany. Previews of the play began at the Palace Theatre, London on 7 June 2016 and was scheduled to officially premiere on 30 July 2016. The rehearsal script, not a novelisation of the play, was released on 31 July 2016 and became the eighth story set in the Harry Potter universe. The story is set nineteen years after the events of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and follows Harry Potter, now a Ministry of Magic employee, and his younger son Albus Severus Potter.

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The Lord of the Rings (Series)

The Lord of the Rings is an epic high-fantasy novel written by English author J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien’s 1937 fantasy novel The Hobbit , but eventually developed into a much larger work. Written in stages between 1937 and 1949, The Lord of the Rings is one of the best-selling novels ever written, with over 150 million copies sold.

The title of the novel refers to the story’s main antagonist, the Dark Lord Sauron, who had in an earlier age created the One Ring to rule the other Rings of Power as the ultimate weapon in his campaign to conquer and rule all of Middle-earth. From quiet beginnings in the Shire, a hobbit land not unlike the English countryside, the story ranges across Middle-earth, following the course of the War of the Ring through the eyes of its characters, not only the hobbits Frodo Baggins, Samwise “Sam” Gamgee, Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck and Peregrin “Pippin” Took, but also the hobbits’ chief allies and travelling companions: the Men Aragorn son of Arathorn, a Ranger of the North, and Boromir, a Captain of Gondor; Gimli son of Glóin, a Dwarf warrior; Legolas Greenleaf, an Elven prince; and Gandalf, a Wizard.

The work was initially intended by Tolkien to be one volume of a two-volume set, the other to be The Silmarillion , but this idea was dismissed by his publisher. For economic reasons The Lord of the Rings was published in three volumes over the course of a year from 29 July 1954 to 20 October 1955. The three volumes were titled The Fellowship of the Ring , The Two Towers , and The Return of the King . Structurally, the novel is divided internally into six books, two per volume, with several appendices of background material included at the end of the third volume. Some editions combine the entire work into a single volume. The Lord of the Rings has since been reprinted numerous times and translated into 38 languages.

The enduring popularity of The Lord of the Rings has led to numerous references in popular culture, the founding of many societies by fans of Tolkien’s works, and the publication of many books about Tolkien and his works. The Lord of the Rings has inspired, and continues to inspire, artwork, music, films and television, video games, and subsequent literature. Award-winning adaptations of The Lord of the Rings have been made for radio, theatre, and film. In 2003, it was named Britain’s best-loved novel of all time in the BBC’s The Big Read.

The Fellowship of the Ring

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The story begins in the Shire, where the Hobbit Frodo Baggins inherits the Ring from Bilbo Baggins, his cousin and guardian. Neither hobbit is aware of its origin and nature, but Gandalf the Grey, a wizard and old friend of Bilbo, suspects the Ring’s identity. When he becomes certain, he strongly advises Frodo to take it away from the Shire. Frodo leaves, accompanied by his gardener and friend, Samwise (“Sam”) Gamgee, and two cousins, Meriadoc (“Merry”) Brandybuck and Peregrin (“Pippin”) Took. They nearly encounter the Nazgûl while still in the Shire, but shake off pursuit by cutting through the Old Forest, where they are aided by the enigmatic Tom Bombadil, who alone is unaffected by the Ring’s corrupting influence. After leaving the forest, they stop in the town of Bree where they meet Strider, who is later revealed to be Aragorn, Isildur’s heir. He persuades them to take him on as guide and protector. They flee from Bree after narrowly escaping another assault, but the Nazgûl follow and attack them on the hill of Weathertop, wounding Frodo with a Morgul blade. Aragorn leads the hobbits toward the Elven refuge of Rivendell, while Frodo gradually succumbs to the wound. The Ringwraiths nearly overtake Frodo at the Ford of Bruinen, but flood waters summoned by Elrond, master of Rivendell, rise up and overwhelm them.

Frodo recovers in Rivendell under the care of Elrond. The Council of Elrond reveals much significant history about Sauron and the Ring, as well as the news that Sauron has corrupted Gandalf’s fellow wizard, Saruman. The Council decides that the Ring must be destroyed, but that can only be done by returning it to the flames of Mount Doom in Mordor, where it was forged. Frodo volunteers to take on this daunting task, and a “Fellowship of the Ring” is formed to aid him: Sam, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gandalf, Gimli the Dwarf, Legolas the Elf, and the Man Boromir, son of the Ruling Steward Denethor of the realm of Gondor.

After a failed attempt to cross the Misty Mountains via the Redhorn Pass across the flank of Caradhras, the company are forced to try a more perilous path through the Mines of Moria, where they are attacked by the Watcher in the Water before the gate. Inside, they discover the fate of Balin and his colony of Dwarves. After repulsing an attack, they are pursued by orcs and an ancient and powerful demonic creature called a Balrog. Gandalf confronts the Balrog, but in their struggle, both fall into a deep chasm. The others escape and take refuge in the Elven forest of Lothlórien, where they are counselled by Galadriel and Celeborn.

With boats and gifts from Galadriel, the company travel down the River Anduin to the hill of Amon Hen. Boromir succumbs to the lure of the Ring and attempts to take it from Frodo. Frodo escapes and determines to continue the quest alone, though Sam guesses his intent and comes along.

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The Two Towers

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Orcs sent by Saruman and Sauron kill Boromir and kidnap Merry and Pippin. After agonizing over which pair of hobbits to follow, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas pursue the orcs bearing Merry and Pippin to Saruman. In the kingdom of Rohan, the orcs are slain by a company of the Rohirrim. Merry and Pippin escape into Fangorn Forest, where they are befriended by Treebeard, the oldest of the tree-like Ents. Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas track the hobbits to Fangorn, and encounter Gandalf, resurrected as the significantly more powerful “Gandalf the White” after his mutually fatal duel with the Balrog. Gandalf assures them that Merry and Pippin are safe. They then ride to Edoras, the capital of Rohan, where they free Théoden, King of Rohan, from the influence of Saruman’s henchman Gríma Wormtongue. Théoden musters his fighting strength and rides to the ancient fortress of Helm’s Deep, but en route Gandalf leaves to seek help from Treebeard.

Frodo and Sam capture Gollum, who had been following them from Moria, and force him to guide them to Mordor. Finding Mordor’s Black Gate too well guarded to attempt, they travel instead to a secret passage Gollum knows. On the way, they fall in with Faramir, who, unlike his brother Boromir, resists the temptation to seize the Ring and instead helps Frodo on his way. Torn between his loyalty to Frodo and his desire for the Ring, Gollum eventually betrays Frodo by leading him to the great spider Shelob in the tunnels of Cirith Ungol. Frodo is felled by Shelob’s sting, but Sam fights her off. Sam takes the Ring and leaves Frodo, believing him to be dead. When orcs find Frodo, Sam overhears them say that Frodo is only unconscious, and chases after them.

The Return of the King

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Sauron unleashes a heavy assault upon Gondor. Gandalf arrives at Minas Tirith to alert Denethor of the impending attack. The city is besieged, and Denethor, deceived by Sauron, gives up hope and commits suicide, nearly taking his remaining son Faramir with him. Aragorn feels he has no choice but to take the Paths of the Dead in order to reach Gondor in time, accompanied by Legolas, Gimli and the Dúnedain Rangers from the North. During this perilous journey, Aragorn raises an undead army of oath-breakers bound by an ancient curse that denies them rest until they fulfill their vow to the king of Gondor. The ghostly army helps defeat the Corsairs of Umbar invading southern Gondor. Commandeering the ships of the Corsairs, Aragorn leads reinforcements up the Anduin to relieve the siege of Minas Tirith, and between them, the forces of Gondor and Rohan defeat Sauron’s army in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.

Meanwhile, Sam rescues Frodo from the tower of Cirith Ungol, and they set out across Mordor. In order to distract Sauron from his true danger, Aragorn leads the armies of Gondor and Rohan in a march on the Black Gate of Mordor. His vastly outnumbered troops fight desperately against Sauron’s forces. Reaching the edge of the Cracks of Doom, Frodo is unable to resist the Ring any longer and claims it for himself. But Gollum suddenly reappears. In the ensuing struggle, he seizes the Ring by biting off the finger on which Frodo wears it. Celebrating wildly, Gollum accidentally falls into the fire, taking the Ring with him; and so Frodo’s mission is completed. With the destruction of the One Ring, Sauron is permanently shorn of his power, the Nazgûl perish, and his armies are thrown into such disarray that Aragorn’s forces emerge victorious.

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With the end of the War of the Ring, Aragorn is crowned Elessar, King of Arnor and Gondor, and marries his long-time love, Arwen, daughter of Elrond. Saruman escapes from Isengard and, seeking vengeance on the hobbits, enslaves the Shire. The four hobbits, upon returning home, raise a rebellion and overthrow him. Gríma turns on Saruman and kills him in front of Frodo’s house, and is slain in turn by hobbit archers. The War of the Ring thus comes to its true end on Frodo’s very doorstep.

Several years later, accompanied by Bilbo and Gandalf, he sails from the Grey Havens west over the Sea to the Undying Lands to find peace. After Rosie’s death, Sam gives his daughter the Red Book of Westmarch , containing the account of Bilbo’s adventures and the War of the Ring as witnessed by the hobbits. Sam is then said to have crossed west over the Sea himself, the last of the Ring-bearers.

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The Best Science Fiction Books To Read

Fans of science fiction find themselves in the genre for a number of reasons. It could be a love of all the accoutrements that mark the genre: new species, alien warfare, spaceships and gripping anti-heroes. But, it also serves as a crystal ball — showing humanity through imagined reactions to new technology, races or otherworldly locales, often in a way that’s stirring and a little bit scary — in a good way!

The Washington Post will be publishing an ever-rotating list of some of the best science fiction we’ve read, populated by staff and reader suggestions and moderated by us here at Book World. Leave your most recently read sci-fi books in the comments.

#1

Title: Super Extra Grande 53

Author: José Miguel Sánchez Gómez, aka Yoss

What’s it about? When two ambassadors involved in peace talks with alien capitalists accidentally get swallowed by an extra –large sea worm, veterinarian Jan Amos Sangan Dongo has to figure out how to rescue them without causing political unrest. In this intergalactic space satire, Yoss derides racist and sexist stereotypes and critiques western environmental policies.

#2

Title: Infomocracy

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Author: Malka Older

What’s it about? In a futuristic world where mini-democracies vote on which global government they want to join, an organization called “Information” oversees everything from the elections to the media. As another election, held every 10 years, approaches, someone is trying to sabotage the election process by taking out Information’s communication system as two parties jockey to stay in the lead. Political operative Ken, Information agent Mishima, and anarchist Domaine team up to find out who is responsible for sabotage.

#3

Title: The Second Angel

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Author: Philip Kerr

What’s it about? In the year 2069, most of Earth’s population has been infected by a slow-acting deadly virus. The only cure is clean blood, housed on the moon and only affordable to the wealthy elite. When wealthy systems designer Dana Dallas finds out his infant daughter needs clean blood to survive, and is denied, Dallas’s actions spark a chain of events that puts him at war with powerful, dangerous enemies.

It’s “one of the more believable near-future dystopias.”

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#4

Title: Stranger in a Strange Land

stranger_in_a_strange_land Author: Robert Heinlein

What’s it about? Heinlein’s classic novel, a Hugo Award winner in 1962, tells the story of Valentine Michael Smith, who was born and raised on Mars and is the only survivor of the first manned mission to the planet. A true innocent, Smith learns about human culture, morality and society – and with the support of his friends, eventually founds his own church based on the principals he learned from Martians.

#5

Title: The City and the city

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Author: China Mieville

What’s it about? Part police procedural, part science fiction, Mieville’s novel is about two cities occupying the same geographical space, where citizens must “unsee” the other city and its people or suffer the consequences. That complicates what should be a routine investigation for Inspector Tyador Borlu: a woman’s body is found in his city of Beszel, but the crime was committed in the neighboring city of Ul Qoma, launching a journey both psychological and physical between two rival cities.

“It’s a fantastic and disorienting read.”