Despite being surrounded by Harry Potter for fifteen years, I have long resisted reading the novels. Though the main reason for this is because I've never been enamored with the fantasy genre, there was also a contrarian impulse involved. My wife, however, is a passionate fan of the series, and we have long had a complete set of first edition hardcovers waiting to be read. It wasn't until we started reading them to my son, though, that I was motivated to take them on myself.
While I enjoyed reading the first one, I was a little underwhelmed by it. Part of it was, I think, my usual reaction to something that is constantly hyped by its fans as OMG THIS IS THE BEST BOOK EVER WRITTEN!!!, which it was not. This is not to say that it wasn't good, or that I wasn't entertained, but I just thought that a series with such a dramatic cultural impact would be more impressive than this. But another part of it is that very cultural impact -- while I haven't read the books, I have seen a few bits of the movies. It was about midway through this novel that I realized I had seen the end of the movie version on cable television at some point and thus knew the big twist and the outcome. Something was lost for me as a result, something that had I possessed it may have improved my appreciation of what is a perfectly fine fantasy novel. It's just funny how the very success of a novel or a series can sometimes undermine some of the very elements that made it a such a success in the first place. In the future I'll have to do a better job steering clear of the cultural detritus so that I can appreciate the book in the ways the author intended.