J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997)
- Rodge Glass
- 1 January 2005
100 Best Scottish Books of all Time
Before the Empire - the midnight queues round the block, the merchandise, the films and 800-page sequels - there was The Philosopher's Stone. It's easy to forget just what a phenomenon it is, and why. The story begins with Hagrid taking an 11-year-old Harry away to Hogwarts, the school of magic where he'll learn how special he is, all about his parents, and meet friends Ron and Hermione, with whom he will have all his adventures. On the way to the story's dramatic conclusion in the last chamber, we learn about Quidditch, Gryffindor, Voldemort and, finally, the frightening Man With Two Faces; but though it races along excitingly and is written well, it's hard to judge the story alone any more, independent of all that has now become Potterworld.
When this book was first published, it was not with the kind of fanfare that those arriving in its wake have come to expect; it wasn't even expected to sell 10,000 copies, far less the millions it now has. And it's worth remembering that the publishers were completely unprepared for what happened. The Philosopher's Stone was a rare word-of-mouth success; a true literary phenomenon. Nobody could have predicted it. It sold what it sold and became what it became because children read it, loved it and were inspired to pass it to their friends, their parents (until recently, a rare thing) and to go on to read other, less accessible books.
It was powerful enough to change the way we think about children's fiction, and to turn a whole generation back on to the power of imagination, of magic, the joy of reading. For that alone we should be thankful. Whether this book sits as comfortably in this list in another hundred years remains to be seen, but right now it certainly deserves its place.
View the complete list of the 100 Best Scottish Books.