‘Potter’ Casts a Spell Across the Ages – Los Angeles Times

This article was originally published in September 1999 after the release of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Author J.K. Rowling is today (June 26, 2017) celebrating the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Harry Potter series.

Read more about the 20th anniversary of the Harry Potter series »

I happened to be sitting in an English hospital the other day with my nose in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” when an officious nurse spotted the children’s paperback in my hand and marched up to me.

“You could at least read the adult edition,” she barked.

“I think that’s hypocritical,” I sputtered.

The nurse, whose children apparently had long since grown into adulthood, melted, a warm smile spreading across her broad face.

“Oh, me too,” she said. “I’ve read all three Harry Potter books.”

It doesn’t take a child or even the slightest bit of magic, for that matter, to figure out why the Harry Potter books are such a hit with young and old alike: The orphaned wizard is absolutely divine.

Author J.K. Rowling’s third spellbinding book, “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” goes on sale in the United States today after a long wait for fans who haven’t already rushed to buy it on the Internet. Or who weren’t lucky enough to have friends send them copies from Britain, where it went on sale at exactly 3:45 one afternoon early this summer–a time selected to avoid school truancies–and sold more than 60,000 copies in the first three days.

That was more than the hungrily awaited “Hannibal,” Thomas Harris’ sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs,” and more than any children’s book in the memory of British publishing.

In fact, Harry Potter is a worldwide bestseller, having been published in 27 languages and made it onto the New York Times list with two books at once. It hit No. 1 on the Amazon.com list nearly two months before it appeared in stores across the United States, with the other two Harry Potter books on its heels. The aggressive Internet sales forced up the U.S. publication date by more than a month.

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