No, I haven't read any of the books in the Harry Potter series though my nephew has. The series has been around almost as long as he has. I know he read quite a few of the books though he didn't develop the obsession with them I remember seeing on the part of some young fans. I've always enjoyed a good read myself and through pure luck stumbled onto a few good books over this past summer by a certain Welsh author. I think I can relate somewhat to the excitement of a Harry Potter fan back in the day because while I used to think they were half nuts I have to admit I can't wait for the sequels for the books I have been reading to come out over the next few years.
I started out this past summer reading Ken Follett's novel "Fall of Giants", the first of a planned trilogy. As I said, it was a complete fluke I discovered this book. One afternoon back in the summer at the end of a work day, a summer student was reading a book as we waited to sign out from work and I happened to notice the date "1918" at the top of a page. I said something along the lines of "You must be reading something about the Great War." Anyhow, as a history buff, I found her subsequent synopsis of the novel, "Fall of Giants" piqued my interest so on my days off I headed down to the mall and picked up a copy.
Ken Follett was an author I had never heard of until then. But since I mostly stick with real history rather than historical fiction, I wasn't all that surprised. Glancing around on the shelf, my eye fell on two more titles "Pillars of the Earth" and "World Without End." Reading the back cover, I saw that they involved Medieval history, something I didn't spend much time studying at university but which I've grown more interested in in recent years, especially aspects such as architecture, church history and the guild system. I think I appreciate the history of guilds a little more since I am now currently eligible to go into the field as a second year apprentice scaffolder. The journeyman-apprentice relationship is touched upon and both "Pillars" and "World Without End" describe scaffolding in early construction. Talk about art imitating life. Anyhow, I picked up a copy of "Fall of Giants" first, read it, and then returned a short while later to purchase "Pillars of the Earth" and "World Without End".
I won't pretend to be a literary critic here. Follett has a very straight forward writing style. There isn't a lot a grand description or long, flowing sentences. More like an epic narrative along the lines of The Lord of The Ring trilogy. There isn't much character development. Good characters are good and bad characters stay bad and get their just reward at the end. On the surface, this doesn't sound all that interesting yet I find it a good read. My guess is that since I've read so much history from the eras the books portray that my brain just fills in the details and and compare what I read in the book to others I've read. My mind is engaged in imagining life in an everyday English town in the 14th century (I just recently started "World Without End") rather than focusing on the actual writing style itself. Anyhow, the book is proving to be a wonderful companion on my commutes to and from work. I know my some of my history professors might shoot me for saying this but I think Follett, while he has several strong female characters, gives them more power than they probably would have had at the time. For a self-professed atheist, though I find he does an admirable and fair job at portraying the everyday workings of a medieval priory and the thought processes of the people involved.
So having said all this I am now trying to finish off "World Without End" so that I will be ready to tackle Book 2 of Follett's Century trilogy when it comes out next year. Apparently, once this trilogy is completed, a follow up to "World Without End" is due out sometime in 2014 I believe. So while I'm not about to dress up like a wizard or wear a funny set of glasses and line up at the wee hours of the morning in front of Cole's Books down at Peter Pond Mall (what a scary sight that would be), I do find myself fidgeting with anticipation for these next books to come hot off the presses.