Harry Potter withdrawal

Steven Levitt has a short bit up on the Freakonomics blog mentioning that he’s just finished the last Harry Potter book, and now has been “left aimless in Harry’s absence” and would like to know what he can read to “restore meaning to his life.” There are a lot of great suggestions in the comments, including not just books, but some comics too.

It’s interesting to see what people think of when they’re asked to suggest new material to a Harry Potter fan. The Potter books have a certain ineffable quality to them that has made them popular far beyond the audience that would usually be attracted to a “young adult” fantasy series. Mr. Levitt certainly doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who reads a lot of Piers Anthony, for instance. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Piers Anthony.) I do think that any open-minded, intelligent reader could find some great underrated stuff in the SF & Fantasy aisle in Borders, given a little direction, though.

Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy is mentioned by several commenters. That’s certainly a work that has some superficial similarities to the Potter books — it’s a fantasy series featuring a couple of young kids as protagonists. And it’s a great work. I think somebody could probably get a great term paper out of comparing and contrasting the themes in Potter vs HDM. (And, come to think of it, I’d bet a good number of high school students probably already *have* written that paper.)

There are several recommendations for the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett. Also great books, but different in tone from Harry Potter. Come to think of it, I’ve only read one Discworld book (Mort). I think I have another one around here somewhere waiting to be read. I should really dig that out and read it.

On the comics front, there are a few recommendations for Fables, which I blogged about recently. (I now have the first six volumes waiting to be read.) And Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (and some other Gaiman stuff) gets mentioned. (I’ve read all of Sandman, and I’d certainly second the recommendation on that.)

Stephen King’s Dark Tower series gets a couple of mentions. I haven’t read any of that, but I’m getting curious about it. Maybe after I get through some of the other stuff in my pile, I’ll pick up a couple of Dark Tower books and give them a try.

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell gets a couple of nods. I read that a couple of years ago, and it’s great. Definitely a good book to read after the Potter series, if you’re interested in seeing how another great author handles magic.

There are a couple of recommendations for Orson Scott Card’s Ender books. I’ve read the first, Ender’s Game, and have the next few in a pile waiting to be read. Good stuff, but I don’t really see any relation to Potter, other than (again) a young protagonist.

And Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next novels get mentioned too. I’ve now read through all but the most recent Thursday Next book, and I’m definitely worried about withdrawal after I finally finish that one! (Hopefully, Fforde hasn’t finished with Thursday books yet, though.)

So, in a nutshell, there’s lots of great stuff to read out there, both books and comics! I’m curious as to whether Mr. Levitt would consider picking up any of the comics work mentioned in the comments. Would a serious economist like him consider picking up a Sandman or Fables graphic novel? Would your average businessman want to be seen reading a comic in public? I don’t know. It’s never been a concern for me, but then again, I’m a nerd, and proud of it.

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