I was working as a Department Manger at a Barnes and Noble store in Burlington, Vermont, when Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince came out. We held a midnight release party, and I remember children trying to stab each other with wands for several hours before they were finally allowed to buy their books and go home. Many of the parents came in full costume, and it was obvious that they were more obsessed with Harry Potter than their kids. The next morning, sales associates arrived to work crying, having stayed up since 2 a.m. reading only to learn of their beloved Dumbledore’s tragic demise.
Five years later, as a public librarian, the fact that I still haven’t read Harry Potter feels like a dirty little secret. I can’t help but recall that urban legend of academia, as told by Pierre Bayard in How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read, in which an English professor reveals during a faculty cocktail party that he’s never read Hamlet, and is instantly fired.