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Harry Potter books: reading order, where to start, and gift guide

Harry Potter books
(Image credit: Scholastic)

The Harry Potter books have been dominating our imaginations for decades, and the series has now ballooned into spin-offs, stage plays, and beyond. If you're a newcomer, that can make it tricky to know where you should start. How do you read the series in chronological order? And are there new Harry Potter novels on the way? Don't worry, we've got you covered with the full lowdown here.

Because the Harry Potter books aren't limited to the boy wizard anymore, we've also included info about the series as a whole. Do the Fantastic Beasts scripts 'count'? Is The Cursed Child a sequel to the Harry Potter novels or films? All will be explained below.

Strap in for some gift ideas as well. We've listed a few suggestions for yourself, a friend, or a loved one within this guide, and they rank amongst the best Harry Potter merchandise overall.

Harry Potter books - where to start

Harry Potter books

(Image credit: Scholastic)

Although most of the Harry Potter books are set in the 90s, the stories now stretch back much further via the Fantastic Beasts series. They also peek at the future of the Wizarding World thanks to The Cursed Child. We've listed and explained all of them below.

Original series

These are the original Harry Potter books, and they hit shelves from the late nineties until 2007. There are seven in total, and they tell the complete Potter story from start to finish (if you're not counting the Cursed Child playscript, anyway). 

If you're going to start anywhere, it should be here. Just remember, the first book in the series may have a different name depending on your region. (It's called 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' in the USA, but goes by 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone' for UK readers.)

  1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone / Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix
  6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Spin-offs

This is where things get interesting. There are a number of spin-offs to the Harry Potter books, and they aren't all traditional stories. Namely, there are a handful Hogwarts textbooks to go with movie scripts.

It's not always clear if the latter are canonical to the Harry Potter books, either. Although The Cursed Child feels like a continuation of the novels, the Fantastic Beasts scripts are more in line with the movie series.

Harry Potter books reading order

Harry Potter books

(Image credit: Scholastic)

If you're new to the series, we'd recommend sticking to the original seven Harry Potter books - everything else is a bonus. In other words, start with The Sorcerer's Stone / The Philosopher's Stone and work your way through them (as explained in our 'where to start' section above).

However, if you want to make your way through the Harry Potter books in true chronological order (which includes spin-off scripts), you should check out the list below.

Harry Potter books chronological order

  1. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (screenplay)
  2. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (screenplay)
  3. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone / Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix
  8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  10. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (play script)

It's worth noting that we've not included shorter Harry Potter books like Quidditch Through the Ages here. That's because they're in-universe textbooks that don't advance the story.

One exception would be The Tales of Beedle the Bard. This collects wizarding fables that are featured during the seventh Harry Potter book, and it includes notes from Harry's mentor Albus Dumbledore. In other words, it's a fun curiosity to look at after you've finished The Deathly Hallows.

Harry Potter books - gift ideas

Harry Potter books

(Image credit: Scholastic)

Want to buy a gift for the fan who's already read every Harry Potter book? No problem. If they haven't seen the Hogwarts textbooks, those are worth a look as stocking fillers; they won't keep the recipient busy for long, but are a good place to start despite their brevity.

The illustrated Harry Potter books are what we'd recommend chasing down next. These are filled with gorgeous, watercolor renditions of Harry's world that sit alongside the text. Even though they're more expensive, they're worth the price of admission nonetheless.

Speaking of which, we've got a few suggestions and the lowest prices below. Give them a browse if you're hunting down a bargain.

How the Harry Potter books compare to the movies

Harry Potter books

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

If you've only seen the movies and are hoping to dive into the Harry Potter books next, you may be surprised to see some differences. These changes aren't massive in the grand scheme of things, and they mostly revolve around exposition or daily life in Hogwarts. For instance, the creators of the Marauder's Map get a lot more coverage in the Prisoner of Azkaban novel. Minor characters and subplots are left out of the films, too - Peeves the Poltergeist is a good example.

They provide a fuller picture than you can fit into a standard two-hour runtime

While these details aren't essential to the story, they give the novels more depth. They provide a fuller picture than you can fit into a standard two-hour runtime, too.

The exception would be The Deathly Hallows. On film, certain characters are killed off while they survive in the book. It's not a game-changer but is notable nonetheless; the movie version is far more brutal and detailed than its written counterpart. 

Will there be new Harry Potter books?

Harry Potter books

(Image credit: Bloomsbury)

Here's the million-dollar question: will there be new Harry Potter books in the future? It's impossible to say for sure, but we wouldn't bet on it. Author JK Rowling seems to be focused on writing the Fantastic Beasts film series and her Cormoran Strike crime novels (penned under a pseudonym) right now, and has made it pretty clear in the past that she considers Harry's story to be finished. As such, another story about the boy wizard is unlikely.

Harry Potter's story is over - but the setting he inhabited is a different kettle of fish

The Wizarding World in general is another matter. Alongside Fantastic Beasts' multi-film arc (which you can find out about in our Fantastic Beasts 3 explainer), a HBO TV series is apparently in the works and an RPG video game is also heading our way. Dubbed Hogwarts Legacy and set in the 1800s, it's an entirely new tale that's due for launch in 2022. Rowling hasn't been involved with that one, though.

Bearing all that in mind, Harry Potter's story is over - but the setting he inhabited is a different kettle of fish. It's a bit like Star Wars. Even though the Skywalker saga has come to an end, there are still more stories to tell within that world.


Want more suggestions to keep you busy? Be sure to check out the best board games, and these highly recommended board games for kids.

Benjamin Abbott

As one of the site's Hardware Editors, you'll find my grubby paws on everything from board game reviews to Lego buying guides. I've been writing about games in one form or another for almost a decade (with bylines ranging from Metro.co.uk and PC Gamer to TechRadar), and have worked at GamesRadar+ since 2018. I can normally be found cackling over some evil plan I've cooked up for my group's next Dungeons & Dragons campaign.