Book 1 – Sorcerer’s Stone
Story timeline: 1981, 1991 to 1992
Release date: 26 June 1997 (UK);1 September1998 (US)
US sales: 17 Million. Hardcover 6.1 million, Paperback 10.9 million
Summary: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the first novel in the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling and featuring Harry Potter, a young wizard. It describes how Harry discovers he is a wizard, makes close friends and a few enemies at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and with the help of his friends thwarts an attempted comeback by the evil wizard Voldemort, who killed Harry’s parents when Harry was one year old.
Book 2 – Chamber of Secrets
Story timeline: 1943, 1992 to 1993
Release date: 2 July 1998 (UK); 2 June 1999 (US)
US sales: 14.7 million. Hardcover 7.3 million, Paperback 7.5 million
Summary: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets is the second novel in the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling. The plot follows Harry’s second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, during which a series of messages on the walls on the school’s corridors warn that the “Chamber of Secrets” has been opened and that the “heir of Slytherin” will kill all pupils who do not come from all-magical families. These threats are followed by attacks which leave residents of the school “petrified” (that is, frozen). Throughout the year, Harry and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger investigate the attacks, and Harry is confronted by Lord Voldemort, who is attempting to regain full power.
Book 3 – Prisoner of Azkaban
Story timeline: 1993 to 1994
Release date: 8 July 1999 (UK); 8 September 1999 (US)
US sales: 12.8 million. Hardcover 7.6 million, Paperback 5.2 million
Summary: For twelve long years, the dread fortress of Azkaban held an infamous prisoner named Sirius Black. Convicted of killing thirteen people with a single curse, he was said to be the heir apparent to the Dark Lord, Voldemort, and might even have assisted in the deaths of James and Lily Potter—Harry Potter’s parents.
Now Black has escaped, leaving only two clues as to where he might be headed: Harry Potter’s defeat of You-Know-Who was Black’s downfall as well. And the Azkaban guards heard him muttering in his sleep, “He’s at Hogwarts… he’s at Hogwarts.”
Of course, Harry already had plenty to worry about. After inflating his nasty aunt and running away on the magical Knight Bus, he finds he’s being pursued by death omens at every turn. He receives two wonderful gifts: a top-of-the-line Firebolt broomstick, and the Marauder’s Map, a magical diagram of Hogwarts made by the mysterious “Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot, and Prongs.” Hermione disappears frequently, burdened down by a seemingly impossible course schedule. And the soulless Dementors have come to guard Hogwarts—supposedly to protect Harry from Sirius Black, but they terrify Harry more than the fugitive ever could.
To strengthen himself against them, Harry reaches out to Remus Lupin, the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher who was once a friend of his father’s. Lupin teaches Harry about the Patronus Charm, a defensive measure well above the level of magic generally mastered by wizards Harry’s age. But even with his broom, his map, his magic, and his loyal friends, Harry isn’t safe.
Because on top of everything else, there’s a traitor hidden at Hogwarts…
Book 4 – Goblet of Fire
Story timeline: 1944, 1994 to 1995
Release date: 8 July 2000 (UK/US)
US sales: 12.3 million. Hardcover 8.9 million, Paperback 3.4 million
Summary: In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry is midway through both his training as a wizard and his coming of age. He wants to get away from the malicious Dursleys and go to the Quidditch World Cup with Hermione, Ron, and the Weasleys. He wants to dream about his crush, Cho Chang (and maybe do more than dream).
And now that he’s gotten the hang of things at Hogwarts—he hopes—he just wants to be a normal fourteen-year-old wizard.
But even by his standards, Harry’s year is anything but normal. First Dumbledore announces the revival of a grand competition that hasn’t taken place for one hundred years: the Triwizard Tournament, where a Hogwarts champion will compete against rivals from two other schools of magic in three highly dangerous tasks. Then someone frames Harry to participate in the tournament—which really means someone wants him dead.
Harry is guided through the competition by Professor Alastor Moody, this year’s Defenst Against the Dark Arts teacher, but he must also contend with a nasty reporter named Rita Skeeter, who digs up some highly unflattering secrets about Hagrid; a terrible fight with Ron, who is deeply jealous of Harry’s fame; Hermione’s newfound activism on behalf of house-elves; and the terrifying prospect of asking a date to the Yule Ball.
Worst of all, Lord Voldemort may finally have gathered the materials necessary for his rejuvenation… and he has a faithful servant at Hogwarts waiting only for a sign. No, nothing is every normal for Harry Potter. And in his case, different can be deadly.
Book 5 – The Order of the Phoenix
Story timeline: 1976, 1995 to 1996
Release date: 21 June 2003 (UK/US)
US sales: 13.7 million. Hardcover 12.2 million, Paperback 1.5 million. 5 million in first 24 hours, initial printing 8.5 million copies.
Summary: In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Lord Voldemort has returned to the Wizarding world, presenting a threat that neither the magical government nor the authorities at Hogwarts can stop.
In response to his reappearance, Dumbledore reactivates the Order of the Phoenix, a secret society which works to defeat the Dark Lord’s minions and protect his targets—especially Harry Potter. But Harry doesn’t want to be protected. Even as the Ministry of Magic denies his claims, The Daily Prophet discredits him, and even Dumbledore won’t look him in the eye, Harry grows more and more determined to fight his lifelong enemy Voldemort—if only he had the “weapon” the Order is guarding.
In the meantime, he visits his godfather at his ghoulish London home, Grimmauld Place, and learns more about Voldemort’s deep reach into Wizarding history and the Wizarding world.
Back at Hogwarts, Harry must deal with a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher with a personality like poisoned honey; a surprising new member of the Gryffindor Quidditch team; the possibility of his first real romance; and the looming nightmare of the Ordinary Wizarding Level exams.
He’s haunted by dreams of a heavy door at the end of a silent corridor, and a vision of his father and the young Severus Snape that changes everything he thought he knew about them. Even the joy of working with “Dumbledore’s Army”—a group of Hogwarts students dedicated to defeating Voldemort—can’t dispel the gathering darkness.
Soon Harry will discover the true depth and strength of his friends; their boundless loyalty and unbearable sacrifices. His fate depends on them all.
Book 6 – Half-Blood Prince
Story timeline:1926, 1960, 1970, 1996 to 1997
Release date: 16 July 2005 (UK/US)
US Sales: 20 million. 7 million in 24 hours, initial printing 10.8 million copies.
Summary: When Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince opens, the war against Voldemort has begun. The Wizarding world has split down the middle, and as the casualties mount, the effects even spill over onto the Muggles. Dumbledore is away from Hogwarts for long periods, and the Order of the Phoenix has suffered grievous losses. And yet, as in all wars, life goes on.
Harry, Ron, and Hermione, having passed their O.W.L. level exams, start on their specialist N.E.W.T. courses. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate, losing a few eyebrows in the process. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Harry becomes captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, while Draco Malfoy pursues his own dark ends. And classes are as fascinating and confounding as ever, as Harry receives some extraordinary help in Potions from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.
Most importantly, Dumbledore and Harry work together to uncover the full and complex story of a boy once named Tom Riddle—the boy who became Lord Voldemort. Like Harry, he was the son of one Muggle-born and one Wizarding parent, raised unloved, and a speaker of Parseltongue. But the similarities end there, as the teenaged Riddle became deeply interested in the Dark objects known as Horcruxes: objects in which a wizard can hide part of his soul, if he dares splinter that soul through murder.
Harry must use all the tools at his disposal to draw a final secret out of one of Riddle’s teachers, the sly Potions professor Horace Slughorn. Finally Harry and Dumbledore hold the key to the Dark Lord’s weaknesses… until a shocking reversal exposes Dumbledore’s own vulnerabilities, and casts Harry’s—and Hogwarts’s—future in shadow.
Book 7 – Deathly Hallows
Story timeline: 1997 to ???? (possibly 1998)
Release date: Unannounced (some fans speculate it may be 07/07/2007)
Summary: In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in the epic tale of Harry Potter, Harry and Lord Voldemort each prepare for their ultimate encounter.
Voldemort takes control of the Ministry of Magic, installs Severus Snape as headmaster at Hogwarts, and sends his Death Eaters across the country to wreak havoc and find Harry. Meanwhile, Harry, Ron, and Hermione embark on a desperate quest the length and breadth of Britain, trying to locate and destroy Voldemort’s four remaining Horcruxes, the magical objects in which he has hidden parts of his broken soul. They visit the Burrow, Grimmauld Place, the Ministry, Godric’s Hollow, Malfoy Manor, Diagon Alley…
But every time they solve one mystery, three more evolve—and not just about Voldemort, but about Dumbledore, and Harry’s own past, and three mysterious objects called the Deathly Hallows. The Hallows are literally things out of a children’s tale, which, if real, promise to make their possessor the “Master of Death;” and they ensnare Harry with their tantalizing claim of invulnerability.
It is only after a nigh-unbearable loss that he is brought back to his true purpose, and the trio returns to Hogwarts for the final breathtaking battle between the forces of good and evil. They fight the Death Eaters alongside members of the Order of the Phoenix, Dumbledore’s Army, the Weasley clan, and the full array of Hogwarts teachers and students.
Yet everything turns upon the moment the entire series has been building up to, the same meeting with which our story began: the moment when Harry and Voldemort face each other at last.