A few years ago I read the first half of the first Harry Potter book and kind of felt enh about it and upon setting it down halfway through simply never returned. Since then I’ve come to learn that basically everyone I know has read and loves these books. It’s not that I disliked it or that I thought it was silly – seriously, no casting stones from my Princess House mansion on the silly tip – it just didn’t grab me and shake me around the same way as The Golden Compass or Uglies or, I dunno, Terry Pratchett.

Now that the series is over I have come to realize that to some degree I am missing the boat on a massively experienced, shared cultural phenomenon.

Somewhere in our house, between us, The Boyf and I have several but not all of the books. I’ve watched the first movie and remember it fairly well though I don’t really recall the particulars of the climax. Do I have to reread it? Should I? Is it vital? I’m pretty sure we have the second book someplace around here and even if we don’t I can lay hands directly on Azkaban (or however it’s spelled) and start there if need be. Given that I have an idea of what happened in the second book – though largely from the Sluggy Freelance parody of it – do I need to read that one?

Basically, here’s the deal: friends and strangers, lovers of HP, is the first book skippable? Second? Or am I cutting myself off at the knees by skipping any one of them?