With the publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in 1997, little Hermione Granger joined the ranks of book nerd heroines. Now she stands proud alongside Elizabeth Bennett, Anne Shirley, and Matilda Wormwood. But what books would you pick up if you wanted to read like Hermione?
A lot of people remember Hermione as Harry Potter's bookish, expulsion-phobic friend. This isn't an inaccurate description of the cleverest witch, but it is an incomplete one. Hermione Granger is so much more than her books and adherence to the rules.
Given her Muggle origins, Hermione was an outcast to some at Hogwarts. After Voldemort's return, the Death Eaters' policies threatened her very existence. She risked imprisonment by remaining in the wizarding world. She could not return to the Muggle world for fear of endangering her family, and — given Voldemort's increasingly anti-Muggle regime — it's unlikely that any non-magic folk would have been safe for long there, even witches and wizards in hiding.
The No. 1 aspect of Hermione's character that often gets overlooked is her activism. Her Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare — S.P.E.W., for short — got left out when Harry Potter hit the big screen, but it was a huge part of Hermione's Hogwarts experience. She founded S.P.E.W. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, after finding out that house-elves were widely mistreated by the human families they served. For the next two years, she attempted to free the Hogwarts house-elves by a variety of means.
I compiled this list of books Hermione would love to read with the young witch's intersectional identity and activism in mind. These are titles that she might have read at different times throughout her life, from picture books to YA novels and adult science texts. Here are 25 great books to pick up if you want to read like Hermione.
Hermione's cleverness has been her most-defining characteristic, but she occasionally encountered situations that her books had no answers to. Similarly, Edwidge Danticat's 16-year-old Haitian-American protagonist, Giselle, finds that her intelligence is of very little help when she is forced to navigate a world in which her twin sister no longer exists.
If one of her friends was attacked, Hermione was often the first to speak up and speak out. As a child, she would have loved the story of Ida B. Wells, an enterprising woman who used her journalism platform to campaign against injustice.
Mr. and Mrs. Granger were dentists, so it stands to reason that Hermione would take interest in medical texts. Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks tugs at activist heartstrings as it tells the compelling story of a woman whose cancer cells helped to produce and refine new disease treatments, but whose family was never compensated for her contributions to science.
Dentists in the U.K. bring home roughly twice the national average salary, so Margo Jefferson's Negroland might have resonated with Hermione. The memoir tells of Jefferson's experiences growing up among the black Chicago elite, where she was protected by class privilege from many problems, but was still defined by her race.
With a name like hers, it stands to reason that Hermione might have thought she was the only girl to bear that moniker. But what would have happened if she had met another little Hermione in the world? Probably something similar to what unfolds in Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff's picture book, Louise the One and Only, when the eponymous child finds her title threatened by another Louise who moves into her classroom.
I imagine that Hermione's adoration of Ida B. Wells would have blossomed into a keen appreciation for other crusader-journalists. Eye on the Struggle is a biography of Ethel Payne, the national networks' first African-American commentator. As The Chicago Defender's Washington correspondent, she played hardball with presidents on civil rights issues.
Given her dabblings in history and divination, Hermione would love Hild by Nicola Griffith. The woman who would become Saint Hilda of Whitby is just a young girl in Griffith's novel, but she's already serving as seer to her uncle, Edwin of Northumbria, as he campaigns for the throne.
We all know Hermione likes to have the right answers for every situation, and it isn't a stretch to think that some people — *cough*RonWeasley*cough* — might enjoy asking absurd questions just to see her founder for a response. If that's the case, then Hermione has probably already read Randall Munroe's What If?, in which the xkcd creator offers scientific answers to the most burning and ridiculous questions.
There's no reason Hermione wouldn't connect with Lorraine Hansberry, who was 28 when A Raisin in the Sun debuted in 1959 and made her the first black writer to have a show on Broadway. After her death in 1965, her ex-husband gathered Hansberry's writings to create a play based on her life, titled To Be Young, Gifted and Black. An autobiography of the same name was later adapted from the play.
In Special Topics in Calamity Physics, the hyper-intelligent Blue van Meer enters a prestigious private school, friendless. When she does make friends, she finds herself pulled into a school-wide murder mystery. Sound like any bright witches you know?
Hermione's experiences as a Muggle-born under Voldemort mirror those of Jewish families in the early days of the Third Reich. Despite her precarious situation, she was willing to shelter others when she could. Because of this — and her love of books, of course — The Book Thief would be one of Hermione's favorites. Markus Zusak's novel follows Liesel, a young orphan who collects banned books to share with Max, the Jewish man her foster parents have taken in.
Jacqueline Woodson's The Other Side features two little girls, Clover and Annie, whose friendship is limited by a fence that segregates their town. Hermione has had to cross over similar fences in her life, so it's a pretty sure bet that this book would resonate with her.
Monica Brown's titular heroine is a multi-ethnic girl with seemingly conflicting tastes — PB&J burritos, anyone? Because Hermione is a woman of two worlds, so to speak, Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match aligns with her racial and Muggle-born identities in much the same way as The Other Side.
It's no surprise that Hermione Granger would identify with Anne Shirley. L.M. Montgomery's heroine is the original precocious book nerd. Like Hermione, she has hair that makes her stand out and a look that isn't conventionally attractive. But she makes up for all that with a fierce determination to never make the same mistake twice, much like everyone's favorite perfectionist witch.
"I read about it in Hogwarts, A History." Who doesn't remember that line? Hermione might have just wanted to read all the Hogwarts textbooks, but I like to think she was a history buff all along. Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything may be science-minded, but it surely sits on Hermione's magical bookcase at home.
Here is the story of a woman who falls in love with a redheaded hero after she is thrown into a dangerous and fascinating world, where some mistrust her because of her heritage. Does that sound familiar to anyone else? Obviously, Hermione would take an interest in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander.
Hermione's intellect didn't make her many friends, and it even drove her fellow students away at times. She would take comfort in Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh's classic novel about a young girl who must make things right after she accidentally lets everyone else's secrets slip.
Because Hermione is all about activism — and, you know, she has magical powers — it makes sense for her to want to do all she could to remedy the world's problems. I don't know that there's a spell to fix climate change, but Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction is bound to be on Hermione's bookshelf, in any case.
Hermione can definitely identify with Molly Lou Melon, the buck-toothed, bushy-haired protagonist who's bullied at her new school in Patty Lovell's picture book.
You know that old stickler Hermione doesn't believe in using corrupt tactics to get ahead. Neither did Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American congresswoman. Four years after she joined the U.S. Congress, she became the first woman and the first African-American to make a bid for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination.
I've already addressed how Hermione's experiences as a Muggle-born relate to the plight of the Jews in Nazi Germany. She would certainly see a lot of her own experiences reflected in the young protagonist of Lily Renée, Escape Artist. As Hitler's forces march into Austria, Lily Renée Wilheim leaves her parents in Vienna to start a new life in England.
Hermione was certainly the brightest witch of her age, so she would definitely love Catherine Thimmesh's Girls Think of Everything. This Caldecott Award-winning biography for juvenile readers chronicles the lives of famous — and not so famous — women inventors.
Even Matilda thinks that Hermione and Matilda are basically the same person. Roald Dahl's classic story of a book nerd raised by ignorant, uncaring parents would obviously be a favorite of Miss Granger's.
I like to think that Hermione's activism never really came to an end, even if S.P.E.W. did. If that's the case, she probably took a lot of cues from Sojourner Truth, who spent a lifetime fighting for the rights of African-Americans, women, and prisoners.
In Marie NDiaye's Three Strong Women, the titular trio make their separate ways from West Africa to France, where their lives intertwine. This Prix Goncourt Prize-winner has a reputation for being a difficult read, but we all know that wouldn't stop Hermione. She'd love this book for its depiction of black women who retain their inner powers, even in miry situations.