9 Nonfiction Books That Will Make You Think About Harry Potter Completely Differently

by Melissa Ragsdale
Warner Bros. Pictures

You don't have to be a Ravenclaw to have a natural curiosity about the world around you. So while you wait for that Hogwarts letter that's a decade or so late, you can spend some time reading about the wonders of the Muggle world with these nine nonfiction books for Harry Potter fans. Hermione Granger put it best: "When in doubt, go to the library."

Sure, Harry Potter is a fantasy series. But the truth is, the real world is pretty magical, too, and these nonfiction books all explore that.

Throughout Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling made it explicitly clear that knowledge can save lives. Think of that time in Sorcerer's Stone when Hermione saves them all from the Devil's Snare because she remembered how it reacts to sunlight. Or think about the thousands of times when Hermione's knowledge of Hogwarts: A History helped the Golden Trio solve a mystery. You certainly don't have to be a witch or wizard to wield the power of knowledge. No wand is even required.

So, channel your inner-Hermione and pick up one of these great nonfiction books. From books about IRL witchcraft to riveting stories from British history, each one of these will have their own special appeal to Harry Potter fans.

'Witches of America' by Alex Mar

In this compelling book, Alex Mar dives into the real-life practices of witches in the United States and explores not only the specific elements of Paganism, but also the nature of belief and faith.

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'How I Resist: Activism and Hope for the Next Generation' edited by Maureen Johnson

The Harry Potter series is chock-full of lessons on resistance. In this new anthology, writers discuss their own journeys to becoming activists. This book will definitely inspire you to stand up for a better world — just like Dumbledore would've wanted.

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'Moab Is My Washpot' by Stephen Fry

Not only did Stephen Fry epically narrate the U.K. audiobooks of the Harry Potter series, but his own upbringing is similar in many ways to the Boy Who Lived's. (There's no magic, though!) In this exquisite memoir, told in Fry's uniquely delightful voice, the British icon recounts his tumultuous life growing up as a bit of an outcast at an all-boys boarding school.

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'The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts' by Maxine Hong Kingston

Harry Potter draws heavily Western folklore, but different cultures have different mythology about magic. In The Woman Warrior, Maxine Hong Kingston dives into Chinese mythologies and explains how they played a role in her family's history as they moved from China to California.

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'The Real Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada' by Angela Buckley

If you're a Ravenclaw, you probably enjoy solving a good riddle... or mystery. This book is the true story of Jerome Caminada, a real-life detective and super-sleuth in the Victorian era who was basically the IRL Sherlock Holmes in his day.

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'From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death' by Caitlin Doughty

Death, sadly, plays a prominent role in the Harry Potter. In this fascinating book, mortician and author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes Caitlin Doughty explores how death is treated in cultures all around the world. Even (or perhaps, especially) Voldemort would be riveted.

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'Physics of the Impossible' by Michio Kaku

What would be the actual science behind an invisibility cloak or a time-turner? In this fascinating book, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku theorizes how tropes from science fiction could become possible in the real world.

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'The Royal Art of Poison' by Eleanor Herman

OK potions nerds, this one's for you. In this fresh new book, Eleanor Herman dives into the history of poison, and all the truly strange "remedies" people used to use in an attempt to prevent poisonings. Slughorn would totally approve.

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'The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration Into the Wonder of Consciousness' by Sy Montgomery

Magical creatures aren't the only "fantastic beasts" out there, and octopuses are definitely proof of that. In this stunning book, Sy Montgomery dives into the remarkably complex world of the octopus. Intelligent and possessing many magic-esque powers, the creatures in this book are truly otherworldly.

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