The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling are among the most popular book series of all times among people of all ages. Millions of copies have been sold in multiple countries and the books have been translated into many different languages. They have been adapted into eight feature films, each of which has grossed millions of dollars at the box office.
In this article, we’re going to look at how many words are in the Harry Potter series. We are also going to look at how Harry Potter is comparable to other young adult novels in regards to word count.
Comparison of Each Book in the Series
First, we’ll look at the number of words for each book in the series. The first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, has 76,944 words. It has fewer words than the other six books, making it the shortest book in the series. Since this was the first book, Rowling had more time to edit the book and make the writing more concise. Plus, she probably didn’t want to make the first book too long, or the publisher might not have accepted it. She was a new author at that point. Publishers usually don’t accept long novels from first-time authors.
In comparison, each of the other six books are longer, likely due to the initial success of the Philosophers's Stone, which within its first two years had sold more than 300,000 copies in the U.K. alone. According to Wikipedia, the American version, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone” remained on the New York Time’s bestseller list for “79 consecutive weeks.”
Due to the sales of the first book, the publishers—Bloomsbury for the British version and Scholastic for the American version—wanted more books about the world of Harry Potter from Rowling. They were willing to accept longer books because they knew to follow up books would sell well. The word count figures for the other six books, in order:
As you can see, books two through five get progressively longer. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is the longest book in the series. Why? J.K. Rowling did an interview with Harry Potter fan site The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet in July 2005. One of the things she talked about was how she feels the fifth book is overly long, but challenges “anyone to find the obvious place to cut.”
She goes on to state that in the fifth book, she “had to move Harry around a lot, physically. There were places he had to go he had never been before, and that took time—to get him there, to get him away.” There were new elements in the fifth book that had not been in the previous four books. Overall, Rowling couldn’t pinpoint which subplots could be left out to make Order of the Phoenix shorter. She felt what was in there was needed.
The last two books are slightly shorter but still longer than the first books in the series. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is 119.54% longer than the first book. The last book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is 157.63% longer than the first book. In total, all seven Harry Potter books contain 1,084,170 words. Those 1,084,170 words take up 6,095 pages.
Comparison to Other Young Adult Books
If you've read our related article on how many words are in a novel you'll recall that the typical word count for a novel according to is 80,000 to 109,000 words. For novels specifically in the young adult genre, the typical range is between 55,000 – 79,999 words. Only the first book of the Harry Potter Series falls within that range.
However, when you consider that the Harry Potter series falls within the fantasy genre, it makes sense that the books are longer than other young adult novels. There is a lot of worldbuilding in Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling had to come up with the backgrounds for each significant character. Typically, young adult fantasy novels can run 80,000 words or more.
What is the difference in word count between the Harry Potter Series and the Hunger Games Trilogy? Well, the total word count for all three books in the Hunger Games trilogy is 301,583 words. Here is that number broken down per book:
Of course, the whole Harry Potter series has more words because it has four more books. But, let’s compare the first three books of the Harry Potter series to the Hunger Games trilogy. The total for the first three Harry Potter books is 269,338 words. That is 11% less than the Hunger Games trilogy.
Overall, the Harry Potter series has over a million words. That’s more words than most other young adult book series. Even the individual books in the series have more words than average. Also, millions of people, young and old alike, who have read these books have read over a million words. And that is a great thing.