I give it a C+, maybe a B-.

The Seeker’s Guide to Harry Potter – Written by Geo Athena Trevarthen, published in 2008

This looked, before I started, like a perfect follow-up the John Granger’s works. A similar dive into the material referenced by Harry Potter, but with a wider more inter-cultural focus.

And it sort of was.

It covers a huge range of topics, sweeping through different cultural ideas about the relationship between magic, spirituality, and reality and how those relate to morality, there’s a chapter on the role of the four elements I really loved, and another take on the Hero’s Journey that spent a bit more time on how it shows up in different cultures and how its portrayed by male versus female characters.

But there’s two glaring weaknesses I just couldn’t overlook.

Firstly, its possible I’d just been spoiled by five books worth of John Granger’s superb sense of organization but reading this was akin to watching your elderly great aunt pull random knickknacks out of an old chest and tell you stories about where she got them. Interesting, but occurring in no particular order.

Secondly, I have serious doubts about the fact-checking. There were two occasions where Trevarthen references scientific theories and describes them completely wrong. The first is a reference to “selfish genes” as contrasted to “altruistic communities”, these two things are in no way at odds and this is a classic way of demonstrating that you either haven’t read or don’t understand the idea of the Selfish Gene, and the second was the use of the term psychosis in reference to immorality, instead of delusion.

It may be overly critical of me to harp on these, they were both brief references, and if were to write a book in which I referenced Celtic Shamanism (Dr. Trevarthen’s area of expertise) I’d probably make errors she’d find frustrating as well. But neither of these ideas are complicated, or difficult to find, both could have been corrected by reading the relevant Wikipedia articles. And ultimately that just made me view the whole book with a degree of skepticism that I could have done without.


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