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Preface: I ran into this question in real life -- getting kids I know hooked on Harry Potter. To my utter surprise, I realized we don't have this question on the site yet. So here it goes, in hopes that someone has an answer

What is the best reading order for the Harry Potter ancillary books? (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Quidditch Through the Ages, and The Tales of Beedle the Bard).

Should they be read after all seven of the main books, or should they be read at different points during the main books? Or, for example, should individual sections of FBWFT be read in sync with which monsters are mentioned in the individual Potter books? Should The Tales of Beedle the Bard be read before or after Deathly Hallows?

Preference is given to answers based on J.K. Rowling's own opinion, but I am also open to well-reasoned suggestions based on pure logic, even if they contradict JKR.

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I don’t believe JK Rowling has ever suggested a reading order for the books.

The easy answer is to read them in publication order: Beasts and Quidditch were published between Books 4 and 5, and Tales was published after the release of Book 7.

That’s a bit short, so here are a few more thoughts on the topic:

  • Quidditch through the Ages seems most spoiler-free of all the three supplementary books, and could probably be picked up as soon as Quidditch has been introduced in Book 1. As I noted in a previous answer, this book doesn’t seem to mention any events that take place after Book 1, so it might be a good starter.

  • I would avoid Tales of Beedle the Bard until most of the final book was finished. Although it doesn’t contain any explicit spoilers (I think), if you’ve read it already then it strongly hints at what’s to come, especially the discussion of the Hallows in the Tale of the Three Brothers. Not necessarily a spoiler, but I think it’s better to let this thread unfold naturally.

  • Fantastic Beasts doesn't contain many spoilers, but a lot of Harry and Ron’s annotations won’t make sense unless you’ve got to at least halfway through Book 4. You could probably pick it up after the dragon task, as I don’t think it references anything after that – but I’d wait until that’s done. I think it’s much better to read and understand these comments, than to be mildly confused about what they mean and what might be to come.

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Like Alexwlchan says, I know of no suggested reading order of the Harry Potter series made by J.K. Rowling herself, so I offer the following reading order:

  1. First, I would read the seven main Harry Potter novels, supplemented with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (FBAWTFT) and Quidditch Through the Ages (QTTA) as questions about the beasts and Quidditch arise (if they do). I used to like to have FBAWTFT nearby when I read Harry Potter to my kids, because they would often ask what, for example, "What's an Erkleburp?" when Hagrid might mention it in passing in Care of Magical Creatures class, but J.K. Rowling had provided no description of an Erkleburp. Okay, so we look up the Erkleburp in FBAWTFT, figure out what kind of creature it is, and then carry on. My kid might ask what a Wronski Feint is during a passage on Quidditch, and I can answer by looking up Wronski Feint in QTTA.
  2. Alternately, if there are no questions about the beasts or Quidditch forthcoming, I would suggest reading the seven single novels in order. But it's perfectly fine, obviously, to return to an earlier book to clarify information or to ensure one has a plot point correct.
  3. When it comes to Deathly Hallows and reading Tales of Beedle the Bard (TBTB) either simultaneously with or after Deathly Hallows, two things: You could hit some spoilers if you read TBTB after Hermione receives the book from Scrimgeour -- it's not hard to figure out which of Beedle's tales is the one Dumbledore wants Hermione to read, due to the presence of the Invisibility Cloak and Death (a major theme in the Harry Potter series). Also, the placement of The Tale of the Three Brothers as the last story in the series is a minor clue that it is THE ONE STORY. It explicitly introduces the Elder Wand, the Invisibility Cloak, and the Resurrection Stone, which are all integral to the series and the conclusion of Deathly Hallows. If you don't like plot spoilers, I would recommend that you not read TBTB alongside Deathly Hallows. As small as they may be, a clever person could potentially damage their enjoyment of the series if they began to get a general gist of how things were going to suss out.

    If you are a shameless spoiler junkie (like myself), then, by all means, after Scrimgeour gives Hermione Tales of Beedle the Bard, read through it! Try and find which one of Beedle the Bard's stories is THE ONE STORY that is relevant to Deathly Hallows. See if you can figure it out and have fun making guesses.
  4. BOOKS VS. MOVIES: Just a note. Although DVK did not mention the movies in conjunction with the books, I wanted to say that I personally do not recommend watching the Harry Potter movies as you go along in the books. The movies have significant plot and characterization changes that are not compatible with the stories as written in the book. It will make for a confusing and frustrating, as well as a less enjoyable experience. The books are fabulous in their own right. The movies are fabulous in their own right. But ne'er shall the two meet!
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Note: This answer will try to address all of Rowling's supplementary works, not just the three listed by the OP

I would suggest an order based primarily off of the publication order.

  • Book 1 (Rowling later wrote four additional passages designed to be read with chapter seven)
  • Book 2
  • The Ballad of Nearly Headless Nick (Written at this point, but not published until 2004)
  • Daily Prophet #1
  • Daily Prophet #2
  • Daily Prophet #3
  • Book 3
  • Daily Prophet #4
  • Book 4
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (textbook)
  • Quidditch through the Ages
  • Book 5
  • Book 6
  • Book 7
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard
  • Harry Potter Prequel
  • Harry Potter Encyclopedia (abandoned, but roughly 80 of the articles Rowling had prepared have been published online)
  • Book of Spells
  • Book of Potions
  • Scottish Rugby
  • Daily Prophet - The 2014 Quidditch World Cup
  • The History of Magic in North America
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (screenplay)

Chronological order

Although I wouldn't recommend one do it, here is a chronological order of the works.

  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard (tales) - fifteenth century
  • Book of Potions - sixteenth century
  • The History of Magic in North America - 14th to 20th century, but mostly in the 17th.
  • Book of Spells - eighteenth century
  • Scottish Rugby - nineteenth century
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (screenplay) - 1926
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (textbook) - 1927
  • Quidditch through the Ages - 1952
  • Harry Potter Prequel - 1977
  • Book 1 - 1991
  • Book 2 - 1992
  • The Ballad of Nearly Headless Nick (Written at this point, but not published until 2004)
  • Daily Prophet #1
  • Daily Prophet #2
  • Daily Prophet #3
  • Book 3 - 1993
  • Daily Prophet #4
  • Book 4 - 1994
  • Book 5 - 1995
  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard (commentary) - 1996
  • Book 6 - 1996
  • Book 7 - 1997
  • Daily Prophet - The 2014 Quidditch World Cup - 2014
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    For the record, I doubt that there is anyone who somehow has access to the Daily Prophet newsletters and hasn't already read every Harry Potter book. – ibid Feb 21 '16 at 5:09
  • aren't they online, though? IIRC, I've seen some of the old Daily Prophets from links on, um, whatever the Potterverse wikia is called, before I ever touched book 7. (Though of course I was quite spoiled anyway.) But yes, I agree, aside from providing specific links to a starting reader, it doesn't seem likely. – January First-of-May Feb 21 '16 at 11:42
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    @JanuaryFirst-of-May They are most definitively not online. HP-Lexicon has summaries of them and everyone else (including HP wiki) relies on that. I'm pretty sure they can only be found in private collections. – ibid Feb 21 '16 at 11:45

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