Books for Slytherins aren’t as hard to come by as you might think! Here’s a wide range of books that will appeal to Slytherins, for anyone who enjoys reading based on their Hogwarts House!
Harry Potter is the consummate Gryffindor, and since J. K. Rowling’s series is largely told through his eyes, we get a pretty negative view of Slytherin house–Gryffindor’s eternal rival. But if you’re a Slytherin, chances are you have a strong sense of pride and will be glad to claim the green and silver as your colours.
Slytherins aren’t all bad as Harry originally thinks. Literature and life are full of Slytherin types who channel their skills and values to improve the lives of those closest to them. And this impact often ripples out to make broader, positive changes on their society at large. I found several examples of this as I curated this Hogwarts House reading list for Slytherins.
What are the character traits of a Slytherin?
Slytherins value the traits of resourcefulness, drive, cunning, and self reliance. They’re willing to do what’s necessary to achieve their objectives, often with an “end justifies the means” mentality. At their worst, Slytherins can be narcissistic, power hungry, and ruthless. Those who are not as extreme can still fall prey to self doubt, perfectionism, and exclusivity. Like Gryffindors, Slytherins often gravitate towards leadership roles. This is due to their inherent loyalty to their own kind, as well as a desire for respect (and perhaps a need for control).
What kinds of books do Slytherins like to read?
Slytherins are a pretty smart bunch, and as such you’ll find many intelligent readers in their ranks. (Crabbe and Goyle notwithstanding.) They love reading books that feature complex characters with big ambitions. Whether these ambitions are manifest in positive or negative ways is not the important thing–Slytherins will find the trajectory fascinating either way. Slytherins are comfortable in a wide range of genres, and you’ll find that they’re not adverse to the occasional tragic or ambiguous ending. (I have a feeling this would bother Hufflepuffs a lot more!)
Here are 10 books for Slytherins to check out:
1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Slytherins will sympathize with Pip’s desire to make something of himself. But it’s not long before he manifests a negative Slytherin trait: entitlement. A higher social and financial status aren’t merely a goal to achieve, but something he flat-out deserves. Pip’s bildungsroman only reaches completion as he comes to embrace the positive traits of the other houses: the humility and hard work of Hufflepuff, the knowledge of Ravenclaw, and the chivalry of Gryffindor.
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Dorian Gray is beautifully written, with careful word choice that will appeal to the Slytherin appreciation for nuance. Manipulated by Lord Henry Wotton, a Slytherin villain, Dorian devolves into a selfish, lustful, destructive villain even more depraved than Wotton suspects. The main characters’ fascination for beauty makes an ironic contrast to the growing ugliness the novel portrays.
3. The Odyssey by Homer
Odysseus‘ cunning resourcefulness and trickery is pure inspiration for Slytherins. From sneaking his men out of Cyclops’s cave to getting past the sirens, wily Odysseus manages to outsmart his antagonists at every turn.
4. Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Slytherins will enjoy picking up Grimm’s Fairy Tales for bedtime reading. The tales abound with shrewd and clever characters–both good and evil–who use their wits to achieve their aims. Slytherins will also appreciate that these original stories lack the saccharine-sweet coating of later retellings. They’re gritty in places and sometimes morally ambiguous, giving them a depth Slytherins will relish.
5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
You might be surprised to see Little Women on the Slytherin list, but I put it on here for ambitious Jo. While all of the March sisters express things they want to get out of life, we’re told that “Jo’s ambition was to do something very splendid.” A little later she decides to “write books and get rich and famous.” She leaves home to throw herself into her work, and eventually begins to achieve a level of income and acclaim. But she doesn’t find fulfillment until the shape of her ambitions change. After she returns home she learns to live for others, and her subsequent success as a writer springs from her heart and not from a pursuit of fame or wealth.
6. Dune by Frank Herbert
Many people think of Hufflepuffs as the obvious carriers of the loyalty trait, but on closer examination you’ll see that Slytherins, while self preserving, are highly loyal, too. They love their own tribe, and you’ll find strong leaders among the Slytherins who draw others to their standard. The sci-fi epic Dune will appeal to Slytherins, as Paul Atreides rises to leadership in spite of brutal odds and a hostile planet.
7. Macbeth by Shakespeare
Lady Macbeth is the quintessential Slytherin villainess. She eclipses her husband in cunning, ruthlessness, and appetite for power. As we see with Bellatrix Lestrange, this perversion of Slytherin traits eventually sinks Lady Macbeth into madness.
8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Although at first glance Katniss may seem to be a Gryffindor, I think you can make a strong case that she’s actually a Slytherin heroine. Yes, she lacks the subtlety of a typical Slytherin and tends to make rash, Gryffindor-like decisions. But ultimately her motivations are more Slytherin in nature. She wants power over her own life and the ability to protect her own family at all costs. She doesn’t want to be the hero of Panem, but she will use whatever means necessary to achieve self determination. In addition, the Sorting Hat often puts people into the house that repsresents the traits they most value–and I believe Katniss would value self reliance over chivalry every time!
9. Seven Daughters and Seven Sons by Barbara Cohen and Bahija Lovejoy
For another young adult pick, Seven Daughters and Seven Sons is an engrossing and vivid read. This Arabic fairy tale follows the quest of the ambitious Buran, who disguises herself as a boy so she can seek her fortune and improve her family’s lot in life. Buran displays some of the best Slytherin trademarks: she’s wicked smart and resourceful, with an instinct for self-preservation and the drive to accomplish her goals.
10. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Like other Slytherins before and after him, Dr. Frankenstein craves the ultimate power–the secret to life itself. Of course, Dr. Frankenstein himself is not evil, but by creating the monster he becomes a danger to everyone he holds dear. This is a short novel perfect to read on a wild, wintry night.
There you have it! This completes our Hogwarts House reading list series, although I’m sure we could think of dozens more books each house would enjoy. Share your suggestions in the comments!
Check out the other Hogwarts House reading recommendations here: