The unprecedented popularity of the Harry Potter books took the publishing world by storm and captured the imaginations of readers around the world. This unofficial biographical study of J. K. Rowling invites fans and critics alike to take a close look at the person behind the phenomenon, the facts of her life as a writer, and the extraordinary success of an ordinary woman. This detailed book explores both the critical acclaim and the controversies surrounding Rowling's books and the characters, who seem to have found a life of their own. Chapters take the reader from Rowling's early childhood in England through her school years, friendships, and early influences, tracing her family life, her travels and personal relationships, and the development of her career as a writer. The Harry Potter books are carefully considered against the backdrop of the fantasy genre and are also situated within the broader framework of popular culture. A bibliography provides reviews, critical articles, biographical sources, and related Web site information. A timeline highlights the events of Rowling's life and career. Other appendices cite the many awards her books have received around the world. Also included are lists of her special literary and humanitarian interests.