It’s always difficult to say goodbye, especially when one has spent a long time – literally years, in the case of a series – inside a character or two, suffering and celebrating with them. –Lilith SaintCrow
At this time of year, when the days are short and cold, I find staying home is a lot more tempting than venturing out into the world. The upside to this rather reclusive behavior is that it gives me a chance to completely immerse myself in reading a series, the longer the better. Engaging with a series gives me a chance to really get to know the characters, their goals, dreams, tragedies and triumphs, quite literally for years at a time. There’s also a certain amount of comfort in returning to familiar faces, locations, and situations. And, as a person who lives for lists, reading a series is as good as it gets, since the reading order is a list in and of itself.
For many readers, myself included, starting with the first book in the series is of paramount importance. Sue Grafton’s detective series featuring Kinsey Millhone is ideal for that, since the reading order is readily apparent – A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, and so on. Grafton started writing this series in the 1980s and has chosen to have them run in real-time, so that Kinsey exists in a world without high-speed internet, cell phones, Facebook and so many of the tools of the trade detectives in the 21st century take for granted. While the reading order of these books is easy to follow, they can be read and enjoyed out-of-order, as the author incorporates a summary of previous events at the beginning of each book.
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series also plays with time, but in an entirely different way. Her main character, Claire, moves from the 1940s in Great Britain, to the 1740s in Scotland, to the 1960s in the United States, among other times and places, several times throughout this intriguing, intricate series. Claire and her intrepid husband James Fraser play a part in a number of historical events, including the Jacobite Rebellion and the American Revolutionary War. Because of the shifting timelines within the plot, this series is one that’s best read in order, starting with Outlander.
Determining which book to read first in a series can be a challenge, since the order in which books are published doesn’t always reflect the most logical reading order. My choice for the reading order for Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis is to begin with The Magician’s Nephew, which recounts the origins of Narnia. However, if you look at the publication dates, the first book in the series is actually The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis wrote this series in such a way that each book can be read as a stand alone story, so the reading order is a matter of personal taste.
If I don’t feel like reading, I can always find an interesting series on television to whisk me away from the everyday, without having to go to the trouble and expense of booking an actual vacation. Downton Abbey takes me to England in the early days of the 20th century, and the sights and sounds of Castle Black or the Wall in the Game of Thrones makes even a Winnipeg winter seem balmy in comparison.
The downside to getting into a series is that the authors can’t write as fast as I can read, so I’m often left waiting a sequel to be published. Fortunately, there always seems to be a new series waiting to be started. From the very beginning, of course, a very good place to start.