I enjoyed Susan's recent post about reading by number. Judging by the comments, lots of people have a strong preference for series books. Personally, I am compulsive about reading series books in order, because I hate having any surprises spoiled. When I read adult titles, I enjoy mystery series. Even though each book might wrap up an individual puzzle, I don't like the character development to be spoiled for me, so I'll rarely read those out of order. And of course for a series like the Harry Potter books, that follows a dramatic arc across all of the books, I think that it's critical to read in order. I tend to prefer the original order in which a series is published over any arbitrary changes to follow chronological order - I'm happy to take in the information in the order that the author intended.
Susan's post got me to thinking about my favorite series reads. For the sake of simplifying the discussion, I'm going to define a series as having more than three books (trilogies are a topic for another day). After mulling this over, I came up with a few simple rules for identifying a series as a favorite. I just ask myself, did I eagerly read through all of the books (either during a short time, if the series was finished when I came across it, or as the books became available, for series that were in progress)? Did I rush out to the store to get any new installments? Did I, if applicable, buy the books in hardcover, or go to the trouble to reserve them from the library? Do I ever re-read the books? If so, then this was (or is) a favorite series.
Using this as a guideline, my favorite series as a child were:
Of more recently published series for children and young adults, I've enjoyed and eagerly read all of the books of:
I may not consider all of these books great literature, though many are. A few of the childhood favorites, in particular, haven't held up for me as an adult. But all of these books met my stated criteria above for favorite series at the time that I read them. I distinctly remember grabbing up multiple Trixie Belden books from the bookstore as a kid. I still have all of my copies of the Maida books. And I'm certain that 40 years from now, I'll still have all of my Harry Potters. Other series are on target for inclusion in future favorites lists, but don't yet have more than three books published (The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins comes to mind, for example). See also the books in my series books featuring adventurous girls post. I'm expecting great things from Theodosia Throckmorton.
In case any of you are interested, I've posted a list of some of my favorite adult mystery series on my personal blog. I can think of several other series (for both adults and children) for which I went through three or five or ten books, but have let the last few books sit, unread. I'm not listing those here.
But that made me wonder: what is it that keeps a series from losing my interest? Obviously, I have to care about the characters. No matter how good the plotting is, no matter how interesting the setting, I'm not going to follow characters that I don't care about through more than 2 or 3 books. And the books have to keep surprising me in some way. Humor helps, too, though it's not 100% necessary. But I think that what it really boils down to is that the author has to have captured a world that I want to visit. This world can be anything from an old-fashioned house in the country to a camp for half-blood Olympians. But if it feels authentic, and feels like a place where I want to spend time, and is populated with people I care about, then I'll come back. There's a whole other discussion to be had about series books that have a dramatic arc, and are planned to end after five or seven books, vs. ongoing series that have no particular end in site. That, too, is a topic for another day.
What about you all? What are your favorite series titles? What makes you come back to a particular series time and time again?