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Monday, November 15, 2010

Monday Discussion: Series...Fan or Foe?

Many readers love series.  They like that the story continues over many books. They enjoy reading a book with characters they have grown to love.  And finally, I have found many people like series because they know what they are going to get ahead of time.  Trying a new author can mean that you will be disappointed; many readers like the guarentee that a series brings.  It may not be the best book they ever read, but they know what to expect.

On the other hand, there are also readers who do NOT want series.  Why? For these readers there are also many reasons.  Some don't want to get addicted to one series with so much out there to read.  Others simply do no enjoy revisiting the same characters over and over.  Still others are overwhelmed by how many books are in a given series and are afraid if they start, they will never finish, so they just don't start.

As for me, I read a lot of first books in an series. This is so I get a sense of what readers can expect from the author and the series. Think about it from my perspective.  I have to know about as many books as possible.  If I read one Janet Evanovich out of the 16+ in the series, I can understand the basic appeals of the series and be able to suggest it to the appropriate reader, and still red 15 other books by 15 different authors.  I look to reviews to see if a series changes in style and tone over time.  If it does, I may need to read a later book in the series.

I also read only one book in a series quite often because I simply do not have time to read only series.  Again, I need to read a range of books, so I do not have the luxury of reading the same series.

When I do read a series, it is usually for fun and escape.  They make great vacation reads.  Some of the series I try to keep up with are the Spellman Mysteries by Lisa Lutz, The Bookmobile Mysteries by Ian Sansomthe Vish Puri Mysteries by Tarquin Hall, and any series by Jasper Fforde. (All links are to times I have mentioned these books)

But what about you? For today's Monday discussion, how do you feel about series? What patron behavior in regards to series have you noticed? Do you read series or do you avoid them? Are there some series you are a junkie for? Or, are you baffled by those who live and die by their series reads?

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John BPL RA said...

I really like reading a series...if it really is a series! Unfortunately, some authors think that writing a series means writing one book over and over and over with almost no changes to plot, characters or even book length! This is very common with novels that sold really well the first time and I suspect that publishers may actually encourage authors to create nearly duplicate sequels because they know it will sell. Sadly, in many cases I don't even enjoy these books the first time around and try reading the other books in hopes that the series will "get better" or "pick up". Some are so shameless that they don't even change the ending! Ha!

Genuine series are a different matter. If an author really does have an epic tale to tell that a single book just can't facilitate, I'll relish every addition. Characters, in particular, are more meaningful and important when you have been with them through several books and know their stories like a biography.

Kathy, BPL RA said...

My first response was "Series, oh god no." But then when I thought about it, I realized this wasn't exactly true. If a series has already been long running I will almost never start it but like Becky, may read the first just to get the flavor of it. Also, I am not a huge fan of mysteries which generally comprise series. BUT if a series has just started I am more likely to read the first one and then continue to read them as they are released. Recently I have read, "The Spellman" series (which Becky mentions), "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" series by Stieg Larsson, the first two of the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley and the Jackson Brodie series by Kate Atkinson. Ultimately, though, I am true to my nature and usually stop reading a series if it continues on for more than a handful of books. There are too many new (or new to me) authors to read instead.

Anonymous said...

Fantasy and science fiction readers are very likely to be series fans.

I, on the other hand, agree that there are far too many books waiting to be read to follow many series. That said, John Mortimer, Colin Dexter, Ann Ross and Joan Medlicott, among others, have created characters I care about and I've read nearly all their books.

Laurie said...

Thinking about the question, I realized that whether I continue to read a series after sampling the first one is linked to my desire to read everything an author writes, once I discover a new favorite author. I mean, the series that I read faithfully (Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series, the Harry Bosch novels by Michael Connelly, the Jasper Fforde books, the Monkeewrench series by P.J. Tracy, several of Alexander McCall Smith's series, etc.) I read partly because I want to find out what's happening with the characters, but also because I would probably want to read that author's new book, whether it was part of a series or not. Does that make any sense?
Sometimes I do feel like I don't want to start any more series; the story and characters do have to develop over the course of the different books for me to want to keep up with it.

Becky said...

I agree with Laurie. I more often read multiple books by an author, not necessarily a only a series. Also, John's point about epics is very good (and I think Kathy hinted at the same point.) I do love the Lord of the Rings more than other series because it is one story told in parts. You can describe Harry Potter that way too.

Anonymous said...

I like series with a planned and foreseeable end. When authors endlessly write a series, I quickly begin to feel like I'm reading Dickens - that the author is writing to fill in space and sell their books. The plot becomes lose and sometimes wacky. The characters don't develop nice arch. In other words, I get bored. That being said, I can appreciate why others like series titles and I empathize with those who hate them.

Deborah said...

Our patrons *love* series. Me, not so much, my problem with them is that the writing usually declines in quality as the series goes on. The one exception I've found so far to this is Alexander McCall Smith's "Ladies Detective Agency" series.

But I like Becky's suggestion to just read the first book of a series to get a flavor in order to better recommend the series to patrons.