For many years, if I fell in love with a book that was the first of a series, unless it was a Lord of the Rings type pseudo-series, I would continue the series at a leisurely pace. One, perhaps two a year, even if I adored them, because I wanted to make the pleasure last for as long as possible. After all, what if I never found another series I wanted to read again? And then I was all out of new books to read? For the rest of my life?

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Lately, though, I’ve become a gobbler. I blame Lois McMaster Bujold; I came across her via her Sharing Knife quartet, which I read back-to-back (they’re not quite a LOTR pseudo-series but do each pick up where the other leaves off). Then I proceeded to read her four other fantasy books, all within a month or two. And finally I moved on to her gigantic science fiction series named The Vorkosigan Saga (and much much more loveable than that name implies, at least to my sci-fi skeptical self); even though I made a conscious attempt to draw them out I managed to finish sixteen or so books well before my first ‘anniversary’ of Bujold discovery. And I loved it.

Of course, Bujold doesn’t share all of the blame. My library’s excellent electronic branch, promising me both Nook-compatible books and audiobooks at any time of the day, with a simple click, has made it easier than ever to give in to my cravings. No longer must I wait until my next library visit; as long as no other patron has the book checked out, I can be reading the next one minutes after finishing an earlier book. It turns out my will power is weak in the face of such instant gratification.

To be honest, though, I’m happy in my newfound guzzling approach. I know instantly where I am in the story and easily remember details about the world and character development, picking up on any little tidbits an author might throw out. It also brings me back to my childhood bookworm self, who stayed up the night after Christmas one year to read the entire Narnia series before dawn. There is such pleasure in beginning a book when you’re simply in a fever of impatience to find out what might happen next in a character’s life, or in getting to spend another three hundred pages or more in a beloved fictional world. When I read a series more quickly, I’m reading for the sheer love of story, without any external considerations. This shift in my reading habits has occurred at the same time that I’ve incorporated more rereading into my life, which I’m sure has calmed my subconscious fears of somehow running out of magical books that speak to my soul.

It seems silly to write this post without discussing at least one of the specific series that’s entranced me! Let me tell you about Naomi Novik’s Temeraire books, which are set in an alternative England-centered world during the Napoleonic wars, ones in which there are dragons. As the series progresses, we visit various other countries, and Novik expands how the existence of dragons would have changed the face of colonialism, since a fighting dragon makes the musket quite a puny weapon. The world building is delicious, and sure to satisfy any feminist, post-colonialist reader, but in a way that also feels authentic to that period. But the real reason I keep reading them is that I’ve fallen utterly in love with Temeraire, a dragon who loves to read and wear fine jewels and protect his friends, and his captain Will Laurence, whose entire world view changes when he finds himself thrust from the Navy to the (Dragon) Air Corps and who struggles to match his strong internal sense of honour and patriotism with the shades of grey contained in a newly widened world. I read the first one, His Majesty’s Dragon, six weeks ago and am now impatiently waiting for the sixth one to become available.

Then there’s Seanan Maguire’s October Daye series, which are a noir crime and urban fantasy mash up that feels like what would happen if Veronica Mars had grown up as a half-Fae outsider in both the Faerie and human worlds of San Francisco and had ended up as a Faery knight/human private investigator who keeps being thrown into terrifying situations in which she must fight against all of the odds to save her known world. The books hover right on the edge of being too gritty for me, but Toby’s (don’t you dare call her October) sense of honour and grudging affection for the Faeries who just won’t leave her alone have convinced me to read the first five books since August. It’s one of those series that just gets better and better; Toby changes so much over the course of the books but in an utterly organic and true way. The Fae world is complex and fascinating, and I love spending more time there, even if I know I’ll cry at least once during each book. Maguire always seems to play fair, though, in my opinion and she throws in plenty of amusing asides and a couple sexy men to the bargain; I can’t wait to read the next in the series. They begin with Rosemary and Rue, in case you’re interested as well. On an amusing side note, I actually thought Maguire was a man until just last week, when Debi casually referred to her as a ‘she,’ and I scurried off to Google. I had been admiring how wonderfully ‘he’ wrote female characters and the feminism at the bedrock of ‘his’ writing, only to suddenly have all of that verisimilitude make much more sense.

Well, my soup has simmered long enough to fill the entire apartment with its flavours, and my stomach is informing me that I can write about more series another day.

I’m curious; do you ‘save’ series for later, the way that I have for years, or plunge happily in and read them all fairly quickly? And do you have any particular favourites that you think I should begin devouring?

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20 thoughts on “Serial Reading Habits

  1. I adore series — mostly anything that allows me to spend more time in worlds and with characters I love — but most of them lately have been mysteries, and I don’t remember what/if you read mysteries. I’ve been wondering lately what books we’ve read that overlap. (I have a hard time having real, serious, bookish conversation with someone without some background on our common ground, does that make sense?)

    1. I’ve loved mysteries my whole life. 🙂 I’m a bit picky, so I start more series than I continue with, but I’m always interested in new ones! I prefer the traditional/cosy end of the spectrum to the gritty/violent end, if that helps.

      And yep, needing to know reading background makes perfect sense. My very favourite mystery authors include Dorothy Sayers, Deborah Crombie, and Laurie King. And I went on a Daisy Dalrymple audiobook binge last month, to my great enjoyment.

  2. Since I read a lot of YA, I end up reading a lot of series (esp lately what with the recent publishing trends). I’m at heart a guzzler in most forms of media. I never watched television series until they were available on tape/dvd/full season stream (I’ve long preferred movies) and I actually try to do the same with books. Few literary things make my heart sink more than reading the first book and then waiting a year for the next to be released and so forth (why yes, I refused to read the Harry Potter books year by year, I saved them for 4 years until the spoilers got too annoying to avoid).
    At the moment, I’m waiting for the Luna Chronicles-a YA sci-fi dystopia that I think you’d also like-even though it’s like 2 years away from completion; I’ve reread the preceeding books every year. I recently enjoyed Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule series which sounds related to Temeraire (on my own to read list so this might be an incorrect statement). My favorite complete serieses might be Cashore’s Graceling realm and Nix’s Abhorsen series. If you’ve not read them-Cashore’s is more your speed I think. Sawyer’s WWW series is an intriguing set as well and Melville’s Bas-Lag series is a challenge but rewarding if you like his style.

    1. I love China Meville! And I haven’t read the Graceling series; I’ll add them both to my list, along with the Chadbourn. I prefer to wait until series are complete too, when they’re the kind of series that tell one overarching story. But episodic type of series (like mysteries or the Vorkosigan Saga) don’t usually have a set ending, so I’ll read them regardless of how many the author has written. Temeraire is so so good!

  3. I have a love/hate relationship with series. I really do love them, but then I also tend to get resentful at the time factor involved in reading them. Because there’s just too many books in this world to read all the ones you want in a lifetime! So yeah, I have oodles of series started that I haven’t finished. 😦 But…another lovely thing happened with my recent love affair with audiobooks–I’ve found that I utterly adore following through a series one book right after the other on audiobook! Which all started because you got me to try The Sharing Knife series. 🙂 I so wish the library had the October Daye series on audiobook…

    1. That’s so funny; here I am worried I’ll run out of books to read & you’re worried about not being able to read them all! The longer a series is, the happier I am when I read the first one and fall in love. lol

      I agree; there’s something extra pleasing about reading audiobook series back to back. And I also wish the Daye books were on audio!

  4. I used to also read series in a leisurely manner but I find as I get older that my memory is not as good and I tend to lose character names and current plot happenings in the fog of so many other books. I also used to reread the previous books in a series before starting a new entry and I don’t have time for that the way I used to so that’s probably a big part of it too. So recently, I have found myself reading another book in a series within a month or two. I find I like it this way as well.

  5. >>When I read a series more quickly, I’m reading for the sheer love of story, without any external considerations.

    YES. Exactly this. This is why I’m a series gobbler — to the extent that if I think I’m going to truly love a series, I won’t start it until all the books are out, so I can properly gobble it. I am just not that great at predicting when I’m going to love a series and not: I read The Raven Boys expecting to hate it and am now in a tragic limbo waiting for the damn fourth book.

    1. OMG, I thought the Raven Boys was a trilogy, so I waited until the third one was out to start the first one. And then I finished the third one and was in the same tragic limbo as you. *sob* (Have you read The Scorpio Races yet? I loved it even more & it’s a standalone.)

  6. I’ve read a lot of first books in a series without continuing on to the next. Sometimes it’s because the book was good but not great, but sometimes there’s no good reason. You may a good case for being a series gobbler! The series I’ve been most faithful to has been Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series.

    My friend is a fan of the October Daye series. I’ve been meaning to check them out someday.

    1. Oh I definitely don’t commit to a series just because I’ve read the first book; I try a lot of mystery series that don’t convince me enough to keep going. I haven’t tried the Mercy Thompson series, but I love the October Daye one enough that now I want more urban fantasy in my life. I’ll give it a go!

      1. I recommended the Mercy Thompson series to the friend who likes the October Daye series, and she gobbled them right up, so that supports the case of it being a if you like X, you’ll like Y situation.

    1. I’ve read all of the Barsetshire books & keep meaning to give Thirkell a go. I even have her first book on my shelves somewhere!

      Have you read Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton? It’s a retelling of Framley Parsonage, but in a Victorian dragon society instead of human one. She loves Trollope too & it works so well!

  7. I don’t feel like I have read many series. I struggle with what series to start most of the time. Which one do I want to commit to? For me it helps to have all the books of the series on hand if I’m going to read quickly through them, and by on hand I mean I own them. I just recently found the first four books of Eleanor Taylor Bland’s Marti MaCalister series at a library sale! I was planning to read the first one this month and had just started. Now I can keep going. I’m alright going at a leisurely pace for most series though since I have so many books fighting for my attention anyway.

    1. Isn’t Bland a great author?! I can’t gobble that series, because the themes are so intense they take a bit out of me, but I love them. I don’t consider reading the first book a commitment, so I don’t worry about starting series. I have a lot of reading time, though, so I never worry about having too many books to read.

  8. I do save books, but not on purpose; I like to keep switching up my reading, true, but suddenly it’s years between Jacqueline Careys. I do enjoy stretching things out, since I’m terrible at that normally, but there is definitely a value to guzzling them down—remembering details, for instance.

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