Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Series of Series

The_Amsterdam_Phonecam_Series_53
via Martijn van Exel on Flickr
I loved reading series when I was younger. Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Ranger’s Apprentice, Artemis Fowl, Magic Treehouse, Junie B. Jones… looking back, there were quite a few. I loved reading about magical white children, apparently.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve lost touch with series—in some ways. Book series are not as common with me anymore. I have plans to reread from the Cycle of Inheritance and Twilight Saga this summer. That will be fun. But they will be exceptions to the more common standalones. This is absolutely true in the case of my college texts, since literary novels tend not to be series. Some folks like William Faulkner or Joseph Heller can interweave their texts or write companion novels, but I don’t end up reading them. (And I know in some cases, I choose not to read companion texts because I know I will not enjoy them as much as the first books.)

I also read with more variety nowadays. I seek out more nonfiction, more contemporary fiction, and more literary fiction than before. This is not to say that I like YA fiction, for example, any less, but there are obvious publishing differences. I just finished The Vegetarian by Han Kang—great story, very eerie and intriguing. It was first published as three short stories, but they have since been compiled into one novel. The Vegetarian started out as a series, but now it reads more like a chapter book. Then again, many adult books are written as series—Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan books number forty-one, I believe.

Then again, it’s also prudent to point out that while I don’t read serialized novels, series do pop up in other ways. I enjoy comics and graphic novels quite a bit: Saga, Star Trek, and Lumberjanes have all brought me some joy in the past few months. (Also, deep and biting sadness, but let’s not name any names here.) TV shows are also serialized by nature. I’ve been watching Star Trek (TOS), The Librarians, Bones, and Night Court, and they are great. I love having a story broken up with complex storylines in this format.

But, back to books. I hadn’t spent any time with a series since last November, but in my hunt for good audiobooks to listen to, I returned to The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. This series is better than I remembered—dark fairy tales that stop to teach you the meaning of dramatic irony and the moral of WWI. It’s funny, interesting, and well-read. It’s good to get back into a series of novels, and I look forward to more. I’m curious to see what else there is to try.

Have you enjoyed any series lately?


6 comments :

  1. There are several series I've enjoyed - The Blackthorn Key, The Bartimaeus Sequence, Discworld - but in general, I prefer standalones. They're just so much less stressful to read! You read it, and you're finished; there aren't ten billion more.

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

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    1. Huh, I actually haven't heard of any of those books. I'll have to check them out. They sound interesting. :) Still, I understand what you mean. It can be exhausting to read a series—especially if you must bear the emotional burden of waiting for the next book to come out again and again. I agree, standalones are less stressful.

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  2. I've always wondered if there was some reason why books of 'high literary standpoint', whatever that means, weren't series. To be honest, I get a bit suspicious of books that have too many in a series (like Magic Tree House) because I think with the same characters and often the same format (e.g 'fulfil quest for librarian) the books become too formulaic. Then again, I enjoyed Percy Jackson despite this...
    I've read some of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and always found it hilarious, but I don't have a great desire to finish the series.

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    1. I think it probably has something to do with the conventions of literary fiction. Series are often associated with pop culture, mostly because the author returns to the characters just to please the audience. It would also probably be financially ruinous to make literary fiction into novelizations. There's a certain standard of quality that is expected of literary fiction, and that can take years to perfect. Someone like Ralph Ellison, for example, only published one book in his life and was never able to finish another book because he didn't meet up that standard. If you paid a literary writer to write a series, you might never get a return on your investment.

      TL;DR: It's a convention, it's a standard, and it's probably a money thing, too.

      And yes, Magic Tree House and Warriors both were books that made me suspicious with the sheer number of books they pumped out. The formula is the downfall of us all.

      That's okay. Not all books are for everyone.

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  3. One of the few series I've been involved in is Geek Girl by Holly Smale. Also some Korean dramas. That's mainly it, I guess. I'm a bit nervous about searching for a new bookish series because I fear that I might not like another series as much. I'm interested in the Lunar Chronicles, though.

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  4. I haven't had the time recently for series except one. It's The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss (Book #1 being The Name of the Wind) and it's so so fun to read! He takes a really long time to write each book - I think the coming-up book is approaching 7 years now? But at least they're built like bricks. :)

    Also "I loved reading about magical white children" made me laugh. :') I also read about magical white boys a lot...

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