Is reading a series in progress different from reading a completed series?
I have to thank Renee of Mother Daughter Book Reviews for the inspiration for this post. She told me:
I’m working my way through Harry Potter at the moment. … They came out when I was in Grad School and I had absolutely no time to read for pleasure, so I just recently purchased them for my daughter. She’s read all the books in 5 months! Loved them of course. [Son] is on Book 3 at the moment…
My first reaction was to respond telling her I’d had them recommended to me (by my then boss!) in 2001, and had ripped through the first three, then waited for the 4th to come out in paperback. 5, 6 and 7 are all hardbacks, of course 🙂
Then I wondered whether the experience is different, having the next one waiting on the shelf. I’ve certainly read other books from start to finish through a series – Lord of the Rings, for example. I got the first volume out of the library on a Friday evening, and went back on Saturday for the other two. I read all of Roger Zelazny’s Amber series, and I think I may have waited for the last two, but that was more “oh, there’s a new one out” than “when is the new one coming out” – which is probably the more usual response for any series (e.g. Lindsey Davies’s Falco series, which has run away from me as I couldn’t keep up). I worked my way through O’Brien’s Aubrey-Maturin novels (Master & Commander etc) in batches of three – buying them all from Waterstones in Islington (probably between Harry Potters).
Harry Potter was different for me because there was so much to think about, imagine and second-guess about what would happen next. And a lot of fan-talk. We could theorise about JKR’s world. I considered writing a paper about the role of wands in casting spells. I imagine them as an energy focus – an aid, if you like – but clearly they are much more than that. I know my niece and I wrote some last lines out for the books after JKR mentioned that she’d written it. I think we put them in a secret place to see if we were right. We weren’t, but then JKR did say she’d amended it!
Do new readers get as much out of them as we did reading them as they were written? It must be a different experience. I expect they do get as much out of them – but what they get is different from what we did, and goodness knows there were so many of us we must have got different things from them anyway.
What do you think? Do you love waiting for the next to be published? Would you rather know there is an end point, or just take them as they come?