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?

indepbook-week2014-logoPS. Next week it’s Independent Booksellers Week in the UK.  Check out their website for events near you.

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On reading a series
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17 thoughts on “On reading a series

  • 23 June, 2014 at 5:33 am
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    It’s interesting, isn’t it? I think having to wait can cause untenable expectations in some cases. I discovered Anthony Horowitz’s Power of Five series when four out of the five books had been published. I devoured them, then waited patiently for the final book….so long (it was a gap of at least five years I think) that I got to thinking that I must be mistaken and the series was only going to be four books long. Then finally the last book was released…well, it was double the size of the other books…and I gave up about halfway through. It just didn’t stand up to my expectations.

    • 23 June, 2014 at 11:35 am
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      Yes, I think you can wait so long it becomes an anticlimax – or maybe you grow out of the series. Your reading tastes change, I’ve found. I had the same experience of the Amber series as you, come to think of it. Maybe the author doesn’t really want it to end (she says, not planning the last Princelings book for another three years)

  • 23 June, 2014 at 5:49 am
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    I do all of them, I read the whole series up front and personally that is what I prefer.. BUT there is one author only that I wait anxiously for her books to come out. I started out reading Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books about 16-17 years ago and I still wait for the new ones to come out and there is excitement in that as well as when the whole series is your hand and you can sit and read the whole thing as fast or as slow as you want.. for me I think it also depends on the moods.. but i love all the choices.. 🙂

    • 23 June, 2014 at 11:37 am
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      I haven’t come across Diana Gabaldon, so that’s another author to check out. I think on the whole I prefer reading the whole series, as you do.

  • 23 June, 2014 at 8:57 am
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    I think I enjoyed them more when I had to wait when I was a kid, that was when the first few came out. By the time the last few arrived I was a teenager and even after they came out it took me a while to get them. Not because I didn’t want to read them, but because I’d waited so long I’d sort of lost interest.

    • 23 June, 2014 at 11:40 am
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      Yes, I think that’s very relevant, especially through the teens and twenties, when there is so much more going on than books, for most of us. I know my elder niece lost interest in HP before the last couple of books came out, since she was busy getting her degree and making her new life with her now husband.

      • 26 June, 2014 at 10:35 am
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        There is that, I was at college, so any reading I did was research.

  • 23 June, 2014 at 11:50 am
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    Funnily enough I look at my Goodreads ‘currently reading ‘ list and see I have one that is the second in the series where I’ve read the first and the third is due out (Matt Archer); the first in a new series from an author where I’ve read 14/20 of her previous one (Lindsey Davis); the third of a series where I’ve been meaning to read the first for over a year (Jack Templar), and the second in a series where I’ve read none of the others (Jinx Schwartz). That probably says more about ebooks, free books and blogging with bookblasts and review promotions than my reading preferences 🙂

  • 23 June, 2014 at 1:03 pm
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    Thoughtful question, Jemima. My daughter turned me on to Harry Potter and I caught up with publication after the third book. I think I was as excited as she was, awaiting the new books. When I was little, I devoured the Narnia Chronicles (published much earlier) and couldn’t wait for Saturday to come so I could go to the library for the next one. Right now I am caught up in Game of Thrones, although the last humongous tome was a challenge. Honestly, a fifth of the book was a list of characters! Not much difference for me between waiting for the next in a series or having them all, except that if the gap between publications is too long, I forget some of the characters!

    • 23 June, 2014 at 11:11 pm
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      Yes, some of my friends are getting very frustrated waiting for the next GoT to come out – or even be written, since they have inside information on this, it appears. I struggled through the first half of the first book and decided I really didnt care enough about any of them to continue.

      • 24 June, 2014 at 1:47 pm
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        The first book actually hooked me but my interest has gone down with each one since. I think the TV series has done a good job stimulating interest because the writers have managed to pare the story down to essentials, but there are still a ton of characters. Something to learn from!

  • 24 June, 2014 at 4:26 pm
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    Hahaha! Glad I could provide you with some inspiration, Jemima! 🙂 This has been a very interesting process for me, I must admit. I think I would be enjoying the books far more if I was reading them as they came out. There has been so much build up with these books, that I have to admit that I’m not enjoying them as much as I thought I would. I would have preferred to be part of the crowd anticipating what would happen next. Now, mind you, I actually don’t know what happens in the next books (I’ve now finished the 3rd). I also think that reviewing 100’s of children’s books for the last few years has made me super-attuned to writing issues. Far be it for me to critique J.K. Rowling’s writing, but she makes classic errors (e.g., endless “telling”, long scenes that should have been cut, uneven character development). I think I expected much, much better writing. Of course, nobody can argue that her world building and the story itself are fantastic and Harry is a sympathetic main character along with his two trusty sidekicks. Obviously, there’s a lot she’s done well. Anyways, back to your question … I used to eagerly anticipate any new Patricia Cornwell books. I know wish I had picked up the Harry Potter books back in the early 2000’s! lol

    • 26 June, 2014 at 11:09 pm
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      I’m not sure that kids mind the telling – if there’s enough interest to make the imagination work overtime on imagining the setting 🙂 One of my (older) friends complained that she thought book 6 could have been reduced by a third by better editing, so I’m sure you’re right. I havent re-read any of them since my third read of Deathly Hallows; maybe I should try again and see whether they keep their magic. LOTR can take any number of re-reads!

  • 24 June, 2014 at 11:37 pm
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    Series are funny things. I’d never heard of Harry Potter until my oldest son, 13 at the time, asked me to buy HP AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE. The size of the book stunned me, bit reading the blurbs on the back cover I decided to buy the first three books and read them myself before reading GoD, the fourth book in the series. Then I waited for each consecutive book to be published with great anticipation. On the other hand, when a series is complete, the anticipation factor is missing; when you’re finished with one book you simply grab the next in line. Also, when a series is complete, especially a big one like HP, there’s a huge time-commitment involved. For readers like us who have so many other irons in the fire, that’s a consideration, too. We can read one book in a series, then read something else while waiting for the next book to be published without feeling we’re being “unfaithful” to the series. Know what I mean?

    • 27 June, 2014 at 8:02 pm
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      Yes I do, and since everyone seems to write in series these days (including me) it’s hard to keep up with a series you like even when you want to, because so many other books are calling to be read.

  • 24 June, 2014 at 11:41 pm
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    Please excuse the numerous mistakes on the above post. I didn’t bother to re-read and correct it before I hit the “post comment” button. I guess that will teach me, won’t it!

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