November 21, 2017, 07:10:54 PM

Author Topic: Reading a book series out of sequence  (Read 263 times)

Offline Jehangir

Reading a book series out of sequence
« on: November 13, 2017, 12:20:51 PM »
Hi
I was having a discussion with my partner about book series and the importance (or lack of importance) of reading books in a sequence.
So my question to you is this: can you name a book series where it isn't essential to have either read the first book or read the books sequentially?
The only series I can think of (and I've only read a few!) are the Discworld books, which I know are organised into miniseries.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Jehangir

Offline Rostum

Re: Reading a book series out of sequence
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2017, 06:56:31 PM »
I would try not to but have been known to pick up books in the wrong order. I feel it would depend on how contained the stories were and how linear the series was.

Offline RobertS

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Re: Reading a book series out of sequence
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2017, 07:52:39 PM »
Hi
I was having a discussion with my partner about book series and the importance (or lack of importance) of reading books in a sequence.
So my question to you is this: can you name a book series where it isn't essential to have either read the first book or read the books sequentially?
The only series I can think of (and I've only read a few!) are the Discworld books, which I know are organised into miniseries.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Jehangir
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander work pretty well on their own. The Oz books are mostly functional although there is a lot of reference that you will miss. C. S. Lewis wrote books that stand on their own quite well. Some authors have written books in a universe that is consistent throughout though the stories stand alone. Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley both can be read in the order you find them. Lawrence Watt-Evans' "Ethshar"  books stand on their own wonderfully. Lois McMaster Bujold has written great science fiction and fantasy stories that stand on their own. In science fiction, writing to a universe is reasonably common. A lot of Heinlein's books compliment each other without being dependent.  Larry Niven and Vernor Vinge both have books that support their universes strongly while being independent. Both of these authors have written convoluted stories that have stood on their own despite the depth built into them.

I prefer a book that stands on it's own feet while contributing to the whole. That can be really hard to do without having a good spoiler at the front. In the case of an author who conveys complex relations and alternate physics, this can be nearly impossible. Sherry S. Tepper wrote wonderfully convoluted and deep stories while having books that mostly stand up on their own. Personally I think a Sherry S. Tepper series should be read from beginning to end with out life intruding on the world she takes you to.
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Offline Elfy

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Re: Reading a book series out of sequence
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2017, 08:47:48 PM »
I tend to like to read things in order, but there are a few things out there that don't need to be done that way. Mercedes Lackey's 3 Diana Tregarde books spring to mind. The way they were written contributes to this. The order they were published in, is not the order in which events take place. I think you can do this with the early Harry Dresdens. One of the best examples I can recall, and they're not fantasy, is the Harry Flashman books by George MacDonald Fraser. They were written out of order to begin with and move back and forth throughout Harry's career. As there are books about events that take place in between the first part of the second book and the second part of it, it's almost impossible to read them in chronological order in any case.

Offline Dark Squiggle

Re: Reading a book series out of sequence
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2017, 10:26:56 PM »
If the series is bad enough, it doesn't matter what order you read them in :)
The Harry Potter series can be read out of order, with the exception of the last two or three books, The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings is almost always read out of order (not by me, though), The Rirya series by Michael J. Sullivan I think was written out of order, the Redwall series by Brian Jacques can be read in any order you feel like, and I am sure there are many others. Some people don't mind spoilers, and so it doesn't really matter for them what order they read series n, but I will say that if you are reading a series out of order, you won't be able to dismiss a not very good book thrown in the middle as you probably would if you were reading the series straight through. Let's face it, when you read the series the second time, chances are you're not going to do it in order, and you're not going to care about spoilers then.

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Re: Reading a book series out of sequence
« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2017, 03:20:21 AM »
:o Your messy approach really grates with my sense of order!
Reading series out of order? Especially when rereading? Eeek!
 ;D

So I can't think of any apart from Discworld which you mentioned...
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Offline Magnus Hedén

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Re: Reading a book series out of sequence
« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2017, 10:35:31 AM »
I picked up Year of the Flood on a whim because I'd heard so many good things about Margaret Atwood (all true, as it turns out). I read it and enjoyed it thoroughly, despite occasionally feeling like I had problems following the plot.

It was only a few weeks later that I found out from a random tweet that it was book two in a trilogy. So I read Oryx & Crake and then MaddAddam.

I really enjoyed reading them in that order and found that in some ways, it worked really well. But there were some "oooooohhh" moments when I read the first book as things suddenly fell into place. I sometimes think I want to reread them in the correct order, but the truth is I haven't reread anything for decades. I just know there's so much great writing out there I haven't found yet.

I wouldn't read out of order consciously, though, if they are part of an arcing storyline (unlike Discworld and the like). I have no idea why anyone would. If the writer gave their books an order, they did so for a reason.
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Offline WilliamRay

Re: Reading a book series out of sequence
« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2017, 03:31:59 PM »
I feel like if a series can't be enjoyably read out of sequence, then the author's individual stories probably aren't as polished as they should be.  Then again, I feel similarly about spoilers too, and enjoy filling in the backstory on things so, for me, knowing what happens at point B doesn't really diminish my interest in following the journey that began at point A.

This is also the point at which I lament my pre-Kindle days.  I know a series that fits that perfectly... the author started with a book about a siege, then wrote a series of both prequels and sequels about characters and events that spun outwards from that siege.  Unfortunately, all the names elude me entirely, I can't think of a good angle to search on it in Google, and the paper versions I owned are long since surrendered. :(

There are tons of examples though.  People advise the Star Wars movies are best enjoyed out of sequence, and the vast library of books in the setting happen at all sorts of different times in relation to each other.  I remember that the Dragonlance series had a bunch of prequels and sequels and midquels, and whatever elses, and while stories were often told in three-book chunks, the stories themselves didn't necessarily require being read in chronological or publishing order.  My father adores Clive Cussler's Dirk Pitt novels, which (as near as I can tell from the two I've read) don't seem to require any particular sequence.

Online Peat

Re: Reading a book series out of sequence
« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2017, 07:05:45 PM »
I'll read pretty much anything out of order me. And I actually like doing so from time to time as it presents the author in a different light.

But David Gemmell's Drenai series are certainly loose enough that they'd qualify for this.

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Re: Reading a book series out of sequence
« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2017, 10:14:18 PM »
I feel like it is a fairly recent thing that books only make sense read in sequence. When I was younger I never read anything in sequence but based on what was available in the library or was bought for me. I read Lord of the Rings before the Hobbit, Discworld based on which cover appealed to me, the Willard Price adventure series based on where I wanted to go that day ... and David Gemmil you could read any order you wanted...
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Offline Dark Squiggle

Re: Reading a book series out of sequence
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2017, 10:35:01 PM »
I feel like it is a fairly recent thing that books only make sense read in sequence. When I was younger I never read anything in sequence but based on what was available in the library or was bought for me. I read Lord of the Rings before the Hobbit, Discworld based on which cover appealed to me, the Willard Price adventure series based on where I wanted to go that day ... and David Gemmil you could read any order you wanted...
The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas is a trilogy clearly designed to be read in order and it was written in the 1840's and 1850's. I don't think it is a new thing, but it has definitely become more popular recently, to the point in which few standalones are being written anymore, which I think is a shame, as not everyone wants to read a 2000+ page novel, which is what most trilogies and smaller series are.