Question: How Do You Read A Series?

Posted January 22, 2015 by Carmel in Question / 106 Comments


I prefer to start at the beginning, and work my way through the installments in order, except for novellas & anthologies. I’ll usually leave these for a rainy day. The only time I’ll bend this rule is when an advanced copy lands in my P.O. box, and either the author has assured me that it can be read as a stand-alone, or it’s a Paranormal Romance because this genre typically alternates couples with each new addition, so aside from missing out on a bit of world-building you don’t end up feeling completely lost if you dive-in at book 5.

As for whether I’ll inhale a series in one go, that really depends on when I discovered the author, and how much free time I have available. If I’m a late comer, and I really enjoy the first installment, then I’d rather read all of the novels as close to back-to-back as possible for maximum immersion. Unfortunately, since I signed on to blog, chain consumption has become more difficult to manage because I constantly have to re-prioritize, and no longer have the luxury of hibernating for weeks on end.

On the other hand, I prefer to get in on the ground floor, and tackle each book as it hits shelves because it’s less daunting than playing catch-up, although there is a downside to that in that titles often release years apart which can make it difficult to remember previous happenings, and cliffhangers become a real b*tch. However, this approach can be beneficial due to the sometimes redundant nature of series; not all writers have mastered the art of the recap, and as a result reading too many installments in a row can make this fact annoyingly obvious.

The story itself is another important consideration; I like PNR, but I find that it’s easy to get burnt out on this genre when you tackle too many of ’em in quick succession. It has been my experience that I appreciate the boy meets girl plots more when I space them apart while as Urban Fantasy for example, has oodles of variety to it, so I’m less likely to get bored.

How Do You Read A Series?

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Owner, designer and main blogger behind Rabid Reads. Avid book reader, snowboard bunny, video gamer and Supernatural fan. I love all things paranormal, werewolves especially. Oh, and I’m Canadian, eh!

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106 responses to “Question: How Do You Read A Series?

  1. I absolutely cannot start a series in the middle. I’m too anal I guess. I have to know what happened previously even if it’s listed as a standalone. I want to know all the characters and how they fit.
    I’m like you, if I start a series and there is more than one book out, I read them as closely together as possible. I just started two series that way. They both had Kindle deals and I got hooked! Then again, waiting for the next in the series is a major headache.
    So, I guess I immerse myself in a series but if it’s a long time between books, I will re-read the previous book (sometimes skimming) so I’m ready for the new one.
    Great question. ; )
    Dolly recently posted…Review:Β Hush byΒ Karen Robards

    • I used to have a problem jumping in, but every now and then a publisher will send me an unsolicited ARC, and I’ll use it to vet the author’s writing. If I like it, I’ll buy book 1. I never hold being lost against the series because it’s my own damn fault. LOL!

    • It’s so rare for me to come across a title that’s not part of a series, especially in Urban Fantasy. I honestly can’t remember the last time I read one.

  2. Pili from In Love With  

    Given the state and size of my TBR pile I prefer to start new series to try and jumping on existing ones with like 13 installments already… they feel too daunting and time consuming! I always start series by the first book unless as you said, you get an ARC and they’re more companion novels that a proper series.

    I don’t mind binge reading a series if it’s a trilogy or a 4 series book if I’m fascinated enough, though that always result on having issues reviewing them afterwards because I’m then never quite sure if some events happened in book 1, 2 or 3!

    Following a series as it is being published allows for a more varied reading with space for many books but as you said… CLIFFHANGERS!!!
    Pili recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday #78!!

    • There are some series that I refuse to even contemplate just based on the sheer number of installments alone. If the ETA on a book a month is longer that 1 year, forget it.

  3. I prefer to start from the beginning too and I also skip novellas and leave it for some other time, unless it’s about a character I’m really interested in. Often times I get lost with the world building if I start in the middle, even if it’s a different couple every time in the case of PNR. It depends on the series but sometimes I would need breaks from it before I can delve back in again and sometime I have to read them back to back because of momentum lol. Right now, I’m listening to Kate Daniels and I can see that this is going to be a back to back kinda read πŸ˜‰
    Amir recently posted…Audiobook Review: Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop

    • I rarely re-read before the next installment comes out, and for the most part rely on authors do to a decent job refreshing my memory. I binge listened to the first 5 books in the KD series, so I totally get you. Hehe!

  4. It depends on the type of series, but I really hate starting in the middle. Most romance stories can be read out of order but I hate doing it cause they normally talk about characters from previous books. I have done it though mostly because I requested a book and didn’t do my homework to make sure it’s book one.

    That being said I think authors and publishers should do their best to make mention that it’s book number 3, etc on netgalley or edelweiss to make it easier on the person requesting.

    If I get one in my mailbox that I didn’t request but it sounds good I will keep it and look for the first book.

    It really drives me crazy to read out of order..but it has happened. πŸ™
    Stormi recently posted…Review of Captive

    • It’s difficult to appreciate the various cameos in a PNR series whenever you read it out of order, but that’s the only real disadvantage when an author plays their cards right. And, yes, it BLOWS whenever you end up picking up a later installment without realizing it. Series lists at the beginning of each novel should be mandatory.

  5. I am a little obsessive this way. A series MUST be read in order, and if I’m a late comer, it is back to back for me. Even if I receive an ARC, I will grab the previous books and cram them in before I will read the ARC. Like I said, obsessive LOL. However, right now, I think I am in need of a break from the series I’m marathoning but I’m pushing through. I will definitely need a PNR break after it, and will probably grab a few UF. Or a good thriller. Something different. We’ll see.
    Tanya recently posted…Waiting On Wednesday ~ Night’s Blaze By Donna Grant

  6. Mel Thomas

    I’m OCD and can’t read anything out of sequence. For me, it’s absurd that anyone would pick up a latter book in the series and expect to have all of the back story. As a reviewer, I’ve noticed a lot of negative reviews because the reader didn’t feel there was enough world building or background information. Those reviews, simply put, piss me off. How can someone expect to get that background and initial world building when they jump into the middle of a series? I’ve turned down many review galleys because I wasn’t a current reader of the series and it wasn’t the first book (even if it did look really good).

    As for how quickly I read the series, it really depends on how good it is. I recently re-read Kresley Cole’s Arcana Chronicles to get ready for the most recent release. Even having read the first two books in the series before, I devoured all three books in a week. There are other series that are slow to start and will take me a week to read one book.

    • I agree, if you’re going to take the mid-series plunge then your review should say diddly squat about gaps in the world-building, story arc, etc. You knew exactly what you signed on for. I inhaled Cole’s YA last fall. Talk about addictive!

  7. I really don’t have a rhyme or reason half the time. Sometimes I devour them and other times I space them out so I can make them last longer or because I don’t want to get tired of being in that world for too long.

    The Charley Davidson series I pretty much read in a week but then the Kate Daniels series which I love just as much I have spaced out over time and I still have book six to read. I don’t know. Maybe I am just weird like that. πŸ™‚
    kindlemom1 recently posted…Review: Soulprint by Megan Miranda

    • Sometimes it’s good to stretch out a series in order to prolong the enjoyment while as other times it’s impossible not to line ’em up one after the other. I think mood has a lot to do with it too.

    • It’s nice whenever you don’t have to wait between novels, but on the other hand it KILLS me whenever I see my friends reading a title that I’m holding off on.

  8. After becoming a book blogger I haven’t series binged a lot. I usually read the first book and then pcik up the next book when it becomes available. Or I get them for review in case of some series/ authors. Before I was a book bloggers I didn’t knew that many books or authors so when i foudn a first book I liked I ordered the rest of the series and read them back to back.

    I read Jennifer Estep her Elemental Assassin series like that and only stopped when I had to wait for new releases and still haven’t catched up now. That is one series were the author voerdoes the recap a bit, it’s nice when you don’t read them back to back, but when you read them back to back it feels like the author uses the same descriptions over and over for certain characters.

    I prefer to read a series in order and even when they can be read as standalones I like to read them in order.
    Lola recently posted…Lola’s Ramblings: Household chores

    • Blogging really did a number on my chain reading as well. Sometimes I miss the good ol’ days. I too couldn’t put down Estep’s EA series once I discovered the awesomeness of Gin Blanco.

    • Nothing destroys a good book buzz quite like not knowing what the heck is going on. I’m with you, I’d rather avoid that unpleasantness entirely, and start at #1.

  9. Normally I like to start at the beginning. Every now and again I’ll find a book and then find out it’s in a series, hunt down the rest of the books and devour them as if I’m starving(If it’s a very good series).
    If I’m reviewing a book then unless I’m familiar with the series I’ll be starting from where ever it is in the series. Then I write in my review if it can be read as a standalone or not.
    If I have a number of the books in the series when I start reading the first book, and find it brilliant I carry on reading the series.

    • It’s usually a good sign whenever you purchase the next installment before you’re even finished with the existing one. That one-click button has saved my sanity many a times!

    • I did my first trilogy review a while back, and it actually worked out fairly well. I think I might do more of them in the future because that way I can binge without having to worry about stopping to type up a post after each novel.

  10. Playing catch up is daunting indeed, Carmel. And since I’ve been blogging, it’s my life. *ha* I have stayed on top of a few series but there are so, so many that I’m behind on. But I plan to catch up this year. πŸ™‚ I do agree that with PNR, I can’t always binge because I get weary…even with my favorites. I went to re-read Cat & Bones right before a new release and I just couldn’t do it. And I ADORE Cat & Bones. I do read series in order – I just have to. I don’t want to feel like I’ve missed something.
    Bookworm Brandee recently posted…Release Day Blitz & TWO Giveaways ~ Strange Magic ~ Michelle Mankin

    • No one liked falling too far behind, but it’s like exercising, once you start you feel SO much better. I’d love to revisit Frost’s Night Huntress universe someday. *sigh*

  11. I prefer to start with first book, unless is a series I’m already familiar with, and has so many books out than I feel Ok jumping forward…Like Acheron and Stixx. I guess it depend on the series. But when I see a 5 star rating for, let say, book #4, I always feel the need to read the first so I can have the same experience, I know that if jump on it it won’t be the same for me. No matter what I always feel there’s a build up to the following books even is not that big, it can make a difference in how much I enjoy a book.
    Lupdilup recently posted…Burned Audiobook by Karen Marie Moning (Review)

    • This is true. It’s tough for a later installment to deliver the top notch story the author intended if you don’t have all of the deets. It’s like finishing a puzzle only to find out that you’re missing a piece. Ruins the whole thing!

  12. I always read them in order with one exception, and that’s when I get them from Net Galley, and I have no idea that it is book 4 or 5. Then if I have time, I will at least read 1 or 2 of the previous books so I have some background. I really hate when they don’t tell you what book it is on Net Galley, although I have noticed recently they are are getting a bit better.

    • NG is really bad for that which is why I always double, and even triple check their titles on GoodReads / Amazon / the author’s website before click the ‘request’ button. It’s a lot of work, but it helps avoid unfortunate surprises.

  13. I usually try to read a series in order, but every once in awhile, like you, I get one in the mail and read it out of order and then go back. I try to start series on the ground floor and keep up with them as they come out, I find it is too daunting to pick up a series that is already more than five books down the road, but occasionally I do and I read them via audiobook because that is the only way I can get them worked in.
    Heidi recently posted…Review: Owl and the Japanese Circus(The Adventures of Owl #1) by Kristi Charish

    • It’s way more manageable keeping up with a series when you read ’em as they are released. Every so often though, a bunch of MUST books from different writers come out at the same time, and I have to pick and choose.

  14. If I’m really going to read a series, I’d like to start from the beginning. I have a difficult time keeping up with series though, so sometimes it’s nice to have all the books out before I read and then try and read them close together so I remember details. This is good for series that only have three or so book though – the longer a series, the harder it would be to read all at once.
    ShootingStarsMag recently posted…Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski

  15. You know I think I pretty much have the same approach as you do now. Because of the blogging its changed the way I read. I used to be able to binge read an entire series but now I have to constantly fit in another higher priority book and if I’m coming in at the series in the middle and there are 5 out already those are “personal” books I have to try to squeeze in. Luckily audio books have been helping greatly with that (especially since I discovered I can totally use 2x and 3x speed and still enjoy the book…enjoy it more so actually) So I use audios mostly as my personal books now. Honestly I’ve found more and more lately that its really hard to capture my interest for a series. I’ll read the first book and don’t always even feel compelled or excited to read the next book. So where back before I was a blogger I used to read the next book no matter what – now I just don’t. And I am ok with that. If the story didn’t capture me in the first book and I’m not all that interested in what happens why make myself keep going so I don’t. Usually 3 star books don’t end up getting the next book picked up unless I see alot of promise. Like I 3 starred A Natural History of Dragons but I Sooo see a bunch of promise there so I’ll keep going. But a 3 starred YA book likely won’t see me continue.
    Tabitha (Not Yet Read) recently posted…Review: Darkwalker by E.L. Tettensor

    • I have yet to try upping the speed of my listens. I’m afraid that I’ll miss stuff, or that the narrator will sound like she sucked on a helium balloon. And, it never fails, right when I clear out my review queue, 5 more titles show up on my doorstep!

  16. Depends. I’ve read PNR in the middle of the series or come in very late and not been lost at all. So a long running PNR, I rarely worry about it. UF and the various fantasy forms I usually read in order. It is harder to read these out of order since the arc within the series usually requires it in order. I do love to binge in a series and I’ve been doing that more on audio. It’s been my favorite way! πŸ™‚
    Melissa (Books and Things) recently posted…Craft Book Review: Shaggy Dog Eats! by Christy Bright

  17. Mel from thedailyprophecy

    I rarely read anthologies/novella’s. I only make an exception for the series I really love (and I like it when they are bundled in a book like The assassin’s blade) Most of the series I’m currently reading are not completely published and I’m up to date with a lot of them. This year I’m trying to finish at least 10 completely published series to cut down on unfinished ones πŸ™‚
    Mel recently posted…Review 210. Megan Shepherd – A cold legacy.

  18. Mary from BookSwarm  

    I’ve started countless series in the middle (if they’re well-written, it’s relatively easy to pick it up) and, if I fall for it, I’ll go back to the beginning of the series then blaze through it all. You’re very right — it’s easy to get burned out, reading that way. So I do have to have palate cleansers (usually travelogues) and read widely, genre-wise. Still, I always come back to PNR/urban fantasy. I can’t help it!
    Mary recently posted…In One Fell Swoop: Trade Me by Courtney Milan

  19. I love to marathon all my series!! I hate having to wait for books to be released so if I suspect I’ll have a really hard time waiting, I just wait for hte last book to come out and read them all at once (reasons why I have yet to start the Lunar Chronicles and have finally put Splintered on hold at the library :D) Though, there is actually some fun in waiting for the books to come out! It makes you feel more connected in a weird way and also, if you read the whole series all at once, it feels more like you read just one book. *shrugs* I just prefer to marathon them. πŸ˜€

    Awesome post!
    ~Fari @ My Little Corner For Books
    Follower via Bloglovin
    Fari recently posted…Reading a lot but not blogging or reviewing

  20. I think the only series I’ve ever read in order has been Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels series. I’m awful about skipping all over the place, even if I really should be reading a set of books in order. Great topic!

  21. I hate starting a series in the middle. I find that I have a hard time going backwards. When I first started reading Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum I couldn’t get book 4 from the library right away, so I skipped it. I didn’t read it until the next year when I did a series reread and I owned them all.

    For series that I discover years after their initial release (Virgin River & Chicagoland Vampires), I am trying them as audiobooks. It works so well because while I can read very fast, the audioboook takes longer and usually about a week to finish each one, giving me plenty of time to keep up with acquiring the next ones in the series.
    Judy recently posted…@GoddessFish Review: The Marine’s E-Mail Order Bride by Cora Seton

    • That happens to me sometimes too. I started a werewolf series at book 2, have owned the first installment for YEARS, and I still haven’t managed to read it even though I’ve read all of the other novels. FAIL!

  22. I won’t read a full series at a time anymore. I found I liked them less and less as I went because I’d start picking up on writing “quirks” that would annoy me after a couple books. lol But if read with others between I rarely pick up on that stuff. So I bounce around a lot.

    I’m bad about reading in order too. Before the blog I always read in order but now with requests no way I can do that and keep up. But thankfully most work out okay πŸ™‚
    anna (herding cats & burning soup) recently posted…Razed (Barnes Brothers #2) by Shiloh Walker (@BerkleyRomance)

    • No chain reading… don’t tackle series in order… WHO ARE YOU!? Hehe! Your go-to genre is romance though, so that makes a little more sense. I can’t devour most PNR back-to-back because it gets repetitive, and you can easily dive in anywhere story-wise.

  23. Reading historical romance has changed the way I like to read series. The HEA spoils me, so when I get to fantasy or a series that continues with one character, it upsets me more that my character isn’t in a “good” spot. Which means rather than reading installments as they come out, I want to rip through an entire series in one go. And, of course, romances let me dance around in a series without missing out on much. I like that too. πŸ™‚
    Amanda recently posted…Introducing Beth

    • I can see that, you have to wait a LONG time for a HEA in most Fantasy series, and if that’s not something you’re accustomed to it can definitely be frustrating.

  24. I think it really depends on the series. Certain ones I will read all at once, especially if I’m loving it. Other series I tend to need a break in-between installments. I think it also just depends on my mood and if I really want to binge read the whole series or space it out with other reads.
    Kelsey recently posted…Waiting on Wednesday: Dearest

    • No arguments here, mood can have a lot to do with it. Sometimes I’m schizo, and need to jump around a lot while as others I just want to crawl into the fictional world and live there for a while.

  25. julie from m5monkeys  

    I try to start at the beginning and I don’t like reading a series from the middle. With some of them I read them til they are done or just wait til the series is over.

    But I have found that if a series goes on too long…looks at chicagoland vamps or gini alien series that I usually end leaving the series around #7. It just seems to be that way.
    julie recently posted…Love Gently Falling book Review

    • I’m still enjoying Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires, and Estep’s Elemental Assassin series, and they are both up to books # 11/12. BDB on the other hand, I should have given up on quite some time ago. It really depends.

  26. I HAVE TO read books in order of publication. It’s something I cannot ignore. I don’t really care when authors say “oh, this takes place after the events of X book” because I just can’t read it out of the order they were published in. This includes standalones and novellas.

    I wish I had more time to chain read books. It’s so frustrating to read a series and not remember what happenned in the first book.
    Marianne recently posted…Review: Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce + Fashion by the Book!

    • Wow! You’re really on the ball! I’m all for reading a series in order, except for novellas, for the most part I find that they are a waste of my time (and money). I don’t binge as often as I’d like, but I still allow myself to do so when the opportunity / desire arises.

    • Whenever I chain read a series that I plan on reviewing, I always pause to type up my thoughts before starting the next installment because you’re right, it can be difficult to tell them apart.

  27. I have no rhyme or reason to my series reads other than I must read them in order. I do like when there are a lot of books already in a series, so I can binge, but then I don’t have a lot of time to do that anymore due to the blog. On the other hand, a book a year is nice, too for just that reason. Sometimes, I will blow off blog books just to read what I want otherwise I suffer burn out. So, it just depends. πŸ™‚
    A Voracious Reader recently posted…Guest Review

    • It’s such a great feeling giving review books the finger in favour of getting lost in a ‘just for me’ novel. It seems like blogging has killed chain reading for the majority of us. Boo!

  28. I feel like the best answer to this would be “ditto!” Lol! I like to read back to back but rarely get the time anymore. I hate when I find a series I want to devour and i have lots of other reading that I have to prioritize before it. On the flip side, I love being able to read series as they come out, since part of the fun is joining in the conversations. I rarely read out of order, maybe twice so far ever! Great question πŸ™‚
    Berls recently posted…Winter 2014-2015 #COYER Update |Twitter Party Today!

  29. I don’t. *insert wailing here* I really want to but when I look at my TBR I swear I notice more standalones. But if the series started like years ago I tend to do what you do. I tackle them all straight. Its better so you wont forget tiny details of the previous books.

    The only series that I read and willing to wait eternally to finish is The Others by Anne Bishop. My soul won’t rest until Simon and Meg gets babies.
    Paula M. recently posted…Bookish Thoughts #002: Γ’Β€Β˜Goodreads Ratings? Pfft.Ҁ™

    • I wish I read more stand-alones, I really do because then I’d have more time to experience different authors. I’ve committed myself to so many series that is’ tough finagling anything else.

      As for Meg & Simon, we are in complete agreement! Hehe! πŸ˜€

  30. Mogsy from BiblioSanctum  

    In order, most DEFINITELY in order. I’ll make the odd exception if I know for sure the book in the middle of the series is a stand alone or can be appreciated as such. Even if I could stand to jump on board in the middle, I just don’t think it would be fair to the book and author if I had to write a review not knowing the “full” story, if you know what I mean.
    Mogsy recently posted…Audiobook Review: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

    • I know exactly what you mean! I’ve seen way to many reviewers bash a book only to learn that they haven’t read any of the ones that came before it. What the heck did you expect!? Urgh!

  31. I almost always read a series in the right order, apart from the novellas. And I love it when I find a series that already has a few books in it, so that I can read and read and read while staying in the same universe. I did this both with The Hollows (I think I had the first 9 books to read when I started that series) and with Kate Daniels. Now, I’m waiting for the next Kate Daniels like everybody else, though πŸ™‚
    Great topic this week, Carmel.
    Have a great week and happy reading.
    Lexxie recently posted…The Sunday Post #16 – Busy Bee

    • The Hollows. *sigh* That’s one that I haven’t had the pleasure of inhaling yet. Someday… At least I’m in good company on the Kate Daniels waiting came front. WELCOME TO THE CLUB!

  32. I read them in order except for novellas which I read whenever really and often not at all! I also like to marathon BUT if I am super excited for the last book I don’t read it until I can’t wait anymore because I’m sad that it is ending. I like to have more than one to read if possible so I can read back to back if I love them. I haven’t read Heir of Fire yet and I’m wondering if I can hold out for Queen of Shadows!
    Charlotte recently posted…The Deadly 7 by Garth Jennings

    • I was curious about what peeps had to say about novellas, so I’m happy that the majority of commenters don’t make them a priority either. I try to savour final installments, but it rarely lasts.

  33. I almost always read a series all in one go. Sometimes I just can’t wait (or I mess up and thing it’s a trilogy when there are four) but I prefer reading a series together. It is harder with blogging and I haven’t really figured out how to review a sequel yet, because of spoilers. (So I group them all together with mini reviews.) One of the things I judge an author on is their recap. I dislike staged conversations to bring us up to speed. Nice discussion topic. πŸ™‚
    Molly Mortensen recently posted…Top Ten Books on my Might Read List

    • Avoiding spoilers gets more and more challenging the further along in a series you get. It’s a delicate balancing act, but I am sure that you’ll get the hang of it!

  34. Stephanie from Once Upon a  

    I will go to great lengths to read a series in order. I really prefer to read them that way because I feel like I lose part of the enjoyment by trying to puzzle out what might have happened in previous books.

    The novellas I don’t have to read in order but my OCD wants me to read them at some point so that I’ve read the entire series. If I could let go of my own psychosis, reading would probably be a lot more enjoyable!
    Stephanie recently posted…Scratch by Rhonda Helms *Stephanie’s Review*