The Dog Ear: The virtues of the book series
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013
Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08
While perusing The New York Times Book Review this weekend, I was looking at the Top-10 series on the Children’s Best Seller list. I noticed that on the Hardcover Best Sellers and Paperback Best Sellers lists (basically the list of books read by adults), there is no special section for series. Don’t adults enjoy immersing themselves in a fictional world that lasts beyond just one book? In a world filled with uncertainty, an author that can master the creation of a quality series of books can give us a guaranteed good read – multiple times.
Series have extensive benefits. They solve the what-book-should-I-read-next conundrum. Everyone has that moment. You’re looking at stacks of books in the library or in a bookstore and you literally haven’t the slightest idea of what you feel like reading next. You enjoy reading but don’t want to be let down from making the wrong decision. Yet if you’re reading a series, you know precisely the book you will read.
Creating characters that people want to be, or want to be with, is crucial to a good series. Ideally, readers should fall in love with the characters, celebrating their triumphs and weeping when disaster strikes. Authors can’t tell a good story without good characters, so it is important that readers be able to empathize with the cast. They should become enchanted with the world that their beloved characters call home and the setting of the book should soon become a familiar place every time the book is read.
An advantage readers have when reading a series compared to reading a standalone novel is that in order to write a series, the author had to know what he or she was doing. Extensive planning needed to occur for the author to guide the plot in the correct direction and entice readers to come back for more. Of course, planning occurs when an author writes any book, but when it’s time to kill off a character, the author of the series will have to think of every possible repercussion and how it could affect the plot four books in the future. Writing a single novel doesn’t come with that pressure.
As with everything in life, the series has its faults. Series force you to play the cruel waiting game. If you’re lucky, you’ll discover a series after a few books are already published. These can buy you time until the next book is released. If you devour the first book, only to find out that the second one won’t be published for another year and then you’re out of luck. You must wait, and wait and wait some more until the next book is released. A problem with this is that sometimes, you forget what you’re waiting for. However if the book was memorable enough, you’ll be the first one to pre-order the sequel.
“The Hunger Games,” “Millennium,” “A Song of Ice and Fire,” and “The Magicians” are just some examples of books that hook readers in with the first installment and upon finishing, leaves them desperately wanting more. Series shouldn’t leave you feeling placid. They should leave you feeling everything else. Even when you’re feeling alone, reading a series is the perfect cure, pulling you back into a world you’ve come to know so well. It is your second home, the characters are like family.