Reading book series' in order – how often does it matter?

I read a lot of series of books – Lee Child‘s Jack Reacher books, Ian Rankin‘s Rebus series, Jeffery Deaver‘s Lincoln Rhyme series,  etc, etc & I have religiously read them in the correct order. I think it’s important to read them in the order that they were published, as you are reading them as the author intended & often there are small nuances in books, connecting details, that if you read them out of order could make the stories less effective, make less sense & potentially could ruin subsequent stories by giving away things that you wouldn’t necessarily know, not having  already read the earlier books in the series.

There are other series’ where it doesn’t so much matter whether you read them in any order. Series where  the main characters may remain the same, but because there is little to no chronology to the books, reading them out of order matters less. In these kind of series the author ensures you know what you need to about the main characters. Back references about the main characters  to make sure you know enough to ensure you can read the books in any order you want. The Sherlock Holmes books specifically spring to mind. Each of those books, while about the same core of characters, can be read as individual stand-alone books.

Well, it turns out that I have recently broken my unwritten rule & have read 2 books in a series – out of order. Obviously I didn’t realise at the time that I was doing this, otherwise I would have chosen a different book to read. Unfortunately, the  books in question were part of a series that need to be read in order, especially the 2 I read – Stone Cold & The Collectors, by David Baldacci. Even worse, I read Stone Cold first, then The Collectors & this is definitely one of the cases where reading them out of order ruined the reading. Stone Cold is essentially the continuation of The Collectors & having read Stone Cold first meant that I knew exactly what was going to happen (both the plot & the outcome) before I read it. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed reading The Collectors, but I would have enjoyed it far more if I had had no idea what was happening before it happened!

So, my question to you is: How do you feel about reading Series of books out of order?

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3 Comments

Filed under postaweek2011, Relaxing reading

3 responses to “Reading book series' in order – how often does it matter?

  1. Oh, I absolutely have to read a series of books in order.. I think, even if it’s just the same main character, I still feel like there might be something that ties it together from book to book, and I don’t want to be left clueless and not catch onto it!

  2. livingwithjoy

    I also generally try to read books in order. However, I think if books are part of a series that should be made clear to the reader. With marketers always pushing the ‘latest’ book by any author, it’s awfully easy to read a later book without realizing there was an earlier book.

    • If only they did do that! This is the only time something like this has happened to me where it mattered to read the books in the correct order. A friend tells me if isn’t essential to have read the 1st one, but there should definitely have been some kind of warning that the book I was about to read was the sequel of the one before & that it should be read AFTER the one before (if that makes any sense at all, lol)

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