Series vs. Standalone Novels

Posted: March 15, 2013 in Books & Reading
Tags: , , , ,

I’m a series kind of gal. Blame Harry Potter. I just love picking up a novel and knowing that, when I finish it, there will be another one waiting for me. The more, the merrier.

Some of my all-time favorite books are series. The Hunger Games. Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The Lost Years of Merlin. It’s nice to know that when you fully immerse yourself in a world, as we so often do when reading, you don’t need to let it go so quickly. Because that can be painful. Sure, you can re-read a book, but there’s nothing quite like that first go-through when you just have no idea what’s going to happen.

However, I’ve been finding more and more lately that I’m looking for standalone novels. They’re faster to get through – a one and done, if you will. You don’t have to worry about finding the other books or ending on a huge cliff-hanger. The story is open and close, and it allows you to move on to the next one.

There are some drawbacks to being a series reader. First of all, my bookshelves are starting to warp from all the weight. Then there’s the expense. And the inevitable “this wasn’t as good as the first one.” And just like move sequels, it sometimes feels like an author just does a follow up not because the story requires it, but because it’ll put more money in their bank account.

Then again, standalone novels have their downfalls too. Sometimes the story seems incomplete, and you’re disappointed by the lack of answers. Sequels often allow favorite secondary characters to get some time in the spotlight. Single books can’t afford to waste the space on a character that inevitably won’t be getting their own storyline later on down the road.

I’ve come to realize that both have their merits and both have their shortcomings. It depends on my schedule, on my wallet, and on my mood. I still stand by the fact that I prefer series over single novels, but I’m beginning to enjoy the freedom that comes with being able to finish a book and not having to worry about when the next one comes out. (Because, let’s face it, waiting a year for a sequel is pure torture.)

Are you a series person or a standalone person? Do you like trilogies or do you like books that really go for it and have, say, twelve novels in the series? Does it depend on your mood, or do you usually stick to one or the other?

  1. Caroline says:

    I’ve never thought about this topic before. This is probably why I was so sad when I turned the last page of Harry Potter, since I dedicated to much time to the series. I think it depends upon my mood if I want to loose myself in a whole series or just one novel.

  2. ddog13 says:

    To me, series require time. I started reading the Wheel of Time novels (on book 7 out of a bazillion) but then I fell out of it due to the lack of time. So if I want to catch up, it’s going to be more difficult because 7 books of important material is going to have to be remembered. So series is time consuming but can lead to a more fulfilling experience. One and done novels can be captivating, but you don’t have an attachment to those books as you do with series’ books, from my experience.

    • Karen Rought says:

      That’s exactly true. Your mention of having to remember the previous books in a series is something I’m running into a lot and having trouble with. I don’t have time to go back and read the previous installments before a new one comes out like I used to. But now I’m finding that when I read the new one, I’m not as attached because it’s been so long between books.

      • ddog13 says:

        exactly. I read a lot of Wheel of Time books over the summer…then life and reality hit me, and I don’t know how to pick up from where I left off, because you frankly CAN’T

  3. Julie Glover says:

    Honestly, I prefer something like a trilogy. A short series with a definite end. Not a ton of investment, but something to look forward to.

    That said, I have read series with more than 10 novels and plenty of great standalone books. I mean, really, how could you make a series out of Anna Karenina or 1984? 😉

    • Karen Rought says:

      Considering 1984 is one of my all-time favorite books, I definitely agree with you there. It just wouldn’t have had the same impact if there had been a sequel.

      I think trilogies are good too, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. I don’t mind reading series where there are a ton of installments – but only if they’re all out and I don’t have to wait a year between reading one and the next!

  4. For me it depends entirely on the book – some leave you hungry for more. Others…well, they’re self contained. Often I’ve discovered a book I like, gobbled up the sequel – and been disappointed. There’s a knack to making a good series just as there is to a good novel. My favourite series of all time is George McDonald Fraser’s ‘Flashman’ novels – wonderful comic homages to nineteenth century heroes and a well-deserved skewering of their values.

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