Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stand-Alone or Series?

Before September disappears into history, I decided that it was about time that I wrote about the topic of series.  I've been wanting to discuss the difference between series books and those that stand alone for quite some time and when Lisa at Her Book Self announced her Series in September, I decided to wait in honor of this event!  Next thing I know, I am only days away from the end of the month, so now's the time for the question . . .

Series vs Stand Alone?

Many years ago, I used to only read stand alone books . . . those books that once you read that final page, you are done with the story, the characters and their situations come to a close, and (mostly) you feel satisfied by that last word.  Of course, there were a few books out there that were part of a larger whole . . . Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, and maybe a few others.  Overall, I simply was satisfied with the one time reads.

Then, one specific series got me hooked and my desires began to change.  More than ten years ago, I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K Rowling and discovered that I fell in love with the characters, wanting to revisit their lives and adventures beyond just their first.  I wanted to see how Harry, Ron, and Hermoine matured and which direction their lives went.  From that day forward, I was hooked!

I have now discovered that once I find characters that I love, that I can relate to, and a story that is just plain fun to fall into the adventure, I want to come back again and again.  I do not necessarily want to read the same story again, so a re-read is not really the point.  This is where a great series comes into play, where an author carries on the story with the same characters, but just keeps me wanting to come back for more!

Today, I read a good mix of books from series and stand-alones.  I like to mix things up a bit!  Sometimes, I'm in the mood for becoming completely engrossed in a completely different world . . . sometimes I like to take "series shots" (read a book here and there, but not all at once) . . . and sometimes, I just need a book that I can read and not be left with a cliff-hanger ending, wondering what happens next.  They each have their perks, but it really comes down to how I'm feeling to determine my latest read.  Lately, it is complete immersion in series!!

Do you prefer series or stand-alones?  Why the preference?


  1. I love both. However I am reading a lot of MG and YA right now and it is like everything has to be an effin series. When kids do get a stand alone they ask me "When is the next one coming?" It gets kind of annoying when a seven book series should have been a stand alone or even only three books.

  2. Pam . . . It really does seem like everything is a series these days! I'm curious . . . when you wrote this, did you have a specific one in mind?!? :)

  3. I like both, but sometimes starting a series and keeping up with it is SO much work! What happens with me now is I'll read the first book, make a note about when the second book is coming out, and then forget about it completely. And when I DO remember it turns out I'm, like, three books behind. Like with the Gone series by Michael Grant: I read the first book, eagerly awaited the second, and then totally forgot about the new releases until Alea mentioned the fourth one was coming out in the spring.

    And now I'm so behind I don't even WANT to read the stupid thing until it's all finished! Then I can at least read them all at once if I want, and not worry about release dates and the cycle starting all over again.

    I actually much prefer a series where each book is self-contained, and you may have storylines being extended or characters showing up again in the next book, but you don't necessarily have to read them in sequential order (and there aren't any cliffhangers!). Like Diana Wynne Jones' Chronicles of Crestomanci series.

  4. I like series if each novel is well plotted out and has its own smaller story arc within the larger one. However, if each sequel just seems to be going nowhere and they all start feeling the same...the series loses its appeal. And sometimes, it's nice to read a book where all the loose ends are tied up and you're left with a satisfied feeling - without needing to read 3 more books to get there.

  5. I enjoy both! But, I have to say that after reading MANY series for my website, it seems that they are often marketing-driven rather than story-driven. Reading every book in a series that has a few books too many makes me long for a good stand-alone. I think that some children like the consistency of following the same characters in multiple books, while others (like mine!) simply get bored.

  6. I agree with Pam and Anastasia. I don't mind series on principle, but everything is a freaking series these days and a lot of times there doesn't seem to be a good reason for it other than for the author and publisher to make more money. Case in point: Twilight. The last three books are basically the first book but with a love triangle and a baby. And keeping up with series is a lot of work and can be exhausting. So I've been trying to avoid them lately!

  7. I actually really love series books, but they have been a bit over done I think. I loved Harry Potter for the exact same reasons you did, the relationships, how they grew, and so much more. On the other hand if a book is written really well I love a stand alone.

    I guess what it boils down to is the writing. If it's compelling in either direction I'll read it. Series or not. Although, it is nice to have a great character stick around for a while! ;o)

  8. It depends. Sometimes I want that "instant gratification" that comes with finishing a stand alone. Sometimes I want to stay with the characters more and not have the story end.

  9. For me, it's both though I tend to not finish series books. I usually grow bored.

  10. P.S. Sending you an email with the series info in a few. :)

  11. Well, I suppose it's pretty obvious, but I really do love both. ;) My favorite series though are the ones where each book really could be a stand alone novel. I love the character development and depth that can come from reading multiple books centered on the same protagonist, but I really prefer when each entry tells a unique and succinct story. I haven't seen this happen as much in YA books, but two for older readers that I really enjoy are the Agent Pendergast series by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child and The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. Both have some overarching details that extend through all the books in their respective series, but for the most part each novel has its own contained storyline with a specific conflict and resolution.

  12. To be honest, I prefer series, but I find it so hard lately to keep up with all the series I love, so I end up just reading stand-alones.

  13. Both are good in my book as long as the series books don't leave me hanging. I enjoy reoccurring characters but I like the story, in closed in each book, to stand alone on its own. Does that make sense?

    I tend to read series books out of sync and if the stories can't end the most prominent story lines within each release, I get baffled.

  14. Anastasia . . . Wow!! That sounds a bit familiar too though, especially when you talk about those cliffhangers!!! I really need to check out this Diana Wynne Jones. I've been hearing so much about her and have never read anything by her (yet)! Gotta add this to the list!

    danya . . . That is really seeming to be the consensus about the series books! And, the more I think of it, the more I agree! Most of the series I like really can stand alone, as a stage in the entire story. You just said it better than me!

    JenStorySnoop . . . You know, I've been curious lately if series are becoming more and more prominent then they used to be when I grew up. I don't remember there being quite so many as there are today, and many new releases are typically part of a series.

    heidenkind . . . This is really quite a good point! I like series, but like I said earlier, they are much more prominent and as Jen said, it seems to be more marketing driven!

    The1stdaughter . . . Characters are HUGE for me!! If I can't relate to them or they are not believable, I have a more difficult time with the book. And, this is particularly true with a series that is based around characters!!

  15. christine . . . And, it's nice to have the options!! :)

    J. Kaye . . . I got your email and I can't wait to get it posted with all the others!!! Awesome!!

    lisa :) . . . I have heard sooooo much about The Dresden Files that I really need to check these out too!!

    carolsnotebook . . . I had no idea about you!!! Love it!! :)

    Gwen@ChewDigestBooks.com . . . Makes complete sense to me and that seems to be the same feeling from the majority too!


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