I confess.  If I know that a book is part of a series, I almost can't read it until I read the first of the series and catch up.  Moreover, if I like the series, I pretty much have to read it from start to finish.

I'm also like this with a TV series.  Thank God they're releasing them now by seasons, and they're showing them endlessly on cable.  I can go back and watch 24 from start to finish, or hop on at the series debut episode of The West Wing (as I did) and watch the entire show front to back.

Does anyone else join me in this aparently OCD habit?  If there are enough of us, it's not abnormal!

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Well, I usually start any place with a book by an unknown writer. The choice is based on the subject and a first page sampling. If the book pleases, I go and get as many of the other books as I can. If I become addicted, I buy them. But no, I don't deperately need the correct sequence. Few series really build on the protagonist's character and life experiences. Mine does, and so I do recommend reading it chronologically.
I think it depends on the series. As I.J. says, if you don't know the writer, you might start with any book---maybe the latest one. Then you could go back and start at the beginning---depending on the availability of the books. Or which ones seem the most interesting. Skipping around isn't usually a problem for me---unless there is something in the later novels of a series that refers to events in earlier ones, or even hints at "spoilers." Or if there is a certain progression of character development, which there is in I.J.'s Akitada mysteries. Elizabeth George is like that, too---the lives of her protagonists are so interwoven with the mystery plots that you want to follow them as they develop. But I've been reading George since she started publishing, and Ruth Rendell also, so I'm always in the "waiting for the next one" mode! :) No catching up necessary. ;)
I don't mind reading books out of sequence. At times it's kind of fun to realize you're reading the story where a favorite character made his first appearance.

TV shows are different. I only heard about Detroit 187 a couple of weeks ago. Instead of picking it up mid-season, I found the earlier episodes On Demand. I think because a novel can either devote a little time to backstory, or has other elements that allow it to stand alone. A TV episode has too many time constraints. If the characters are going to grow, it helps to see where they're coming from.
Hi Anne,

LOL! I've read many books that I didn't know was part of a series then I went back and read the earlier books. This is why I think it's so important for authors to write books in a series that can also stand alone. I am doing a series now and I'm writing each book with its own plot and its own conclusion. It stars my two main detectives and other recurring characters but the plots will all be different. This way people don't have to read the entire series just to understand or appreciate each book. I hope they do read the entire series, LOL, but I'm writing it where if they don't, they won't miss anything that's happened in earlier novels in the series.

But if the series is the kind that continues a plot, yes I'd have to read the books in order. I have given up on some series that were like this because I didn't have the patience. I felt the plot carried on too long through too many books and lost interest. That's why I prefer to read series with books that can stand on their own in case I don't wanna read the series.

Best Wishes!

http://www.stacy-deanne.net
Normally each book has its own mystery, but the background story of recurring characters may be carried forward. The books stand on their own unless you take a special interest in the Protagonist's story.
The books stand on their own unless you take a special interest in the Protagonist's story.

That's a very good point. And of course, most readers can piece together a story even if they don't begin with the first book. After all, when you get to know someone in real life, you don't learn everything about them right away---the past gets filled in bit by bit, until maybe you get the whole picture. :D
I prefer to start at the beginning of a series. It is compulsive! I can't explain it either. Or maybe I'll try anyway... it just feels wrong to come in the middle- you can tell, no matter how well done the book is as far as standing alone- it feels like having a conversation with two people who already know each other but you are new...

There are some exceptions. Sometimes, if there is obviously a reason the author is working out of order with a timeline (such as a bigger sub plot spanning multiple books), I like to read chronologically as the books were written instead of as they took place.

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