Late last year, I decided that 2010 was going to be the year that I finally started and/or got caught up with a number of series that had been sitting on Mount TBR for quite a while. I chose:
- Ian Rankin's John Rebus series
- Joe Lansdale's Hap & Leonard series
- David Rosenfelt's Andy Carpenter series
- John Baker's Sam Turner series
- Steve Hamilton's Alex McKnight series
- Ray Banks' Cal Innes series
Almost 6 months in, I've made some progress. I've read 7 Rebus novels, 4 Hap & Leonard novels, 2 Andy Carpenter books, 4 Sam Turner novels, 4 Alex McKnight books, and 3 Cal Innes novels. Interspersed among them were other books, mostly the latest in favourite series, debut novels and a few stand alones. I've come to the realisation that I have a bit of a preference for books that are part of a series.
What really prompted my realisation was finishing Stuart MacBride's Blind Eye. It's the fifth book in the Logan McRae series, and while the crime aspect didn't quite suck me in totally, the characters that I've met and enjoyed in the 4 earlier books certainly did. (I've already ordered and received the latest in that series, and will be reading it next month.) The author has a knack for creating vivid and compelling characters that I want to read about, regardless of the story going on around them. The humour is also consistent across the books. With a series read, you know already what you're going to get, at least in part.
When I think about my favourite series of all times, it's the characters that pop into my head first, not the storylines. Lucas Davenport, Inspector Banks, Elvis Cole, Jack Taylor, Detective Erlendur and others...I can think of details about them and their lives easier than I can recall details of the various plots. (Maybe it's just me?)
On the flip side, one of my favourite authors is Duane Swierczynski, and his novels aren't part of a series. One of the reasons I enjoy his books so much (other than the writing style) is that I never know what to expect. The story usually goes off in directions that I never saw coming. Simon Kernick is another author I enjoy who writes stand alone novels that I enjoy for pretty much the same reason.
So...series or stand alones? Books in a series are good, comfortable (don't mistake that for boring) and make me smile. Reading them is like being home, surrounded by familiar faces. Stand alones (that I read) are like great "throw the map out the window and drive!" road trips that are twisty and the journey is the destination.
Preference notwithstanding, I'm certainly happy that there is huge choice out there in published books for all types of readers.