Do You Read Series Out Of Order?

May 28, 2016 Discussions 18

I get a lot of cozy mysteries for review every month. And 95% of them are not the first in a series. Which actually works out fine, as I’ve noticed that in that genre you don’t need to have read any other book in the series and can start from wherever. (Which is a huge plus when I get sent book #9, or #22!)

But I also get fantasy and occasionally sci-fi books. Sometimes I request them from NetGalley because the synopsis makes me want to read it immediately. And then I find out as I’m reading it, that it isn’t a first book or standalone. Sometimes it works out, sometimes not.

I’ve found if it’s a 2nd book, then I can usually read it without many issues even if I haven’t read the first book. Once I ended up with book #4 and it turned out to be the last in the series. But I didn’t realize this until I was 30-40% of the way into the book. The author did an awesome job of explaining what was going on, so I didn’t need to have read the earlier books. (But it was SO good I now have the first three on my “to buy or borrow” list.)

Since this used to happen to me pretty frequently, I now try and check the book out on GoodReads before I request it, buy it, or borrow it from the library. But I still sometimes find out after it’s in my hands that it had other books I should have read first. (Just finished a library book and found out it’s the first in a series, but GoodReads does not list that it is a series at ALL… so I lucked out by grabbing the first one and not the 2nd one!)

I think I’ve been fairly lucky so far, in being able to pick up what was going on. But it made me wonder if anyone else read books out of order. Or if, once you realize that it had prior books, if you stop reading the book until you’ve gotten the first one(s)?


So what do you guys do? Do you read the book and then go back for the others if you liked that one? Do you try and get the previous book(s) from the library before reading/finishing the review book? Or do you just skip reading the book since it’s a series and you don’t think you’d understand what’s going on?

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18 Responses to “Do You Read Series Out Of Order?”

    • SilvaraWilde

      I very much prefer not to read out of order. And if I know the book is part of a series and I haven’t read the others yet, then I won’t start reading it until I’ve read the previous books.

      But I’ve noticed that NetGalley doesn’t really tell you that the book on offer is part of a series. Occasionally it will be listed as part of x-series, but 99% of the time I have no idea unless I’ve checked the book out on GoodReads first. (And GoodReads doesn’t always list the series either, though that’s rarer for me to stumble on.)

        • SilvaraWilde

          I remember back when the page numbers didn’t bother me at all. Now that I blog, I try not to read anything above 600 pages, unless it’s a series or author I love and know I’ll breeze through it. I just don’t have the time to spend on one book that size anymore. Which is sad because there are a few series that people keep telling me to read, where each book is 800-1200 pages.

  1. ashley

    I’ve done it once or twice, but it didn’t stop me from finishing the story. The first ones I did it with were Once a witch and always a witch. I read Always a witch first because I had requested it from netgalley I believe and didn’t realize it was the second, but it turned out fine, and I went ahead and bought the first book.
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    • SilvaraWilde

      I usually find out too late to bother stopping. *laughs* Like, I’ll suddenly realize 1/3 – 1/2 way in that the characters keep referencing something that didn’t happen in the book I’m currently reading. Or there will suddenly be a bad guy pop into the story who seems to know the characters a little too well. And then I’ll go look up the book and find that it’s book 2 or 3 or 4. And at that point I’ve already read so many pages I just finish the book if it’s not too confusing, and add the previous books to my ‘to borrow’ list.

    • SilvaraWilde

      *laughs* I’m not that bad, but I totally would prefer to read a series in order! It’s just that a lot of the times, a book isn’t listed as being in a series. So I’ll read the blurb on NetGalley, or on a giveaway page, think it sounds awesome, and request it. Then when I start reading it, I’ll suddenly realize that the characters know each other too well for a standalone.

      Or maybe they keep talking about something that happened, but didn’t happen in the book I’m reading. So I’ll go look it up and realize… it’s book 2, or 3 or 4! And of course by that time, I’ve already read a hundred pages or more. So it’s kinda late to stop and pick up the earlier books. Unless the book was making no sense whatsoever, then I’ll borrow the earlier books from the library and read them, then go back to that book.

    • SilvaraWilde

      I try not to read out of order. But a lot of places I learn about the books don’t list that it’s a series! (NetGalley, I’m looking at you…) So I’ll grab a book that sounds good, start reading it, and suddenly realize that it sounds like there were events that happened before the book I’m reading. Then I’ll go look it up and find out that there were books before it! Trying to get better about looking up books before I request or buy them, but I still sometimes slip up. *laughs*

  2. Mara @ Mara Was Here

    Ooh I didn’t think this actually happens to other people too! I’ve only read two series where I started with the later books than the first ones. The first series was The Twilight Saga, where I started with Eclipse, then New Moon, then Twilight, then Breaking Dawn (I was, like, around 10 or 9 back then I think so I don’t even know why younger self read the series in that order xD.)

    The other one was the Percy Jackson series, where I bought and read the last book first just because it had a cheap price at a mini bookstore I found. (Hey, it was cheap!)

    I didn’t really have a hard time coping with those books even though I didn’t read it chronologically. I guess the one problem it might give a reader is being spoiled about the previous books (like who dies, or what happened, etc.) but I don’t really mind spoilers so that isn’t a problem for me.

    I also think it’s awesome how I can understand those books and didn’t have a hard time coping with them even though I didn’t start with the first. Props to the authors who can smoothly bring the readers up to speed with what happened in the previous books in their series!

    Great post!
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    • SilvaraWilde

      I don’t like spoilers most of the time. Every once in a while I have to know if such-and-such a character lives, because I love them. *grins* But 99% of the time I don’t like to know until it happens.

      So purposely reading a series out of order isn’t something I’m ever likely to do. Though I have bought books later in a series because they were on sale. I don’t tend to read them until I’ve read the earlier books though.

    • SilvaraWilde

      I would so prefer to read in order! But I’ve gotten less strict about it with cozy mysteries, since you don’t have to have been reading them since book 1 in order to know what’s going on. And of course, since I get sent so many of them for review every month, if I didn’t read any until I had caught up with the series, I would never actually get them reviewed! *laughs*

      But for some reason the fantasy and sci-fi books have this sneaky habit of tripping me up. I think I’m getting first in a series, or a standalone, and then partway through reading I’ll realize that “hey! this is book 2!” or book 4, or some such. *shakes her head*

  3. Holly

    I prefer NOT to read series books out of order. They make more sense when read in order, so they should have to have series name and number on the cover somewhere.

    However, I did read some series books out of order, when I was much younger. I definitely did that with some of the *Sweet Valley High* books – There were almost 200 of these including all the side books. Luckily, most of them did not have stories you had to read the 2 before to understand.

    I also did this with the *Sweet Dreams* romance series, which is fine, given that they were usually “standalone” romances (with very few exceptions).

    If I had bought a series book out of a new-ish series that wasn’t #1, I would probably check the library to see if they had #1 – physical or digital – and get it there.

    • SilvaraWilde

      I remember Sweet Valley! I had the first 100 or so of the Sweet Valley High books as a teenager. Not including any of the “Super Specials” or other side books. I had a bunch of those as well. *laughs* I still have a bunch of them around here somewhere… I had to read them all in order, though after I had read them, reading them out of order to re-read my favorites didn’t bother me.

      I try and library any early books in a series if I manage to pick up one that had books before it. My main issue is that I don’t always realize the book isn’t a first book, or standalone until I’m partway through the book! By that point, if it’s not confusing, I’ll finish and review. If it IS confusing, it gets set aside until I can read the earlier book(s). Just wish there was an easier way of finding out it’s a series book, without having to dig through GoodReads and Google.

      • Holly

        I agree. They definitely should have to put series name and number on all series books.

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