Resolutions are tricky buggers, aren’t they? I tend to view them with suspicion, especially my own! Deciding on January 1st just how I’m going to change and do things better for the rest of the year seems blindly optimistic and generally unrealistic. Let’s face it: How many of us have resolved at some point to go to the gym more? Raise your hand if you went to the gym more last January. Okay, leave your hands up if you were still going as often in March. Yeah, right.
This past week for Top Ten Tuesday, the topic was all about resolutions for the new year. I only came up with 9, and all but one related to books and reading — buying habits, reading habits, and so on.
The resolution that seemed to be greeted with the most skepticism was this one:
I resolve to (attempt to) read series as a whole — all books in a row — rather than reading them as they come out and then forgetting all the details in between volumes.
A few comments basically said “I could never do that”, and a couple of real-life friends pretty much laughed in my face.
So, I thought I should take a few moments to explain my thoughts behind the resolution… which made sense to me at the time!
I have a well-documented problem with series. Well-documented in the sense that I’ve written blog posts about it. In any case — over the last several years, I’ve come to realize that I just don’t enjoy series when I have to wait a year or more in between installments. And it seems that all the “big” “buzz” books lately are parts of series, or in YA especially, trilogies.
Does everything have to be in three parts? Seems like the answer is yes, unless you’re making a movie out of it, in which case four seems to now be the norm. (I’m looking at you, Mockingjay parts 1 & 2.)
So what’s my problem, and why do I need a resolution?
Let’s look at a book example. I was late to the party when it came to The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, but finally I jumped on board last December and read the three novels then available right in a row, and then the related short stories, and then the mini-novel Fairest. Loved ’em all, and couldn’t look away. But then… it was a long, long wait for the release of the final book Winter. You can read my super enthusiastic response to my Lunar binge read, and then compare my reaction to Winter. Maybe Winter just wasn’t as good… or maybe reading it on its own, once I was no longer under the spell of my binge-read, lessened the impact it had on me.
In other cases, I’ve absolutely loved the first book in a series or trilogy — books like The Diviners by Libba Bray (review) or All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin. But as much as I loved The Diviners, after waiting for the sequel for a couple of years, I found that when Lair of Dreams actually became available, I simply wasn’t interested. I read books 1 and 2 in the Zevin Birthright trilogy, and then realized when #3 came out that I wasn’t curious about what came next… so even though I had the book in my hands, I ended up returning it to the library unread.
When it comes to enjoying trilogies and finite series, time is not my friend. The more time that goes by in between installments, the less likely I am to read the subsequent books as they’re published. Maybe it has to do with laziness — to pick up a volume 2 a year or more after reading volume 1 means that I’d have to put some time into rereading the first book or finding detailed recaps in order to reenter the world of the series. And without a reread or a revisit, I move forward in the next book only halfway engaged, not quite fitting all the pieces together and wondering whether I’ve forgotten something important. (And usually, I have.)
There’s also the sense of moving backwards. I read a book, I like it, I finish it. I put it on my shelf. And I move on. So a year later the story continues? But I’ve moved on! Unless the first book left me salivating and desperate for more, I have other things on my mind, new worlds to explore, and don’t necessarily want to go back to something I consider done.
(Don’t get me started on series/trilogies that end volumes with cliffhangers. Argh. That’s a different topic entirely, although it does add fuel to my desire not to start an incomplete story unless I know I can move straight on with the next installment.)
Sure, there are some series that are open-ended and that I read faithfully, but with those, I knew from the start that I was reading an ongoing series. I’m thinking here especially of the Dresden Files books by Jim Butcher and the Mercy Thompson books by Patricia Briggs. I love both of these worlds and their characters so very much. I’ll read them forever — please don’t ever end!
Then there are the series in progress that I’m deeply invested in — number one being Outlander, but also George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. I’m up to date on both series, with no release date for a next book for either one. That doesn’t mean that I don’t love them, but I’d be thrilled to know that the next books will be here soon. (They won’t.)
As for new books, well, there’s my dilemma and my challenge. There are books that are so hot and talked-about and NOW that it’s hard not to join in and become a part of the crazy excitement. Everyone seems to be reading The Illuminae and talking about how amazing it is! And the thing is, it sounds like something I’d love to read. But hold on — there are more volumes to come over the next couple of years. Do I jump in now and break my own rules, or wait?
I also know that I should and must read Patrick Rothfuss’s books, because they’re totally up my alley… but I’ve sworn that I’m not going to read The Name of the Wind until I know that the final book at least has a scheduled release date.
I could go on, because there are lots more, but you get my point. I point-blank refused to read Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie despite constant prodding by a couple of friends, but now that the entire trilogy has been published, I’m out of excuses!
We’ll see how this whole resolution business works out. I’m quite aware that sticking to my goal here will be very hard, because as soon as I hear about a great new book, I want to immediately grab it and devour it — and my resolution means that if the book in question is the first in a series, then it’s taboo for me… for now.
I can’t promise to be perfect, but I know I really do enjoy series more when I read them straight through. That way, I stay caught up in the mood, the characters, and the plot intricacies, and maintain a sense of engagement and excitement from start to finish. There have even been series that I thought I’d parcel out and take a breather from in between books, but ended up being incapable of reading anything else at all until I’d read all the books. My chief example here is Outlander, because once I read the first book for the very first time, I basically didn’t come up for air again until three months later, when I’d finished all of the main books in the series as well as all of the novellas and offshoots. Same for Codex Alera by Jim Butcher — six books, no stopping, no reading a single other book until I reached the final page of First Lord’s Fury.
There’s something just so immersive and satisfying about reading a series that way. We all talk about wanting to live in the world of a favorite books — well, this is the closest I’ve ever come to feeling like I’ve achieved that!
So, wish me luck with my weird little resolution! I’m really going to try to stick with it — but I promise to ‘fess up if I don’t.