You can’t beat a good series. It may be on TV, on radio even. (People on the production team for The Archers clearly knows something, even if it’s not my personal tipple.)
So it is with books. And not just with books for adults – kids need their series too. All that youth, all that free time – it’s the perfect opportunity for series guzzling.
We may all have one book in us (or so we’re told), but what publishers would like is that we have a series, really.
Because a series allows us to do many things: create characters that we want more of. Introduce new ones. Have them interact. And so on.
Some books, you feel, have to be stand alone. 1984 is one that springs to mind.
We could spend time learning more about the world(s) that Big Brother controls, but the character arc for Winston Smith is complete. (A small amount of time on Wikipedia shows me, however, that others don’t necessarily think the same way.)
There are plenty of Great Books that would no doubt come into that category. But there are others that seem to become series in their own way – or, you could argue, are a long story that needs several books to tell them.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy would be one here – and, clearly, Tolkein felt there was much more to tell about Middle-Earth, or he wouldn’t have come up with the various other books that expand our awareness of that world.
Kids need their series too. They have a character they like, and they want him or her to keep having adventures. There may not be so much character development, or concern for origin stories, but that does not mean the demand is limited. Far from it.
Enid Blyton clearly knew this, or we wouldn’t have the various sets of books she created. You may say many different things about Blyton (and many have), but she clearly understood the junior reader’s demand for more.
Some of the series have endings written into them: the boarding school worlds of Mallory Towers and St Clare’s, for example. (Though that hasn’t stopped others writing extra books into the timeline for St Clare’s, for example.)
But others can seemingly go on for ever. Famous Five, Secret Seven, and more. Some are harder to spot as series (The …of Adventure ones), others have an ever-changing setup as part of their premise (The Faraway Tree series), and all allow you to create more and more.
Series allow you loyalty to a character – and enable you to contemplate loyalty to others in turn. You see their strengths and weaknesses (maybe not so strongly in children’s fiction), but you still trust them. You still want to be with them – or, often, just Be Them.
My holiday book buying lends itself to series. In a given year, you invest in your characters; you spend time with them. You could equally read completely unrelated books, and that would be fine, but there is a certain something of following the groove, repeating your steps and yet dancing them anew.
Another time, I’ll look at a bit more of what I see in children’s book series – what takes them beyond a single story, and into a larger narrative.
But for now, I am lost in happy pondering of which series I might pick to look at. It turns out you really can’t have enough of a good thing.