Harry Potter and The Hunger Games notwithstanding, you won't often catch me reading a series.
There's a reason for that. I remember waiting eons for the new Harry Potter books to be released, only to forget those minor details that reappear in major ways by the time the new book was out. I remember reading the new books within a week of their release and having intense book hangovers when they were over. I remember the pangs of longing for longer books and a shorter wait time between releases.
Not wanting to suffer through all that again, I started making arbitrary rules to follow when it came to book series. I gave myself mandates like, "Thou shalt not start a series until all books in that series have been released" and "Thou shalt not start a series until thou wants to read all the books in that series in a row, with no other books interrupting the flow of thine reading." Just thinking about it made my head spin.
I totally realize how silly that is now. But there was also the time commitment aspect. With so many great books out there to read, did I really want to devote 3+ books to the same set of characters?
Then I found The Magicians by Lev Grossman.
I've got no qualms about reading the first book in a series, then dropping it like it's hot. I was craving a fantasy of some sort and I'd heard such good things, so I picked up the book. Then I couldn't put it down. Then I had a major book hangover when I finished it. Next thing I know I'm searching the library catalog for the second book in the trilogy. Before I even realized it, I was capital-O OBSESSED.
Those creeping doubts of "Do you really want to read this when there are so many other shiny new books out there?" came, but I was finally ready to squash them. Thus, I read the second book, The Magician King, and am now on the hunt for the last book, The Magician's Land.
Without any conscious effort, I've totally fallen in love with this series. And I've learned a few things along the way.
It's only a time commitment if you're not really enjoying the book.
I used to avoid starting series because of the time commitment involved with following the adventures of the same bunch of characters. But reading The Magicians showed me that a series (or any book for that matter) only feels like a time commitment if you're not really enjoying the book. Otherwise, it just feels like time well spent reading.
Knowing what you're going to read next is comforting.
Maybe I'm a weirdo, but deciding what to read next takes up a lot of space in my brain. I'm constantly arranging and rearranging myself to reflect the order of the next 8 or so books I plan to read, only to switch the order around when it actually comes time to choose a book.
I have to consider my interests at the moment, the mood I anticipate myself being in for a week, whether I'm feeling a short feel-good book or a doorstopper of a book... And if I'm particularly busy, choosing what book to read next can be mildly stressful. But if you're in the midst of a series, you already know what you're going to read next, so... problem solved!
Too much of a good thing can be a really good thing.
If you love the characters, then the author continuing the series is like a gift that keeps on giving. (Assuming the author doesn't run the series into the ground, but that's a whole 'nother post.) Many books end with the characters intact---not dead, just with that adventure ended. And if you really loved the book, wouldn't you want to hang around that character a little longer and see what other adventures await them? I can think of several books I'd love a followup to. (PLEASE DEAR GOD LET THERE BE A SEQUEL TO THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE. Please and thank ya!)
Series are such a great way to keep the good stuff a-coming. It actually makes me think of a country song: "Too much fun. What's that mean? It's like too much money---ain't no such thing. Like a girl too pretty with too much class, being too lucky, a car too fast." As long as the author continues to produce good work, keep the books in the series coming.
Ultimately, the only way to fall in love with a series is to not be afraid of starting one.
It sounds so simple, but it's true. Being intimidated by the amount of time it would take to read the series, or having to wait on a book in the series to be released, or whatever reasons your brain thinks of only keeps you from trying out the series. And, who knows, you might like it!
I plan to be more open about starting series in the future, so join me. What series do you want to start? Or if you're already a series addict, tell me your favorites so I can check them out!
(On a somewhat related note, The Magicians has been made into a TV show by the Syfy channel and the first episode is airing January 25th. So if you're into urban fantasy or have been craving a grownup Harry Potter-esque story, this could be your new favorite show.)