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Favorite Series Titles: A Booklights Reissue

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 31, 2009. Because the birth of Baby Bookworm kept me from reading many new books in 2010, it's still a fairly accurate reflection of my favorite children's and YA titles.

Favorite Series Titles (Children's and Young Adult)

I enjoyed Susan's recent post about reading by number. Judging by the comments, lots of people have a strong preference for series books. Personally, I am compulsive about reading series books in order, because I hate having any surprises spoiled. When I read adult titles, I enjoy mystery series. Even though each book might wrap up an individual puzzle, I don't like the character development to be spoiled for me, so I'll rarely read those out of order. And of course for a series like the Harry Potter books that follows a dramatic arc across all of the books, I think that it's critical to read in order. I tend to prefer the original order in which a series is published over any arbitrary changes to follow chronological order - I'm happy to take in the information in the order that the author intended.

Susan's post got me to thinking about my favorite series reads. For the sake of simplifying the discussion, I'm going to define a series as having more than three books (trilogies are a topic for another day). After mulling this over, I came up with a few simple rules for identifying a series as a favorite. I just ask myself, did I eagerly read through all of the books (either during a short time, if the series was finished when I came across it, or as the books became available, for series that were in progress)? Did I rush out to the store to get any new installments? Did I, if applicable, buy the books in hardcover, or go to the trouble to reserve them from the library? Do I ever re-read the books? If so, then this was (or is) a favorite series.

Trixie.jpgUsing this as a guideline, my favorite series as a child were:

  • The Five books by Enid Blyton
  • The Trixie Belden series by Julie Campbell/Kathryn Kenny
  • The Melendy Family books by Elizabeth Enright (see reviews of the first two books here and here)
  • The Maida books by Inez Haynes Irwin
  • The Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
  • The Anne of Green Gables books by L. M. Montgomery
  • The Borrowers books by Mary Norton
  • The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder

gregor.jpgOf more recently published series for children and young adults, I've enjoyed and eagerly read all of the books of:

  • The Gregor the Overlander series by Suzanne Collins (reviews here, here, and here)
  • The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane (review here)
  • The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The Tomorrow series by John Marsden (series review here)
  • The Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer (reviews here, here, here, here)
  • The Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan (see reviews here and here)
  • The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

I may not consider all of these books great literature, though some are. A few of the childhood favorites, in particular, haven't held up for me as an adult [along with one newer series that hasn't held up well]. But all of these books met my stated criteria above for favorite series at the time that I read them. I distinctly remember grabbing up multiple Trixie Belden books from the bookstore as a kid. I still have all of my copies of the Maida books. And I'm certain that 40 years from now, I'll still have all of my Harry Potters. Other series are on target for inclusion in future favorites lists, but don't yet have more than three books published. (The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins came to mind in 2009, for example, but ended up with only 3 titles. Clementine is on track for remaining a favorite.) See also the books in my series books featuring adventurous girls post. I'm expecting great things from Theodosia Throckmorton.

In case any of you are interested, I've posted a list of some of my favorite adult mystery series on my personal blog. I can think of several other series (for both adults and children) for which I went through three or five or ten books, but have let the last few books sit, unread. I'm not listing those here.

But that made me wonder: what is it that keeps a series from losing my interest? Obviously, I have to care about the characters. No matter how good the plotting is, no matter how interesting the setting, I'm not going to follow characters that I don't care about through more than 2 or 3 books. And the books have to keep surprising me in some way. Humor helps, too, though it's not 100% necessary. But I think that what it really boils down to is that the author has to have captured a world that I want to visit. This world can be anything from an old-fashioned house in the country to a camp for half-blood Olympians. But if it feels authentic, and feels like a place where I want to spend time, and is populated with people I care about, then I'll come back. There's a whole other discussion to be had about series books that have a dramatic arc, and are planned to end after five or seven books, vs. ongoing series that have no particular end in site. That, too, is a topic for another day.

What about you all? What are your favorite series titles? What makes you come back to a particular series time and time again?

This post was originally published at Booklights on August 31, 2009. Since Booklights has ended, I am republishing selected posts here, at Jen Robinson's Book Page, with permission from PBS Parents. Booklights was funded by the PBS Kids Raising Readers initiative. All rights reserved.

6 Books that Make Me Happy

I rarely do memes. It's hard enough to keep up with my reviews and literacy news. I've seen this one about "six things that make me happy" going around, and kind of thought, well, who besides Mheir really needs to know six things that make me happy?  But then Charlotte from Charlotte's Library changed this meme into 6 books that make me happy. And one of her six books was by the same author of what she KNEW was one of my six books. And so she rendered me incapable of resistance. Without further ado, here are six books that without fail make me happy:

Listening Valley by D. E. Stevenson. I reviewed it here, and declared it my favorite book of all time. I don't think any new book will be able to dethrone it, because I pretty much know Listening Valley by heart. I've probably read it 20 times. It's possible that Antonia has shaped who I've become, too. I will add, though, that, like Charlotte, I have other D.E. Stevenson books that also make me happy (Charlotte Fairlie, The House on the Cliff, Still Glides the Stream, and Celia's House come first to mind).

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Yes, having this one as a favorite is a bit of a cliche. But I still read it almost every year. Mrs. Bennett still annoys me every time. But I always have to keep reading, to make SURE that it turns out ok at the end. Also, if it wasn't for the book, we wouldn't have the Colin Firth miniseries, would we? Enough said.

Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer. Really, with this series, I don't so much have one favorite. Most of Heyer's regency romance novels make me happy. The combination of witty banter, fancy clothes, and happy endings works for me every time. Heyer has two types of heroine - the older, smarter woman who is considered on the shelf by her peers, and the young, innocent girl who gets into scrapes. I tend to favor the older heroines, because I enjoy their interactions with the heroes (who are generally jaded rakes about to be reformed). In Lady of Quality, Heyer has mastered this dynamic (and there's a young, innocent heroine, too, to balance things out). But I also love Venetia and Frederica and Arabella and the rest.

The Velvet Room by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Reviewed here and here. This book is home to one of my five favorite fiction rooms from children's literature, a post also inspired by Charlotte.

Maida's Little Shop by Inez Haynes Irwin. I think I have every one of the many different editions produced of this book over the past 100 years. It's one of the first books that I remember having as a favorite. I used to read it at my Grandmother's house (before eventually co-opting that copy).

The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key. Reviewed here.

There are lots of other books that I love, of course (and it particularly pained me to leave Elizabeth Enright's books off of this list). But there are the ones that make me happiest, time and time again. I'm not tagging anyone, but if any of you feel inspired to write about six books that make you happy, I'd love to hear about them.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.