Serial Bliss

Today’s post comes to us from Minnesota Steve.

There aren’t many things better than discovering a great book, a book so good you hate to turn the last pages because you never want it to end. One thing that is better is discovering that the great book you just finished is one in a series written by the same author. The pleasure you are feeling is repeatable.

One afternoon when I was about ten I discovered a book of stories by Arthur Conan Doyle in the Ames Public Library. The first of them, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” introduced me to the complicated figure of Sherlock Holmes and to the thrill of reading mysteries. When I understood there were more Holmes stories, I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

There is a lot to like about book series. You can start subsequent books in the series knowing you like that author’s style. You often go into subsequent books already knowing some of the characters and the setting. Series offer writers the chance to develop themes in depth and do a better job of telling stories. When I begin a book by a new author I don’t know if I will eventually feel the time I spent with the book will be rewarded. When you are chewing your way through a good series, that isn’t an issue.

I’ve just begun exploring a new series. Following exhortations from my daughter, I just read the first novel in Louise Penny’s beloved Three Pines series. Penny’s crime novels feature charming Canadian locales and the comforting presence of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache. Louise Penny has a warm and whimsical view of life and people. While her novels are driven by the need to explain a murder, the people who fill her books are human and mostly likable. Penny’s vision is deeply rooted in community. My daughter enjoys Penny’s humor. I was surprised to find so many “Easter eggs” in the form of unexpected observations about life and people. The series currently includes 15 books. Penny adds about a book a year. When my daughter met Louise Penny last year at a Detroit book signing event, she was not surprised to find Penny is modest, witty and gracious . . . just the sort of person who would write such appealing novels.

I’ll have more to say about good book series in the Comments section.

What book series have you enjoyed? What did you like about them?

26 thoughts on “Serial Bliss”

  1. Well, the Three Pines Series is right up there, so I’m happy to see it highlighted today, Steve. I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books as a kid, and the Chronicles of Narnia as a mom reading to a kid.

    I enjoyed several other mysteries for a while – V.I.Warshawsky, the Sue Grafton’s alphabetical series, and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum is very entertaining! I don’t feel I have to read every one of these at this point, that becomes too much to keep up with when there are so many others left to discover.

    I’ll think of others… fun topic!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I liked Grafton’s books right from the get-go. Kinsey Milhone is such a likable protagonist, spunky and clever. I enjoyed her relationship with her octogenarian landlord.

    Early in the series there was an odd moment. Kinsey needed to search the home of a suspect. When he left home, Kinsey eventually figured out she could slip through the doggy door, which was sizable. Inside the home she was confronted by a large Doberman. When Kinsey stood up the dog growled menacingly. Kinsey dropped back to her hands-and-knees stance. The dog relaxed. She ended up casing the house while scooting around the floor on all fours.

    That incident was so quirky and fun I knew I was hooked on the series!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My wife recently got hooked on Penny’s series! She loves them. I’ve read a few and they are excellent. Beautiful prose and storytelling.

    I got hooked on Sherlock Holmes at an early age too. Also was enraptured by the Horatio Hornblower series by CS Forester. I have a perverse enjoyment of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books (how many bad guys can he single-handedly kill with his bare hands THIS time? 🙂 ) But Child’s writing is so rhythmic and visceral I could read him just for that. Listening to his books is even better.

    I could probably come up with a dozen more series that have captured my attention or my heart if I put some thought into it. But, I’ve got to get to my own writing too.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stieg Larsson’s trilogy featuring Lisbeth Salander was great. Against my better judgment I read the fourth in the series, written by someone else. It just didn’t work. Salander was a fascinating literary character, but Larsson’s imitators seem unable to catch her spirit.

      I loved Tolkien’s trilogy. That will always stand out in my memory as about the most joy I ever had reading books.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Funny how the same story can hit readers differently. I didn’t care for the Dragon Tattoo book. It was very graphic which was a little off-putting but the biggest issue is that the author did the worst thing they can do to me in a mystery. He didn’t give me all the clues.

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        1. Some mystery fans love to guess the identity of the killer, but some don’t enjoy that game. I rarely bother to guess. I take pleasure in the process of turning mysteries into known facts, creating order where there was disorder. My favorite mystery author was Henning Mankell. The cop at the center of his books, Wallander, was not very likable. But Mankell was brilliant at depicting the mental challenge of resolving mysteries. The way he presented Wallander’s thinking was just brilliant. Mankell didn’t cheat by giving Wallander sudden epiphanies that seem improbable. Instead the mystery is solved with a lot of plodding and a few startling insights that are entirely credible. I’ve re-read some Mankell novels three or four times, always relishing them.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Steve, you are right. This blog is right up my alley. Not only do I love Louise Penny’s Three Pines series, but I love a good series. When I find a story that is in a series, I always backtrack so I can start at the beginning.

    Sometimes a series starts to “peter out” and if that trend continues, I also “peter out”, but a really good author gets a couple of chances. The Australian Temeraire book (by Naomi Novik) wasn’t her best, but I stuck it out and was rewarded. Cotton Malone (by Steve Berry) is teetering on the edge – loved the first few, but the last two not so much. He’ll probably get one more try. I didn’t care for the last two Harry Potters either, but slogged through them since the movies were coming out and I did kinda want to find out how she finished up. Although I will admit to going online to find spoiler alerts before reading the last two books when I realized JK Rowling wasn’t above killing off beloved characters. I still haven’t forgiven her for doing in Hedwig. There are a few other series that I have now abandoned.

    But some were great from beginning to end: Little House, Box Car Children, Sherlock Holmes, Earthsea, Dragon Prince, Thursday Next, Nursery Rhyme Crimes, Russell & Holmes, Wolf Hall and of course The Lord of the Rings.

    I’ll stop now.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mountains 9/19/19

      I just miss her so much – Noemi..
      My thoughts written out for the dingy speaks in my head
      A letter to Julie Andrews,
      War hero
      Needs sleep; rest ashore
      Please go: name all partners; friends never to keep
      Movements; just hold them near by
      Elizabeth Jane LBGTQ activist
      Spelled verse – pain travels no regret just wait
      Love matters hardly
      Water-loos name
      Memo deep spinning horror show
      Its OK alright
      World war 2 happens like a genocide
      Bright-light & breath gave way
      Solders peek pie
      A coded catastrophic letter
      I’ll bit my lips twice
      Body’s revealing scandal
      Help we all seek
      Credits echo
      Elizabeth Jane – activist
      Allies remember shes not just a dirty Jew
      Saved my life one-gone
      Dedications rage
      Look ahead & see whose at the gate
      Hates evil game take away
      Remember a single message choir beat
      I once peed,
      Languages ramble, more then kiss whom smartly
      Those hand we all
      Wait… must hear this bashing phrase
      Plays together
      Truths not attractive
      Lets touch
      Writings dirty & challenging
      dancing contact
      Pour I say
      Talents drink
      Hips swayed verity
      Stoning cleared later
      Amused tongue
      I’ll fallow
      Quite & slow, strangely what-ever.

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  5. One of the most charming storytellers ever to write was James Alfred Wight, known to legions of readers as “James Herriot.” His books were wildly popular in the 1970s, and they inspired a likable television series. I hope those books experience a revival sometime, and if they were to film a new TV series I’d sure watch it. One reason I’m so fond of that series is the Herriot books helped make my daughter the passionate reader she became.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Sometimes a group of books can “loosely” be considered a series – Kent Haruf’s Plainsong had a couple of books (Eventide and Benediction) with some of the same characters, so you found out what happened to the originals, but wouldn’t technically be called a trilogy, I don’t think. I like his writing voice well enough that I don’t mind – I’ll read anything he writes.
    [Just looked this up, and I see they are called a trilogy.]

    Liked by 1 person

  7. When I was in Canada I discovered the books by “Miss Read” a nom de plume, which were enjoyable, simple stories about a small community in England. They were undemanding stories that were very palatable for me as a stressed Grad student. There weren’t necessarily a series with a overarching plot, but there were the same characters that appeared in many of the books. I quite enjoyed them. I also liked the Prydain stories as a child, bu Lloyd Alexander.

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