How important is series order?
So, I have these two aunts. They’re alike in a lot of ways, but one of their quirkiest differences stands out every Thanksgiving. Aunt #1 separates all of the foods on her plate so that none of them are touching. Aunt #2 swirls all of her food together until everything is mixed in one giant heap. If you believe in astrology, I should note that Aunt #1 is obviously a Virgo and Aunt #2 is clearly a Pisces. Polar opposites. My own philosophy on this matter is that certain foods go better together than others. I’m not opposed to crossing dishes now and then, if the situation warrants it. Who doesn’t like a little salty and sweet?
What I’m getting at here is that some people prioritize order more than others. When it comes to audiobook listening, I’m more like Aunt #1. There has to be an order and that order should be respected. This is my listening preference based on my own experiences. I insist on hearing a series in order.
Now, there have been times when I’ve accidentally picked up Volume II before Volume I and not even realized it until it was pointed out to me. Ironically enough, I actually started two of my favorite series that way. In sixth grade, a wee Audiobookworm somehow managed to fall in love with the Harry Potter series via The Prisoner of Azkaban (Book #3!). More recently, I got about halfway through Jenny Han’s P.S. I Still Love You before realizing it was the second installment in the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series. In both cases, I immediately backtracked and started each series from the beginning.
I don’t care if the author swears up and down that a series can be heard independently. I’ve been burned by that logic before. I also find it impossible to recommend that a series be heard out-of-order, even if I’ve already finished the entire series. Once you understand something (i.e. the nuances of a plot), it’s difficult to see it from the perspective of someone else. That’s another I hesitate to believe every author’s claim regarding their own series order.
Side Note: I actually lost a friend over this in sixth grade. As you know, I started the Harry Potter series with the third book and subsequently backtracked with books one and two. Once I did that, everything made sense. I naïvely recommended the series to a friend in that order (3, then 1 & 2). My misguided order recommendation backfired for my friend, causing her to get a less-than-stellar grade on a book report…
In my experience, it’s a rare book that can be heard independently of its series. I believe stories are meant to be experienced in the order they were written. By the way, chronological order versus order of publication is a topic worthy of its own post. I do acknowledge, however, that some installments are more dependent than others. A “bridge” book, for example, is exactly that: A bridge between two installments in a series. The Harry Potter series is a great example of a “pyramid” series. Each new installment builds upon its predecessor. That’s not to say that there aren’t smaller story arcs that are resolved within each book, though. On that note, I have no idea how 12-year-old me managed to get all the way through Prisoner of Azkaban without having read the first two books in the series. Just what were you thinking, lil’ Jess?
Series order and order, in general, has become much more important to me as I’ve matured. It’s to the point now that I won’t even touch a mid-series book without having heard its prior installments. It’s a major pet peeve. Almost everyone I’ve spoken with about the matter feels similarly. From a promotional perspective, I’ve found that it’s much more difficult to promote a mid-series book alone. Still, the subject of series order is highly subjective. There are those of you who have no trouble whatsoever picking up a mid-series book and running with it. I don’t understand it, but I respect it.
How often do you read series out-of-order? Do you have strong feelings (one way or the other)? What series have you successfully/unsuccessfully read out-of-order?
Bonus: How do you feel about foods touching on your plate?
I can’t wait to see these responses!