I don’t think I’ve ever really had this classic discussion on my blog before. Maybe I’ve referenced it somewhere else, but nothing dedicated. So here we go – do you (or I) prefer reading books in a series or standalone books? I’m going to include companion novels in the “series” category here, FYI.
I was curious to see how my reading has broken down over the past few years, between series and standalones. I only started tracking my reading extensively in 2015, so I do have some series/standalone-related stats from both 2015 and 2016. Before that… I think I’d have to say I read mostly series? This is mostly because I was obsessed with super-long series about rich people or teens solving murder mysteries. Think: Gossip Girl, Private, Pretty Little Liars, The A-List… All of those had SO many books, so I can only imagine what the breakdown was back then. I don’t even know which standalones I liked at that point in my life.
Books in a series: 89
Books in a series: 87
Apparently my numbers are almost even. I read approximately 50% series and 50% standalones, give or take a percentage or two. I read more series than standalones in 2016 but read more standalones than series in 2015. I’m not sure if this has to do with my genre breakdown? But I feel like I read more duologies – which are counted as a series here – in 2016. I know that 2015 was also even more contemporary-oriented than 2016 was, so many of those books were standalones instead. That could have something to do with it. Either way, you can pretty much tell that my reading is consistently even between the two types.
Pros & Cons of Series
- You get to keep enjoying the world for as long as possible. This is great if you love the characters, the setting, and the world-building. This sounds like it’s only fantasy books, but I love companion books for contemporary romance too. I love getting to know side characters and then exploring the friend group further in individual stories.
- The world can also get expanded as the series rolls on. I love books where the map expands with each story! It’s so cool to think there’s even more out there to explore. I recently finished the Snow Like Ashes series and felt like the second book totally opened the world because they traveled to other lands. I like when there’s still so much more to learn throughout the rest of the series (and it doesn’t feel repetitive).
- Binge reads are fun if you can do them. I like having all of the books in a series out so I can just read them alllll in a row. Or at the very least, you can read them close together and not have to deal with cliffhangers and open endings. I’ve done quite a few audio binge reads, but haven’t done as many regular series reads since I was younger. It’s something I’m aiming to do more of this year!
- Sometimes they just feel like they’re never going to end. I haven’t read many long series (most are trilogies or have four books), but I know the feeling when I read Pretty Little Liars. Sometimes authors don’t know when enough is enough, and us readers keep buying!
- The wait between books is PAINFUL if they’re not all already published. This is especially true for book bloggers who read an early ARC of a series-starter and then have to wait more than a year (instead of the regular year) for the next installment.
- Cliffhangers are only fun if you have the next book on deck. I love them if that’s the case, honestly. Otherwise? It’s a pain and so frustrating! How can you leave me literally hanging like that?? Like I said before, waiting between books is hard enough… but cliffhangers and lots of bombshells at the very end of the book can make it even worse.
- “Surprise, it’s a series!” can be a total game-changer. I’ve seen so many bloggers reading a book on Goodreads, getting to the end, and then being like “ugh holy shit this is a series.” Or the author announces more books once its published and successful. Again, this can be great if you love it all and want to keep exploring! But it can also be annoying to set your expectations one way and then get something different.
Pros & Cons of Standalones
- No cliffhangers or waiting. Like I said above, it can be really hard to sit around and wait for the next book in a series! The ending left you hanging, you’re dying to know what happens next, and you have to wait a year for the following book. The best thing about standalones is that when the book is over, it’s OVER.
- If you didn’t like the book much, you don’t have to read the rest of the series. I have totally read a series-starter and thought it was MEH… then determined I wanted to keep reading just to satisfy my curiosity. Maybe the book got better toward the end and you want to see if that continues in the next book(s), or maybe the cliffhanger was there to make you just curious enough to keep going. Standalones? If you were feeling whatever about the book, there’s no pressure to push on because there are no more books to push on to!
- There’s nothing to keep track of (or lose track of). I am constantly yelling at myself for not finishing series. I read one book and then push off the rest for really no good reason. Sometimes I blatantly forget and sometimes other commitments come up. The whole OMG-Lauren-finsh-the-series thing caused me to sign up for a series ender challenge this year, so I hope it helps. Standalones are nice because you don’t have to worry about that… ever. You read the book and wipe your hands of it.
- You’re left wondering what comes next for the characters. I think a HEA is my favorite aspect of contemporary romance, but there are always questions about the characteres and what they do next! I sometimes wish I could just catch a glimpse of them years later. (They better still be happy!) Leaving a world (fantasy or otherwise) can be really hard and sad if you felt connected to the story.
- Some genres don’t have as many standalone options. It is a constant gripe by many of us that there are SO few fantasy standalones. I know that this comes down to world-building and wanting to flesh out magical systems, but sometimes I wish I could just read a quick fantasy book and move on. The long series can be hard to keep up with and I just have one fantasy itch to scratch!
I’ts pretty obvious that I love both types of book. I think I PREFER standalones just because I don’t have to worry about keeping up with a series or leaving it unfinished. I like knowing there are more books out there, but it can be hard to follow through on finishing them. This is especially true if the books are all published already and there’s no major deadline on reading the next ones. I just… forget about them. I feel like my reading will always be split 50/50 though because I genuinely enjoy reading both, depending on the experience and the world that’s created. I think that my statistics and breakdowns accurately reflect the desire to enjoy both types of books too. How about you? Do you prefer one over the other? Do your stats reflect that?