Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Chat: Numbering a Series - Why is it So Hard?

Want to know one of my biggest book pet peeves? Sure you do!  :)  Not numbering, or not listing, the order of books in a series! I just don't understand it. 

You know what series does a fantastic job of letting the reader know in what order they should read the books? The Harry Potter series.  See those bright, pretty numbers right on the top? Easy peasy! Please publishers, follow the Harry Potter series' example:

I love reading books that are in a series! I don't have anything against a stand alone book (I love those too!), but book that are in a series are so satisfying. Once I'm done with a really great book, I just can't get enough; I want more! I'm not alone in this, right??

One thing that really drives me CRAZY is when I go to the bookstore and I can't figure out the order of a series. What book is the first? In what order are they supposed to be read?? Many series are not numbered, and many don't have a list included anywhere on (or in) the books. Why not? I don't understand it!

I don't always write down what books I want to check out when I'm at the store, so I usually have no idea what order they go in. Sometimes I'll see a book on the shelves that looks amazing, only I can't figure out where I'm supposed to start.

If the books aren't numbered, then I'll check out the back and the inside pages. Some books don't have them listed there, either.

Why do publishers not put the order of the books somewhere?? Why are we just expected to know the entire order of a series? I'm not going to read the description on the back of the book to try and decipher it because I can't stand spoilers, so that's out. Is it because I'm a grown up and I'm supposed to be able to deduce it from my genius grown up problem solving skills? If I want a mystery, I'll just read a mystery book, thank you very much.

Sure, I can go up to the information desk or the checkout counter, but that is such a pain. Sometimes the lines are really long, or I can't find an employee to help me out. Really, most of the time I'm looking at tons of books while I'm there, and multiple times during my shopping trip I'll wonder what order a series is supposed to go in. Am I really going to go up and ask over and over again? No. Usually I just give up and move on to a different book or series. Not that the employees aren't helpful, but it's a such a hassle. I like to spend my "me time" by spending a couple hours at Powells Book Store, so really, this happens quite a bit. "Me time" is the time I get, usually once a week or so, that I get to spend all alone, doing what I want to do. No husband, no three year old daughter, no chores. It's heaven. :) Not that I don't love them - my daughter and husband that is. I could do without the chores.

My suggestion? Have a way that we can see the order of the series! It's really not all that hard. Add a number to the book! They could even put it on the back, or add a page in the book somewhere that lists them...whatever!

So, is it really all that big of a deal in the scheme of life? No. Would it increase the amount of awesome in the world if it were easy to see what book I need next? Yes. :)

So, does this bother you too? Am I the only one suffering from this? To me this seems like something that would automatically be done. Why isn't it?


  1. it is (in most ~ if not all ~ cases) deliberate.

    if someone is cruising around a book shop and sees the latest book on display publishers do not want them to be turned off by realising it is the third in a series or whatever. it's bad for sales.

    (at least, that is me paraphrasing what i have read online somewhere else. hope it makes sense)

    it annoys me too. though i don't usually read series, once i read a sequel first and i kept feeling like i was missing something. then when i realised there was a first book ~ i felt like a lot of that plot had been spoiled for me from reading them in the wrong order. wish it had said on the second book :/

  2. You betcha. That's a very frustrating thing. When you work in a library, you get questions all the time about "what book is next." It can drive you crazy -- and could be solved so simply. I know you don't always have access to the internet, but if you don't know about, you should check it out. It's been a lifesaver for me.

  3. This drives me absolutely insane as well. I hate it when an author's website doesn't tell us. Even if you don't HAVE to read them in order, at least give the order to the people who want to.

    My suggestion. Goodreads. This is what I always look at for series order. Since it's user-controlled, it is ever-changing and most series' even include what novellas/anthologies take place in the series world and in what order. So when you go to a book's page (for example:, then click on the series name next to the book title ("Dark-Hunter #1" for this page). That will take you to the series page with a list of the order (! Take that authors/publishers who don't post their series order! :)

    ~ Sarah ♥ I'm Loving Books

  4. There are also books with weird numbering systems. MAXIMUM RIDE, wth? Why do you go PROTECTORS 1, 2, 3 and then FUGITIVES 1, 2, 3, 4 (and I'm guessing next year's book will be 5) [I may have PROTECTORS and FUGITIVES in wrong order) when your series goes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8? Seriously? At work, I'm forever having to explain that they're not two different series.

    THE 39 CLUES is about to do the same freaking thing. They published ten books, then decided to continue. Book 11 is more of a special edition, but it's still numbered. The next book, coming out this August, will be Book 1 in a new 6-book series...but it takes place after 11. Just call it 12, people!!!

  5. As a mom who was desperately trying to figure out the sequencing of The Lion, Witch and Wardrobe series I totally hear you on that one!

    As an author writing a series of books it slipped my mind until I read this post because it's almost like asking me to number my children. Of course, I know which one came first...doesn't everyone else? Note to self...remember to label series with numbers.

  6. Sarah-Yeah, I'm on Goodreads and all, but I don't have access to the internet when I'm out and shopping. :/ I don't have a smart phone or anything to look up the order. (I do freaking LOVE Goodreads though). I have my kindle, and while that can connect to the internet, it's slow so I don't even bother.

    Nomes- I can see how they'd do that deliberately to get you to pick up a series, but I think that's just wrong. Why trick your readers? You can just list them on the inside of the book if that's the tactic you want to use. Not that this is directed at you. LOL.

    I know that not everyone reads as much as most of us do, but still. If I want to read a book, I start at the beginning of the series. It's so much more enriching that way! I get attached to the characters and have a much better connection to them.

    Annette- that would drive me nuts. I wouldn't mind helping people out, but to have to answer that question all the time when it could be solved so simply would be annoying.

    A Backwards Story- That's just crazy! I guess you have to be a big fan of that series to understand it. Ugh!

    Powells actually does have little tags by some of the series that lists the order - like the Sookie Stackhouse Series. They probably got tired of answering that question a million times! They don't have littel tags for every series, though. There are far too many for that!

    I've never had an employee get frustrated at me for asking or anything. I'm the one who gets frustrated trying over and over again to figure out what book to start with.

    Barnes and Nobles actually has a table set up right now with "first in the series" books. I think that's genius.

  7. Johanna- You must have been replying as I was typing up my replies.! Yeah, I can see forgetting that when you spend so much time with your books! :)

    I just started your book today, by the way! :)

  8. I totally agree! I'm looking at you City of Ashes/Bones/Glass.

  9. LOL! I didn't even think of that one Lisa! Yep, I had to look those ones up before buying them because I didn't know which one was first either.

  10. I completely agree with you! I prefer a list inside the book rather than numbers on the cover, but still it's nice to have an easy way to find out the order. Although, I also hate it when they put the list in reverse order in the book (most recently published first). At least it's in there, but it throws me off a bit. I usually forget to grab a basket on my way in to hold my books, so I'm always walking around with a stack of books in my arms. I look up the order on my phone when it's not listed, but that means trying to juggle my stack or setting it down somewhere. When I set it down, the booksellers usually give me that "You're not leaving those there, are you?" kind of look. It's easier than asking about each series, but still frustrating all around.

    -Cassandra @ Wickedly Delicious Tales

  11. I end up having to put my books down too! I don't know why I never seem to grab a hand basket. LOL

    Yeah, sometimes they only have part of the series in there too, which is ok if it's one of the first ones in the series, but sometimes they only have certain ones in there and it's so confusing. If it's not easy, I give up and walk away. Sometimes I'll write down the book and look it up when I get home, but not usually.

    I guess i don't care how they do it, as long as it's easy. :)

  12. I hate this too!! A couple of times I've actually started a series with book 2 or 3 and I'm like "Okay, did I miss something?" I agree with you. Everyone should take a page out of the Rowling playbook, and post the numbers somewhere at least. I really help people *points to self* who have trouble figuring out that kind of thing :)
    Following you now,
    Ninja Girl

  13. Hi Ninja Girl!

    I picked up a mystery book and had no idea it was the second book. :/ I just didn't even bother reading it.

    thanks for following! :)

  14. I agree! I love it when series put the correct order in the book and/or the number of the books. But I do understand why some won't choose to put the list number, so if you grab say book 3 and read it you will than go back to 1 and 2 buying and reading the rest of the series.

    This is THE GREATEST website to list book orders

    A very comprehensive list of book series, order, pub dates, etc... Gena Showalter for example can be kinda confusing

    so now if I ever am not sure I pull out my handy phone and look it up online (I'm really liking being able to do that)

  15. Thanks for the link Kristina! Annette mentioned it also. I'll definitely be using it in the future.

    I don't have a phone or device that I can pull out and look up the order of the series while I'm at the store. I just can't afford one or the plan (I am a stay at home mom right now). Maybe I can convince my husband that an iphone is a necessity for being an avid reader? :) LOL.

  16. It is a fantastic site, the best!!

    any droid phone will do, you don't need a iphone. I'm lucky that my husband works at Microsoft so he is able to get the discount on phones and plans.

  17. Yeah, I don't even have a droid phone. My phone is pretty basic. I can text and call people. That's it. LOL. We can't afford to add internet to our phones. Well, we probably could, but then I wouldn't be able to buy books! Books are much more important.

  18. Good afternoon!
    I found your blog while looking for a picture of the Harry Potter series to put on my own blog...funny.

    I completely agree with the numbering idea. It should be very obvious. I'm currently writing a trilogy with names that are similar, but in order to keep people from not finding the books or reading them in the wrong order, I have thought up a series name for them so that they can be in order.

    The problem with numbering is when things happen out of order. The Chronicles of Narnia was mentioned. Do you read in the order they were written, or the order in which they happen? Authors don't always write things in order, and even when they do, things aren't always published in order. I wouldn't ever recommend someone reading the Simarillion before reading The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings.

    As for the series who decided to start numbering over again, I am totally for that, and agree with the marketers. Two or three trilogies are easier for someone to swallow than a series of nine to twelve books, especially if most have already been published. It's like the Star Wars trilogies. Sure, all six have to do with one super long story, but they are two complete trilogies, and even though the original gives some "spoilers" to the new trilogy, I'd still start at #4.

    The longest series I've read was a 10-parter, but I started reading when there were two books. I had no idea there would be ten, and since it was the first lengthy series I ever got into, I don't know if I would have started reading book #1 if I saw all #10 sitting there. I generally like to finish a story-arc completely, even if I don't like the first book, because I want to see how the story ends.

    Unless I could barely get through the first book, like the Wheel of Time or Eragon books. Those series I will never finish.

  19. An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a co-worker who has been doing a little homework on this. And he in fact bought me dinner because I found it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this topic here on your web site.
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