Confession time: I have actually completed very few full series. As I sat down to prepare this post, I was surprised to find just how few series I have read from start to finish. I knew that in the past year or two, I’ve committed to trying several of the more popular series that I’d been hearing about all over the Internet, but I was shocked to discover that the vast majority of the books I read are standalones. To be fair, I’ve always known that I generally prefer standalones because series have always struck me as much more of a time commitment.
As I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I don’t read series that often because I have trouble figuring out how to manage them. When I read all of the books in a row, they start to blend together and get boring, but when I space them out more, I forget what happened in the previous books. I also find that a lot of series drag things out unnecessarily to fill three or more books, when the story could easily have been shortened. The middle book especially tends to be where a lot of the bulking up happens, often with endless action sequences (which don’t necessarily interest me much), or a huge emphasis on romance (which I don’t mind if it’s done well).
It was a real struggle for me to find five series that I thought got better with each book, or at the very least stayed consistently strong all the way through. I am apologizing in advance if this list is a little on the generic/predictable side. I have several series that I am still partway through that are possible candidates, but I’m hesitant to add them until I know for certain how the last book is.
Top 5 Wednesday is a meme created by Gingerreadslainey on Youtube, and is now hosted by Sam at ThoughtsOnTomes. The official GoodReads group with the weekly topics can be found here.
1) Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Of course this is the obvious choice, but I could not make this post without mentioning my favourite series of all time. This is a series that truly got better as it went on, and the first book was already easily a 5-star read, so that’s saying a lot. One of the things I love most about this series is how it grows with the reader. I was about the same age as Harry when I started reading it, so it was nice to have a character who grew up with me. I especially enjoyed how the books became darker and more mature as Harry got older as well. I find many series fall into a trap where the books become repetitive if the characters never really age. I love everything about this series — from the world-building to the character development to the snarky humour. While I’m not sure if the 7th book is my favourite, I would definitely say this series got better and better.
2) A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
I’m sure many people will disagree with me on this one, but I have to give this series credit. For something that carried on for so long (13 books!), it was quite strong. To be fair, this is one of the main series that I’ve always had trouble managing. It definitely starts to feel repetitive if you read them all in a row, but it’s also one that I don’t generally put down in the middle. Possibly because I tend to read all the books in a row, I sometimes find a few toward the middle are not quite as strong, but there are more than enough great ones to make up for it. Judging by my Goodreads ratings, even the weaker books were still very highly rated (between 4 and 5 stars on my list). The Penultimate Peril is very underrated, and while I found the last book a bit underwhelming when I first read it, it is a pretty fitting end.
3) The Pendragon Series by D.J. MacHale
This is another quite long series consisting of 10 books, and one that I have trouble managing. This series is a prime example of one I find difficult to read all in a row, but too complex at times to space out. It is an extremely underrated series about a boy named Bobby Pendragon who learns that he is a Traveller, a person with the ability to travel to various worlds to help them through a “turning point” that can either maintain them or let them fall into chaos. This is another series where the books grow up with the character. One of the things I loved most about this series, aside from the variety of interesting moral dilemmas and topics covered by the worlds, was how the author was not afraid to have his characters fail. In many other series, the main characters always come out on top. In this series, there were legitimate stakes raised as Bobby fought Saint Dane, a villain who wants to push each world into chaos as part of a larger scheme to take control of them. It kept the books fresh, since you could never be sure who would win.
4) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This was another series that almost fell victim to my tendency to avoid overhyped books. I actually read it because my mom, who rarely reads YA, loved it and highly recommended it. I devoured the entire series in a matter of days while on vacation one summer, and I loved all three of the books. This is another series that I know people may disagree with me on, since many were very frustrated with the ending. I loved this series because I thought it was a perfect blend of action with strong character development. It was incredibly well-written, and I especially enjoyed how the world was built in a way that was not too far-fetched, yet still different enough from our own. I loved how the entire concept of the Hunger Games plays off of a twisted version of reality TV, and Katniss is one of my all-time favourite characters.
5) The Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs
I think this is another potentially unpopular opinion. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the books get better and better, but they remain fairly consistent. I absolutely loved Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children when I first read it because it seemed so unique compared to other books I had read at the time. I thought the use of old photographs was very creative (not to mention creepy!), and I loved the introduction of the Peculiars in the first book. I’ll admit I rushed the series a little when I read it since it was part of my first reading challenge in 2015. I’d already read the first two books, and had a challenge prompt requiring a trilogy, so I decided to re-read the first two and then the final book to fulfill it. I think it may have been a mistake to try and read them all so quickly because I don’t feel that I fully appreciated the story as much as I could have, but I thought all three books were quite strong.