I recently shared my top ten fiction books of all time. Some of my favourite books, however, are part of a series.
A great series is the greatest.
It’s effectively one very long book in lots of lovely instalments, each of which you can finish in the happy knowledge that there is plenty more to come.
Below, I have listed five of my favourite fiction series. I would love to hear your recommendations too, so feel free to leave a comment and contribute to our collective book reading intelligence!
1. The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo/The Girl who Played with Fire/The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – Stieg Larsson
I loved reading the Millenium Series by Swedish author Stieg Larsson and I read all three of them in quick succession.
Lisbeth Salander is a fascinating, complex character and I read with great interest about her developing relationship with the investigative journalist Michel Blomkvist, her family history and brilliant mind.
Each book builds on the last and is a roller-coaster ride. The first book, “The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo”, while it introduces the characters, is quite different to the two that follow. The last book in particular was an absolute ripper and finished the series emphatically. When I saw it at the cinema, at the end of the movie I nearly did a fist pump in the air!
The books might not be to everyone’s taste as there are plenty of disturbing and sadistic people and traumatic events. When I saw the movies I was surprised at how graphic and disturbing they were even though I had read the books first.
If you are interested in the film adaptations, I thought both the American (first book only) and Swedish movie versions of the The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo series were excellent.
2. The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency
Delightful. Insightful. Gentle. Humorous. These are the words that spring to mind when I think of Alexander McCall Smith’s No.1 Ladies Detective Agency.
The main character in the series is the smart and “traditionally built” Precious Ramotswe who decides to start a new career in her hometown of Gabarone, Botswana. She is joined by her sidekick/administrative assistant, Grace Makustsi and her lovely long term suitor, the mechanic and formally titled Mr J. L. B. Matekoni.
These books are easy to read, relatively short and have great titles including “Morality for Beautiful Girls” and “The Kalahari Typing School for Men”.
I found them to be deceptively simple but great truths and gentle observations of the human condition are often revealed. The characters are ever so endearing and their relationships and conversations are, at times, very amusing and heart warming.
I have read the first 7 of the 14 books in this series and look forward to reading more.
3. The Outlander Series – Diana Gabaldon
My friend Mandy insisted I read the first book, Cross Stitch in The Outlander Series. I initially let the book collect dust on my bedside table for nearly a year and, after a couple of false starts, I made the commitment, read four chapters in one sitting and then I was hooked.
The story centres around Claire Randall, a young married nurse who, at the end of World War Two, accidentally travels back in time to the Scottish Highlands circa 1745 in which she meets the very OMGness Jamie Fraser. It sounds a little far fetched, but trust me, once you are in, you will love it.
There are seven published novels in this series with an eighth to be published next year. I am currently nearly at the end of book #4, “Drums of Autumn”. The first and third were excellent but the second was slow going until the very end. They are all epics, in the 700 – 900 page range but you won’t want them to end.
Also, just FYI, the first book in this series is known as both “Cross Stitch” and “The Outlander”.
If you can’t get enough, there is also the Lord John Grey series which is a parallel series with overlapping characters, including Jamie Fraser.
4. Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
In terms of appeal across the generations, it is hard to go past J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. I have read them all and seen all the movies, bar the very final movie instalment.
In terms of the books, I enjoyed them all but I think they really became compelling from “Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban” (book 3) and probably peaked at “Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince” (book 6).
I loved Harry’s friendships with amiable Ron and the fiesty Hermione and all the wonderful characters at Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft. There are so many plot twists and turns, you almost need a white board to keep track!
I am looking forward to re-reading them with our kids when they are a bit older.
5. The Tea Rose/The Winter Rose/ The Wild Rose – Jennifer Donnelly
If you enjoy historical fiction, I think you will enjoy The Tea Rose series.
The “Tea Rose” begins in London in 1888 and travels across continents, following the trials and tribulations of Fiona Finnegan, an impoverished tea factory worker and her beau Joe Bristow. The brutal reality of life in the English slums is detailed and the conditions in which people live and the choices they are forced to make are confronting.
The second instalment, “The Winter Rose”, begins in 1900 and follows a different protagonist, the young doctor India Selwyn-Jones. The book begins as she works in unbearable conditions in London’s Whitechapel providing medical care to the poor. There is plenty of political skull duggery, treachery and class politics at work in this novel. Fiona and Joe from “The Tea Rose” play minor characters in the unfolding story.
The final instalment, “The Wild Rose” begins in 1914 and focuses on three characters and concludes this multi generational tale. The political issues of the day include the fight for the right of women to vote and the First World War.
I really enjoyed these books and their examination of historical political and social complexities, as explored through the characters.
They won’t be winning any literary prizes, but I really enjoyed the first two books of The Hunger Games trilogy. I was really disappointed with the ending of the third and final book in the series, as it was unnecessary and gratuitous. It really let the series down. Having said that, I thought the first book in particular, “The Hunger Games”, was excellent.
I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I also really enjoyed The Twilight Series. The books in the Twilight Series were pure escapism, easy to read and so different to anything else I have read.
I also loved “The Bronze Horseman” by Paullina Simons. There were two subsequent books in this series. “The Bridge to Holy Cross” was great, however the final book, “The Summer Garden” was really disappointing. A prequel, “Bellagrand“, has also just been published and I will let you know what I think of it as soon as I have read it.
Have you read any of the series I have mentioned? What is your favourite series of all time? What would you add to the list?
Thank you for your comments. I love hearing from you!