Now that I’ve begun reading A Song of Ice and Fire, I’ve become quite aware that, at the speed I read, I’ll be done with all five existing books long before George R.R. Martin releases the sixth and seventh ones. And I’m sure that, when that day comes, I’ll have to find other book series… serieses… whatever… to read while I wait for the next books.
But as someone who’s read a lot of book serieses*, maybe you can benefit from my list of six of the best book serieses you can read while you wait:
6. The Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan — Fair warning: I’ve only read the first one of these and I didn’t like it. But there are fourteen books, and the series does end. Admittedly the last three books were written by Brandon Sanderson from notes by Jordan himself, but everything I’ve heard indicates that the last three are as good as the first eleven. If you like high fantasy, sword-and-sorcery, huge worlds, massive plots, and somewhat-tropish characterizations (since Jordan did start writing these more than 20 years ago), you’ll probably like these.
5. Incarnations of Immortality, by Piers Anthony — I never got into the Xanth series, but I read Incarnations based on a recommendation from a friend whose name I can’t remember**. Each one follows one of the… well… the incarnations of immortality: Death, Time, Nature, Fate, War, and Evil/Satan/the Devil. The seventh more or less ties them all together. There’s an eighth, published almost twenty years later, but I haven’t read it. They’re classic fantasy, relatively light, and often build on the “idea with variations” theme that worked so well for Heinlein. My favorite by far was War, followed closely by Death and Time. Anthony at times takes flak for misogynistic themes, but I don’t generally notice that unless it’s really obvious.
4. The Wicked Years, by Gregory Maguire — Even the most anti-musical-theatre genre snob has heard of the existence of the musical Wicked. It’s also the first book in a tetralogy exploring Oz from a different point of view. It starts with the Wicked Witch of the West, and then moves on to her son, and the Cowardly Lion, and finally back to Dorothy and a boy named Tip (and if you’re like me, you already know his secret). The first book is the best, followed by the fourth, but all of them are densely-packed with story, characters, and alternative views of the world of Oz, from the days well before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to the days after. It’s fantasy — there’s magic, after all — but it’s really more a political satire than anything else.
3. The Kingkiller Chronicle, by Patrick Rothfuss — There are two things I dislike about this series: (1) it takes a few chapters to get into the main story, which almost made me put down the first book, and (2) we’re two books into a trilogy with no real idea as to when the third will come out. (That said, the author has also planned a second trilogy.) However, this one is all about magic: magical creatures, magic usage, and — perhaps most importantly — the science of magic. It’s told in a readable, interesting style, and if Kvothe is somewhat of a Gary Stu, so what? The books are still good.
2. Moonworlds or Greatwinter, both by Sean McMullen — I make no bones about the fact that McMullen is one of my favorite authors. His two main serieses are Moonworlds and Greatwinter, and I’m not putting either one in the top spot because one isn’t worthy of it and the other isn’t fantasy. Moonworlds is a humorous high-fantasy romp featuring dragons, magic, religion, swordfighting, mythos, and world-changing plots. The first two books (Voyage of the Shadowmoon and Glass Dragons) are the best, but the third (Voidfarer) is pretty good too. As for Greatwinter, the best book is the first (Souls in the Great Machine), but if you like post-apocalyptic far-future windpunk with flintlock-armed librarians and human-powered computers, this series is for you. Moonworlds isn’t finished (though each book is more-or-less self-contained), but Greatwinter is, and in mass market paperback format it totals about 1200 pages.
1. Discworld, by Terry Pratchett — I’ve written about Discworld in the past. It’s one of my very favorite book serieses ever, and there are more than forty books in it… and Pratchett, though suffering from a rare form of Alzheimer’s, is still writing them! They have magic, mystery, creatures, and above all else satire and humor. They read fast, they’re fun, and the characters all grow and change over time. I’d find a good place to on-ramp, but if you’d prefer to go in order, why not join Mark Oshiro as he reads his way through the entire series? Plus, there’s a whole sub-series of Discworld books for younger readers, so you can get your kids started early — my daughter sees my entire Discworld collection every night at dinner (there’s a bookshelf in my dining room, because of course there is) and is waiting to be old enough to read them. I cannot recommend these books highly enough; there are a couple of weaker ones (Eric comes to mind) but on the whole they’re great reads.
If for some reason you haven’t read the Harry Potter series… what are you waiting for?
Got an idea for a future “Six of the Best” column? Tweet it to me @listener42.
* I’m going with serieses. Because it looks less silly than “serii”.
** I’m not making it up. I promise. Someone really did recommend the books to me. Maybe my friend John? Maybe Del?
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