So I’m sitting here, thinking about my unfathomable backlog of books I have yet to read – and it occurs to me that (1) I have way too many books to read, and (2) so many science fiction books are part of a larger series. Then I get to thinking about series and reading order:

Should I read a series of books in the order in which they were published, or (if the publication order jumps all over the place story-wise) should they be read in chronological order?

Many sites talk about recommended reading order. (Anyone ever notice that it’s usually the sf/f genres that are so fickle about such matters?) For example, see question #19 of the rec.arts.sf.written FAQ and questions 8 and 9 of the Heinlein FAQ. The excellent resource website SciFan is devoted to publishing reading orders of series. And a simple Google search will reveal some recommended reading orders for Jerry Pournelle’s Future History, Anne McCafferey’s Pern books, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

When I geekily vowed to read all of Asimov’s Robots/Foundation (and related!) novels before the year 2000, I read them in chronological order. This painted a great picture of Asimov’s Future History, even if there may have been a spoiler or two. (For those keeping score, and you know who you are, I succeed in my goal. If only the multitudes of sf fans would correspondingly pledge unholy allegiance to my nefarious causes, all would be peachy.)

But I guess it all comes down to the material in question. Some books that occur earlier in a timeline (but were published later than those that happen next in the sequence) may contain spoilers. Or, a series might not give up any spoilers and actually paint a better picture if read chronologically but out of publication order (I think . I would think, though, that most series can (and should) be read in publication order. Of course, I could be wrong.

What’s your preference? Let us know in this week’s poll starting tomorrow!

Filed under: Books

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