Jul 9 2017 10:00am

In Defense of Reading Out of Order

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My name is Jenn, and I read out of order. 

Okay, phew, with that out of the way, let's talk a little bit about what I get out of reading out of order.

Follow Your Heart

I think much of this habit came from being an impatient reader. Once a week I would go to the bookstore with my dad and he would let me pick out all the books I wanted—I couldn't buy all the books, which then lead to an arduous task of picking out the two or three I could actually buy. Even visits to the library were a little more sporadic, so  I would take what I could get. If that meant I was reading Book 7 of a series before Books 1-6, then so be it. 

Additionally, sometimes starting at book 1, when there are 15 books in a series, is just 15 books too many to get to the book that I want to read. What happens if, by then, the book I want to read is now boring to me because I fatigued myself with the series. Isn't it better to start with the book I know I'll love—because of the tropes, character archetypes, etc.—than to maybe get series fatigue by starting way back at the beginning.

Lothaire by Kresley Cole

Case in point: I started Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series at Lothaire. I know. I know. What the heck was I doing starting a series with the climax of the Big Bad—literally, Lothaire, The Enemy of Old—finally getting his comeuppance (which in Romancelandia translated to getting a happy-ever-after of his own)? Who knows. This was back in the relatively early days of romance and I had just gotten my first e-reader, so I may have just not cared and thought “enemies to lovers, he wants to destroy her and somehow they fall in love?! Sign me up!” 

It takes a talented author to introduce you to not only a complex villain-to-hero story but also make it so you aren't totally lost. Kresley Cole does this masterfully in Lothaire. (Amazon | B&N | Kobo) It's certainly helped by the fact that this is very much a “bottle book.” Much of it is spent with just Lothaire and Elizabeth and introduced a few characters that none of us had met before, let alone me as a new-to-the-series reader. This certainly made jumping into the twelfth book in a series much easier, but Kresley didn't leave me in the dark, even without that. I knew who the Valkyrie were and the adversarial relationship they had with Lothaire, and you could tell the tensions between the Forebearers (the vampires who don't drink straight from the source) and the crazed red-eyed vampires (of which Lothaire was one). It was, honestly, a great introduction to the series. 

And don't worry, once I finished Lothaire, I immediately went back to the beginning and read every single Immortals After Dark book—in order. 

Get Hooked

Owning It by Riley Hart and Devon McCormack

Recently, the urge to read out of order struck again. Okay, it's not an urge—I don't go seeking out series to then read out of order. It just happens! Earlier this week, I read Riley Hart and Devon McCormack's Owning It, (Amazon) not knowing it was actually the third book in the Metropolis series. In it, I'm introduced to Derek, the sassiest, sluttiest (in the best way) friend in a group of men that live in the Metropolis condos—a building in Atlanta that is known for its concentration of gay tenants. I've been on a bit of a male/male romance binge and was looking for something light, funny, and sexy to sink my teeth into—which Derek totally would have enjoyed *wink wink*. I fell absolutely in love.

Then I was tipped off that this was maybe a book deeper in the series than I assumed by the fact that two friends kept steadily appearing with their very handsome and wonderful significant others. I headed back online and sure enough, Owning It was book three. Instead of being filled with dread or panic—emotions I imagine steadfast “series must be read in order” readers must feel—I simply gloried in the fact that I had two more stories to read with characters that I knew would get their happy endings. 

All that being said, I think we're incredibly lucky in this regard in romance.  If I still read fantasy or if I were a mystery reader—books that are dependent on building a world or a case—I think I would be a more staunch supporter of reading in order. With romance, I luckily don't have to worry about that and can blissfully go on and read where my tastes take me rather than worry about series order. 

Now don't lose hope, my dear fellow readers, I can be a purist in some respects. Because I read so much—and giving recommendations is one of my favorite things—people often ask “Can I start with this one, or do I have to start at the beginning of the series?” The truth is, if I'm really passionate about a series, and discover that I would have really enjoyed the series IN order, I usually recommend that they start at the beginning. 

Talented authors can have you jump into a book late in the series and have it standalone, but some authors can't—their world may be too complex, to sum up every book, or they just don't want to re-introduce a character every time you meet them, a concept I can relate to. But for readers like me, finding authors that offer me books that I can love no matter the reading order, is always the greatest gift I can receive. 

So, thoughts? Are you totally horrified at how I read? Do you also read out of order? 

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Jennifer Proffitt is a Midwest transplant to New York City. You can usually find her wishing time-travel was possible so she could go back to Victorian England or that she was a paranormal creature. But in the meantime, she fills her time being the Community Manager for Heroes and Heartbreakers, and reading and writing romance. You can find her on Twitter at @JennProffitt

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1. Kareni
I don't deliberately choose to read out of order, but it has happened. Sometimes the library has book two available NOW but not book one. Or sometimes, I've heard that one particular book in a series is particularly good, so I might seek that one out. Reading out of order might be less desirable in a series that follows one character such as JD Robb's ... in Death series, but it's not generally an issue in a series that follows different characters such as Mary Balogh's Slightly series.
Althea Claire Duffy
2. Althea Claire Duffy
I always read series in order, unless I read them out of order by accident. (Publishers and authors, PLEASE make reading order clear.) Especially since I've read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, the habit is thoroughly ingrained in me. I got seriously annoyed with my mom for dismissing a sequential fantasy series as "making no sense" - of *course* it makes no sense, you started on book five! Reading series in order allows multi-book arcs to be intelligible and allows overarching themes to emerge and develop as the author intended.

I can't watch TV series out of order, unless they're heavily episodic with almost nothing in the way of ongoing arcs. And I react with "argh grah" when people say you can play the Dragon Age games in any order. No no NO. The later ones spoil the plot of the earlier ones to some degree - the third one especially spoils the plot of the second - AND you can carry over choices from the earlier games to the later ones so they'll affect the game world. The unfolding sequence of revelations about the secret history and nature of the world is also so much better if you start from the beginning - which applies to a lot of series in any medium.
Althea Claire Duffy
3. Sonya Heaney
I didn't start with Lothaire, but I read the first couple in the series and then jumped ahead to it - so I missed about ten books!

I sometimes read out of order, and sometimes not. Often if I have an ARC it isn't the first in a series.

I do love the extra touches that come with knowing backstories from earlier books, but - at the same time - each book should work on its own.
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