The Problem of the Unfinished Series

I don’t know about you, but I have a teeny-tiny problem with reading book series. Now, I know what you’re all thinking. “But Jancee!” you cry, “Reading a book series is the best! Fantastic and extensive world-building, you get to watch the characters grow, and you have plenty of time with a story you love!” And that would be correct, reader. I love all those things. So what’s the problem?

Well, it’s simple. I have a hard time finishing the series. I always start out with the best of intentions. I read the first book and love it. I go on to the second book. And then…life gets in the way. Maybe the library doesn’t have the next entry. I have to read something else for a challenge or book club. The next book isn’t even released yet. I start playing an amazing video game and all my free time gets devoted to that. Or I just have a lot going on and abandon my reading or seek easier fare. Whatever the reason, I promise myself that I’ll go back. Finish the series. Bring order to that chaos. And then I…don’t.

One day I just got overwhelmed and freaked out by all the unfinished business in my reading life. I realized that in the case where all the books in the series are out, I’m taking time away from reading more stuff by having to reread half the series again to pick up the story. So I decided to do something about it. I don’t know how you all organize your Goodreads shelves, but I decided to do something a little different. I don’t organize by genre or topic or keywords. Instead, I chose to create a series of practical TBR shelves, to help me choose what I should read next. Adult nonfiction, stand-alone, and series. Children/YA nonfiction, stand-alone, and series. Classics. Graphic novels. Picture books. And a lovely little shelf that I’ve called “series in progress”.

My thinking was this: if I read the first book in a series and love it, add the second book (or the rest of the series) to the series in progress shelf so I don’t forget about it. If the next book isn’t out yet, add it to the shelf. Theoretically I’ve set myself up for success in this area, right?

Well, kind of. Periodically I scroll through the list and remind myself that I need to get back to this or that series soon. And then I go read something else, or start a new series, and then my shelf just grows and grows instead of decreasing! It’s even worse now that I’m in a comics mood all the time, as I’m adding volume after volume of my favorite superhero comics that I’ve started. Currently, my series in progress shelf holds 39 books.

So I’ve decided on a course of action. Of course I’m finishing up Harry Potter for my roomie reading challenge. Then I have some review copies to bust through. And maybe a book club book or two. But then, I’m tackling my series. Starting with those in which all the installations have been published, I’m going to try to tie up some loose ends. Read the books I said I would read weeks, months, years ago. Finish those series. It’ll be hard. But I think I’m up to the challenge.

What about you, friends? Do you have trouble finishing a series? What do you do about it? Any advice for me?

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9 Comments

Filed under Jancee's Thoughts

9 responses to “The Problem of the Unfinished Series

  1. Do you set yourself a deadline for reading the entire series or does it depend? I originally planned to stay away from series, but it seems lots of interesting books are a series.

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  2. I don’t set a deadline. Usually either it’s an author I love, a premise I can’t stay away from, or a book I didn’t know was the first in the series. Maybe a deadline would help? Usually I intend to go straight through it, but get bored or find other stuff I HAVE to read NOW, or get distracted by life.

    I love reading series (thanks, Harry Potter!), but it’s infuriating to have so many unfinished.

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    • I think I have the same problems. Often I start a book and don’t realize its a series. My goal is to try and read a 3-book series within a year, but I have a couple going now and not sure if that’s possible.

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      • Right. And then I feel a sort of obligation and guilt to the rest of the series. Even if I don’t necessarily like the first book. I just have to know how the series ends. So some of the books are my list are the final book, but I’ve just been putting them off.

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  3. My problem is I will read book one and then forget all about the series cause the next one isn’t out yet..then I just never go back to it…I have finished on a few series..it drives me crazy.

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    • Luckily Goodreads is pretty good about having links and a synopsis for unpublished books. But I’m sure there are some I’ve missed because it’s just too far in the future to be on Goodreads. Gah.

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  4. The solution is to just not read series books! Oh ok, I know…unpopular decision. I have the same problem you do so I just tend to avoid them all together. I read all of HP, Twilight, and Hunger Games (though the latter took me years!), but other than that I’ll find I read the first book and then just not continue. Hmmm…never thought about organizing goodreads in such a way. Great idea!

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    • I organized my Goodreads like that so I can say “Oh, I’m in the mood for YA, but a single book that will never be a series”. Or adult nonfiction or a graphic novel or whatever. But even with the organization, finishing a series is still a challenge.

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  5. Pingback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? | Jancee Reads

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