Are you guys ready for a “Book of the Week” post on steroids? Since I haven’t done one for a while, I figured I’d do like 10 books in one post. This should keep you reading for all of 2021 and well into 2022.
The TLDR Version
Recently on Facebook, a friend posted the question:
If you could read only 3 series for the rest of your life, what would the be?
Here’s my response:
It’s a mess…Which got me to thinking. Why is it a mess? Are there really that many great series out there or am I just not good at decisions? (the quick answer is probably…both). So, I decided I’d write a blog post about it and detail out my choices. Warning: there will be more than 3 (Just want to make sure y’all don’t think I’m lying again).
1. The Abhorsen Series by Garth Nix
My absolute favorite-favorite series of all time.
I haven’t talked about this series before in my “Book of the Week” posts because I’m afraid of not doing it justice. My love of this series spans time even though they’re technically marketed to “teens”.
I’ve read Sabriel, the first book, at least 4 times. Once in middle school (I think?). Again in high school. A third time when I found Lirael & Abhorsen (books 2 and 3) came out. And the last time only a few years ago when I discovered two more books of the “Trilogy”: Clariel (#4) & Goldenhand (#5), and two novellas.
Side note, Garth Nix is definitely on the Chaotic Neutral side of the “Series Alignment Chart” as he has a Trilogy that’s now technically 5 books long – 4 if you count Clariel as a standalone prequel).
Anyway, The Abhorsen Series is about a family bloodline who has cool magic within it. The first book, Sabriel, is about a young girl who has to follow her father into death and save him. Her magical ability is that of an anti-necromancer: instead of raising the dead, she puts them back into death. Though, she also can raise them if she needs to. Her whole purpose is to thwart uncontrolled necromancers and send stray spirits to rest.
Guys, the magic system in this book is so cool. She uses bells to do her anti-necromancer magic but also follows the controlled “Charter” magic, using symbols as spells. Then there’s Free Magic, metallic-smelling and chaotic. She can do some of that too – but not too much or it’ll drive her crazy (ask me what happened to Clariel).
I love everything about this series. The no-nonsense attitude of the characters. The juxtaposition of the setting between the Old World and a turn-of-the-19th century “Modern” one. The antagonists are ominous and scary. The world is rich, the characters deep, the writing easy to read yet descriptive and engaging.
Just…mmm. Ok, I need to make a separate post about this series. I just have too many good associations with it. So, consider this a preview. It will probably always be my #1 series of all time just like The Fifth Element will be my #1 movie of all time.
2. The Belgariad/The Mallorean
Okay, I’m going to be perfectly honest here…I read this 10-book double series by David Eddings so fast that I forgot they existed. Like literally everything about them – title, characters names, plot etc.. However, I have held on to the fond feelings of it. Weird, huh?
In the last couple years, I’ve been reminded of these books by so. many. people. Like, literally when those “name X books that influenced you” memes come around, this series inevitably comes up. I mean, in the above friend’s post, at least HALF of the responses included this series.
That being said, they are on my list to reread/relisten to but have made the #2 slot because of my memory of love for them and the unwashed masses’ recommendations.
For context, here is the Amazon teaser blurb of Belgariad Book 1, Pawn of Prophecy:
A fierce dispute among the Gods and the theft of a powerful Orb leaves the World divided into five kingdoms. Young Garion, with his “Aunt Pol” and an elderly man calling himself Wolf –a father and daughter granted near-immortality by one of the Gods — set out on a complex mission. In the process, as Garion grows into his early teens, he learns to defend himself, grapples with a wild boar, uncovers spies at a king’s palace, learns about sorcery and starts to gain a sense of what his own destiny may be.Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings
All right…in thinking about this, I’m not sure how that excerpt entices people to read it. Like, what’s so special about this series? I wonder if David Eddings already had fame before or if the generation this came out for (early-80s) was just that starved for fantasy stories?
Anyway, I’m not saying it’s bad…there’s obviously something that so many people love in it. I will just have to read for myself and report back. The curiosity is a-burnin’.
Now…it gets sticky. There are apparently a lot of series I loved in my teens and early-20s (and surprisingly not many after…go figure).
3. Neil Gaiman’s Everything
This #3 is kind of a cop out b/c while Neil Gaiman does have a few actual series (i.e. The Sandman graphic novels) most of my favorite books of his are standalones: Stardust, Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens, Norse Mythology, American Gods, Anasazi Boys…
I liked the Sandman OK, but graphic novels are not really my thing. I like art. I like stories. However, when I read, I read and graphic novels go too fast for my liking. I’d totally frame a page and hang it on my wall though.
Anyway, my love of Neil Gaiman’s work started in high school because Sandman was “cool” and “edgy”. Then I found the Neverwhere mini-series from BBC and fell in love. After that, I devoured his books. Neverwhere is def my favorite with how it deals with homelessness and the “untouchables” of London city by putting them in “London Below” – an alternate reality London located beneath the modern city.
Richard Mayhew is also one of my favorite characters of all time even though he’s wishy-washy and not at all badass. Yet, he comes through in the end and wins the day. IDK, I’ve always just wanted to hug him. I’ve read/watched/listened to many of these books multiple times and in multiple medias. They just seem to stay relevant. How DOES he do that?
I’m convinced Neil Gaiman is some sort of genius or god (or both). *sigh* Okay, now I’m just fangirlling….moving on.
3.2 The Mistborn Series by Brandon Sanderson
I did talk about this series in a “Book of the Week” post so I will skip the “about” stuff here. Go read that post, it’s worth it, I swear.
For the purpose of this post, there are two trilogies: the standard trilogy which has an epic-fantasyish setting and the Wax and Wayne trilogy which is more wild west/steampunk/Victorian in setting. I am choosing the latter trilogy even though I’ve only read the first book. Maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot here, but oh well.
I liked the standard trilogy quite a bit, though it did get weird and religious-commentary-y towards the end of books 2 and 3. However, as previously stated, the magic is cool. And in the Wax and Wayne tril, the characters had better personalities (Can def see Sanderson growing as a writer). Also, the setting appealed to me more as I am sort of “growing out” of standard epic fantasy. I just read way too much of that in my youth. Waaaaaaay too much.
So I guess I need to dive into the 2nd and 3rd books in this series, but for now, it’ll remain my #3.2.
3.3 The Incarnations of Immortality Series by Piers Anthony
covers but they are just terrible…
Another author in my teenage “devour all books phase” was Piers Anthony (Now, I’m not going to talk about how actual creepy or kind of a dick Anthony is because that’s a can of worms I don’t want to open right now. However, I may make a separate post on just this).
In a literary standpoint, Anthony may be best known for his Xanth series, set in a fantastical alternate reality Florida where puns are literal. I probably read 20+ Xanth books before I realized they were super formulaic and probably ghostwritten since like book 6.
In addition, he has a ton of other series including the Apprentice Adept series (which I also very much enjoyed), the Mode series (actually one of the skeevy ones), and a ton of stand-alone books of which I read probably 10+. However, of all them, I like the Incarnations of Immortality the best. This is a 7-book series, each one focusing on a different “incarnation”: 1. Death, 2. Time 3. Fate 4. War 5. Gaia/Earth 6. Satan 7. God.
Set in a modern world with urban fantasy/sci-fi vibes, they are humorous and sarcastic and present these incarnations as regular chicks and dudes just doing their best. Incarnations change as the previous one dies so for instance, in Book 1, Death is replaced by a guy who accidentally killed the previous Death incarnation. I really enjoy how from book-to-book these incarnations interact and feud.
Book 6 may be my favorite because Satan is such a great character. During this book something happens (I think it’s either a feud between War and Death or between Satan and Death) where the death toll is so high that Death keeps screwing up and bringing non-sinners to Hell. Satan feels bad for these people b/c they don’t deserve their fate, so he makes them a “fake Heaven” until they can go to the real one. Then, in the end, he sees some of those people in Heaven and they’re like “can we come back to your Heaven? This one sucks”. LOL
Anyway, true to Antony’s standard writing style, these books have a light-hearted vibe that makes commentary on real-world themes. He does have a way of writing engaging characters and rich worlds…even if he is a d-bag.
3.4 The American Girl Series
Now let me tell you about a series that shaped me as an even younger child from age 8 to 14. The American Girl Dolls were originally created by Pleasant Company and featured young girls (as dolls) from various historical time periods with accompanying books. The set above went to my first doll, Samantha Parkington – a well-off girl living with her grandmother in 1904. She befriends factory worker, Irish immigrant orphans, Nellie, Brigit and Jenny, and helps them get adopted by her classy and politically proactive aunt and uncle.
These books focus on spunky and rebellious girls who perform brave and daring acts to save family, friends and even strangers. They are all about strength, loyalty, compassion and all kinds of other good themes. They also present difficult and traumatic historical world events (like WWII, the hardships of pioneers, child labor, slavery etc.) and distill them without dumbing them down for young readers. As a child I read all 5 series that came out at the time (Felicity 1774, Kirsten 1854, Addy 1864, Samantha 1904 and Molly 1944). I “blame” these books as the start to my love of history.
There are tons of other girls out now (both historical and modern), though I haven’t read their stories. I have definitely considered it as they are inspiring and uplifting – things we really need in this pandemicy world. Also, the dolls are beautiful and not at all creepy. (If you disagree–fight me!)
Okay, I think that’s about it for the series I love and wish I could read over and over (if I were immortal, I’d read all the books all the time). What series would you take to your desert island?
Also, I am planning on doing a follow-up post about my desert island single books, so keep an eye out for it!