The difference between reading a book stand alone and reading as part of a series

As I posted earlier I am a huge fan of serial books.  Like TV shows, many books today can be read stand alone (or in the tv analogy watched as a single episode).  For a TV, say like House you will understand and can enjoy the story, but you also miss things.  Like the inside jokes or why one character reacted to another in a specific way.  You can House in any order and things will still make sense, but if you watch the show from the 1st episode to the last, you get an entirely different TV show, with more depth of character and more consistency.

Books are no different. By reading a series of books in order one has an entirely different experience then if they read each book randomly.  Of course, for me, one of the hardest things to do is to reread a book.  I find the story does not flow as smoothly in subsequent reads as it does the first time, mostly because I know what is going to happen.  But I also find on subsequent reads that sometimes there are little things I overlooked or my perception of them has changed by information I gathered later on in the book.  And sometimes, I am finally reading the books in order and that changes things.

I am currently rereading Vicky Dreiling’s How To Seduce a Scoundrel.  Between the first time I read it a few months ago and now, I had the chance to read the first book in the series, How To Wed a Duke.  With the first go around, the book really only had three characters, Hawk (the hero), Julianne (heroine) and Aunt Hester (noisy busybody older woman).  All the other characters were superfluous.  I gained nor lost anything in the story by the presence or absence of anyone outside of Hawk and Julianne.  So much so that upon reading the How To Wed A Duke, some of the characters did not even register in my mind.  But now having read the 1st in the series, I have a whole new depth and understanding behind the characters and interactions in How to Seduce a Scoundrel.  For instance, Aunt Hester’s over the top behavior makes much more sense now.  She is not just a worldly nosy aunt who cares little of what people think of her anymore.  Because I now know the personalities of both Julianne’s mother and brother, Aunt Hester’s personality takes new meaning.  She must be bold and brassy in order to balance the strong personalities and influence of mother and brother.

In addition, I was able to understand better the relationship between Julianne, Georgette, and Amy now that I have read the first book.  The whole wine scene, after Hawk announces that Julianne is like a sister to him, transforms from merely the two other girls there in order to avoid having Julianne drinking alone, to a reflection of their personalities carried over from the previous book.  Instead of seeing Georgette’s remark to Amy that “She never would have thought of that” as being somewhat snide and childish, I can now appreciate the remark as a compliment to Amy and Georgette being sincere.  It will be interesting to see what other differences I notice between the two readings.

Do you reread books and notice any differences in your understanding of the characters and plot development between them?

4 thoughts on “The difference between reading a book stand alone and reading as part of a series

  1. fromsonika says:

    Nice post !
    I still remember reading the Lord of the Rings series, and how I got more involved in it after re-reading the first one. It actually gave me a greater clarity of characters and small moments I ignored that created the path for the next book.

    • Erin Schmidt says:

      I found that as well with LOTR. I went back and reread it after reading both The Similarin and The Hobbit. Very different understanding of the series after getting both the story from the Hobit and the indepth Elf history from The Similarin, espeically when it came to Legolas.

  2. Erin,

    I found your post on reading the books in order in a series fascinating. When I take minor characters from one book and make them the leads in the next, I discover all sorts of aspects to them I never imagined. In particular, Hawk was a huge surprise to me. There’s a link on my website to an article I wrote on behind the scenes of How to Seduce a Scoundrel. You might find it interesting.

    • Erin Schmidt says:


      I love the behind the scenes look. I am always fascinated in the creative process and how authors discover their characters. I am looking forward to seeing Hawk with new eyes, especially in light of his clowning carefree attitude in Duke. It certainly enforces the dichotomy between his inner emotion and the public face he puts out.

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