what am i missing?

Last year, I started hearing really great things about the TV show “How I Met Your Mother.”  But I couldn’t just start watching.  I Netflixed the first two seasons, and started recording — but not watching — the fourth when it started up in the fall, while waiting for the third season to come to DVD on October.  Now that I’m caught up, I watch the current episodes as they air.  Sounds like a lot of effort and planning just to start watching a TV show, right?

But it was worth it.  Because now I know how the characters have devloped, I understand the backstory to the current plotlines, and I get the jokes that stem from an earlier episode but aren’t fully explained in the new ones.

I’m the same way with books.  I absolutely refuse to read books in a series (or with repeated characters) out of order.  This does create complications sometimes.  For example, Patricial Cornwell is probably my favorite crime writer.  And yet, I never read  her new books because at some point I lost track of the order of them.  I’ve read the earlier Scarpetta novels repeatedly (usually rereading them in sequence), but inevitably, I get distracted by something else, and I never bother to find out which title comes next, which has resulted in my bypassing her newest titles altogether.

Same goes for a number of other writers — Sue Grafton, Carol Higgins Clark, Sophie Kinsella,  Alexander McCall Smith, among them.  With each of them, I’ve read and enjoyed the first book(s) and then lost track of where I was in the series and never moved forward. 

This isn’t to say I don’t read books with repeating characters; it just seems to work best if I discover them early in the process and can read as the writer writes.  I’ve read most of Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club novels, because I started them early enough that I’ve been able to keep up with them.  (As a side note — these aren’t ones I’d particularly recommend.  Though the plots are interesting enough, the writing leaves something to be desired.  But I have found them to be decently entertaining as audio.)  But even with old favorites – the Little Women triology, Harry Potter – I start with the first one each time I return to them. 

My concern is that I’m missing out on either an extraordinary book or an extraordinary writer because of this compulsion.  With so many books on my to-read list, I’m never at a shortage of other options, which makes it easy to move on to something else if I haven’t read the prequels to an intriguing book. 

So tell me — what am I missing?  Which authors are worth catching up with?  And is there anything out there so unmissable that its precursors are irrelevant?

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~ by Molly on January 28, 2009.

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