Essential Reading: Books In A Row
Sometimes one book is just not enough to tell the whole story. You need three (or seven) to tell a multi-generational tale or follow the adventures of a young man with a scar on his forehead and magical powers. Unlike movies, where sequels are often disappointing, books in a series can be immensely satisfying. They allow you to build a deeper connection to a character as they age, live in a different setting, or face a new adventure. Maybe you even get to meet their descendants and learn how families carry secrets and rivalries through the generations.
One example of the latter is Jeffrey Archer’s best-selling series, The Clifton Chronicles. Beginning in 20th century England with Only Time Will Tell, the seven novels follow the Clifton family from the First World War through to Margaret Thatcher’s government, and take us from Bristol to New York to Russia and back to London. During the journey we encounter just about every human drama and intrigue possible, but the characters and their escapades are so cleverly woven that you can’t help but read one book after another (especially since many end in a cliffhanger). Jeffrey Archer is well known for his political thrillers and this series contains it’s fair share of politics as well as business, romance and heroism. I highly recommend it, but be warned: once you’ve read one, you may just have to read all seven.
My journey with a different series began with Anita Diamant’s classic, The Red Tent, which whet my appetite for reading about women of the Bible. In doing so, I stumbled upon the trilogy Rashi's Daughters by Maggie Anton. Rashi was a medieval Rabbi and teacher of Jewish law and tradition whose commentaries are revered to this day. He was also father to three spirited daughters, who history claims were able to read in a time when most women were illiterate. This is the fictional story of those women with each book devoted to one sister. Rashi's Daughters, Book I: Joheved tells of the scholarly daughter who is dreading the idea of an arranged marriage to someone who may not allow her to continue to study. Rashi's Daughters, Book II: Miriam begins as she follows in her dead mother’s footsteps to become a midwife, and Rashi's Daughters, Book III: Rachel continues the family story as she strives to maintain her father’s legacy in a time of uncertainty. What makes their stories so interesting is the colorful (and obviously well-researched) detail about medieval life: how they dressed, prayed, ate, worked, loved, gave birth and interacted with their non-Jewish neighbors. Although their personal stories could apply to any woman of any religion struggling for knowledge and independence at the turn of the second century, these books are uniquely embroidered with Jewish traditions and teachings that allow us a glimpse into a world not often exposed so intimately. If you love historical fiction and are interested to learn about Judaism, these three books will satisfy.
Christina Consolino, Senior Editor and Profiles Editor, is enjoying a series that’s based in Charleston: “Years ago, my book club chose to read The House on Tradd Street, the first book in Karen White’s Tradd Street series. The novels (including The Girl on Legare Street, The Strangers on Montagu Street, Return to Tradd Street, and The Guests on South Battery) follow two main characters: Melanie Middleton, a Charleston, South Carolina, real estate agent who loves historic homes and the stories they tell, and Jack Trenholm, a dashing, local writer with an obsession for any unsolved question. Thanks to Melanie’s ability to see ghosts and Jack’s insatiable appetite for the truth, the pair find themselves embroiled in various, almost unbelievable situations that often involve buried secrets and malevolent spirits from the past. Each book is part mystery, part ghost story, and part romance, woven together with rich details of Charleston, which serves as both the setting and a character. While I’ve never been a ‘ghost story’ reader, I enjoyed learning about White’s eccentric characters and Charleston’s history, and I plan on finishing up the series on my next trip to the library.”
Juli Anna Herndon, Poetry Editor, has this recommendation for you: “I’m generally not much of a series reader; I prefer short-form stories to long ones. However, my biggest exception to this rule tends to be comics. I’m an avid reader of a couple of comic series, including Lumberjanes and, most recently, Goldie Vance by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams. This series takes its cues from mid-century children’s mystery series such as Nancy Drew, but updates timeless whodunit stories with modern politics. The stories are set in 1960’s Florida, and center on the eponymous teenage character, who is not only the daughter of a hotel manager, but an amateur sleuth as well. Goldie solves mysteries involving Soviet spies, beach music festivals, and car racing, with a lovable cast of sidekicks and frenemies to support her. Her impulsiveness and enthusiasm are infectious, and her character is very well developed over the series, especially for a comic. There’s even a sweet bit of teen romance thrown in for good measure. I love how classic mystery tropes and cliches are turned on their heads in these stories, as well as the thoughtful diversity of the characters (Goldie herself is queer and multiracial). These comics are my favorite pick for a light mystery series elevated by a feminist sensibility.”
Do you have a book series to recommend? Leave your suggestion in the comments, or tweet us @LiteraryMama. You can also follow us on Instagram @Literary_Mama and Goodreads for more recommendations.