Things to Bring Back in Books – Series Numbers

Jennifer “The Editress” Day sent me the above graphic from a Facebook group she’s in. She asked if I agreed with the list provided.

That set off a wonderful exploration of my thinking on these topics and caused me to defend my opinions for my own benefit (which I now share with you).

I’ll be posting one a week and started with Chapter Titles.
Next came Backcover Synopses.
Followed by Maps.
Then Character Indices of Characters and Places with Pronunciations
Here I consider Numbering Books in a Series on the Spine.

My first response to this as a whole is No, if the list is meant to apply universally to all books. The story and the writer’s ability to tell the story (the former, storytelling, the latter, storycrafting) determine what should go in a book.

Numbering Books in a Series on the Spine

Provided the series is linear and the series has an overarching throughline, sure. If book 19’s story is presaged by books 13, 16, and 17, definitely. Otherwise I’m not sure. Burroughs Tarzan books and Baum’s Oz books each have distinct origin stories but after that, the stories refer to each other in no specifying order. But Smith’s Lensman and Skylark series are quite linear and require them. Ditto Asimov’s Foundation books and Farmer’s Riverworld books. Read The Lord of the Rings out of sequence and you’re lost. Read The Lord of the Rings without first reading The Hobbit and you keep wondering what the pre-story was that characters keep referencing.

Also note there’s a difference between a series and a serialized novel. The former are books in the same universe/reality, the latter is a single story told over many books. The Lord of the Rings, Foundation, and Riverworld are serialized novels. Each novel is a complete story but requires what came before and immediately points to what comes after. But Gormenghast, Tarzan, and Oz are series? You can read any one book without having to read all the others in order to get the full and complete hero/heroine’s story.

Also note I don’t write series. I’m sure that plays a part in my thinking.

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.

Next up, Things to Bring Back in Books – Tables of Contents