Reading lists

Escapist book series to make your next obsession

Book series often spark a lifelong love affair with reading. Here are some of the most binge-worthy collections around.

Jake Kerridge
Victoria Ford for Penguin

For many, it’s a series of books that sparks our lifelong love affair with reading. Part of the appeal, if you love a series, is the hope that it will never run out. Alan Bennett, explaining his early enthusiasm for Hugh Lofting’s Dr Doolittle stories, once observed: “an important consideration was […] there were always more”.

As adults, some of us return again and again to our favourite series for comfort, because we have a clear idea of what we’ll be getting. Yet, reading a series can also be one of the most emotionally intense of reading experiences, as we become invested in the characters over a long period – sometimes even growing old along with them – and come to know them as well as our very best friends.

From trilogies to twenty-something-volume (and counting) sagas, from crime to comedy by way of fantasy, here are a selection of bingeable series that will take up days, if not weeks, of your life – and not a moment regretted. 

The Culture Series by Iain M Banks (1987-2012)

Number of books: 10

Not many fiction series can claim to have shaped the philosophy of the world’s best-known billionaire. But this space-opera sequence by the much-missed Banks (who died in 2013) has been cited by Elon Musk as an inspiration for his “utopian anarchism”. Musk even named two of his drone ships – Just Read the Instructions and Of Course I Still Love You – after AI ships in Banks’ books. 

In Consider Phlebas, the first entry in the series, Banks introduces us to The Culture, a post-scarcity spaceship-centred society whose inhabitants live intellectually fulfilled lives. Many of the stories focus on the Special Circumstances unit’s efforts to export Culture-esque values to less progressive civilisations, giving Banks the opportunity to deploy his unique mixture of cynical satire and utopian optimism. 

The Easy Rawlins series by Walter Mosley (1990-) 

Number of books: 15

This is one of the all-time great detective series, providing hard-boiled L.A. noir worthy of Raymond Chandler but also offering an excoriating insight into the racial tensions of mid-century America. 

The first volume, Devil in a Blue Dress, kicks the saga off in 1948, when African-American war veteran Ezekiel Rawlins is fired from his job in a factory, by his white supervisor, for being “uppity”. “Easy” becomes a reluctant detective to make ends meet. 

Denzel Washington did a fine job of capturing Easy’s harassed nobility in the film version of Devil in a Blue Dress. But a single film won’t be enough to feed your Easy compulsion: you’ll want this superb series to go on forever.  

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