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Books

What’s in a Series?

James Bond’s Skyfall marks the 50th anniversary of the film franchise. At 23 films, almost 50 books, comics, video games, as well as television and radio adaptations, James Bond is certainly one of the most successful and longest running series.

After seeing Skyfall, my husband expressed curiosity as to what the world’s longest running book series might be (with James Bond clearly at – or near enough to – the head of the pack when it comes to film franchises).

Not an easy question to answer, but I’ll share my reflections below.

First though this got me to wondering, what’s in a series that makes it so successful?

ecard by nomdeyouser on someecards.com

I think this ecard by the someecards.com user nomdeyouser expresses the appeal of book series quite well:

“Book Hangover: Inability to start a new book because you’re still living in the last book’s world.” – nomdeyouser on someecards.com

It’s that feeling you get when you finish a great book, and all you want is to read it over again for the first time! Whether the book enthralled you with an action-packed plot or whether you grew attached to the characters, you can be captivated by a book series. It isn’t just about appeal factors. A great book series let’s you dive back into the story you finished. You get to read more and postpone that book hangover a little longer…

So what are some of the longest running book series? This really isn’t easy to determine. (No, Guinness World Records doesn’t have a record for it!) There are a number of issues to consider when answering this question.


Number of pages versus number of books

Which is longer 48 Magic Tree House books (children’s series by Mary Pope Osborne) at 100-odd pages each, or 5 books from A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin currently totaling 5700 pages (with 2 more books to come in the series)?


Does every book in a series have to be written by the same author?

– Does the Hardy Boys series, which clocks in at 190 books Hardy Boys Mysteries (plus 130 Hardy Boys Casefiles) count? We know multiple authors wrote these books under the pen name Franklin W. Dixon over a period of almost 90 years now. A single author clearly cannot compete with multiple authors in productivity. Yet the essence of the book, the setting, the characters, which draw in the readers are the same from one book to another…

Do spinoffs count? Comic book adaptations? Films? Video games? How do we measure these?

Certainly, I won’t be able to answer this question before work today. But I’ll keep you posted on my search.

Now if only one could easily search a book catalogue by number of pages or number of books in a series…

In the meantime, here is an impressive list of longest fantasy series compiled by GammaSquad, Walk Into Mordor, The Green Dragon group, LibraryThing.com and Amazon : What Is the Longest Fantasy Epic?

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About Kayleigh Felice

I am a 20-something public librarian trying to find my footing as I start my career, take on new challenges, and enter adulthood (whatever that means). I live in Ontario, and I work for the Gatineau Municipal Library in Québec. Disclosure: The views expressed in this blog are solely my own, not those of my employer.

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