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In the world of book promotion, new releases quite literally run the show. Everyone is waiting with breath that is baited for that hot or buzzy new novel. I recently started engaging more fully in the book talk on social media and also here on the blog and while I adore it, I have been disappointed in just how much the new releases overshadow the backlist (older, non-new release) titles.
I mean, I get it. Publishers, writers, promoters and readers (me included) focus their attention on the newest hot release or the latest writings from their favorite author. There are only so many hours in the day to get those books read, and as a consequence older books understandably fall by the wayside. Still, I frequently have discussions with my booksta-buddies, as well as my in-real-life bookish friends, who pretty much all join me in lamenting the lack of backlist title talk out there in general.
While most bloggers are releasing their list of new releases to watch out for this Fall, I decided to to give my favorite backlist books a little love and I put together this group of 10 backlist series books to read now. In each case, I have read at least one book from the series and in some cases I have read them all. This means I am able to give my unrestricted stamp of approval for all 10. The bonus is, given their backlist status, most should be available through the library. If not, you can probably find copies at second hand bookstores for pretty cheap.
And not only that but each one of these books is also a part of a series. So, considering the wealth of pages involved in a series, I am not only talking about quality and cost-effective reading, but also some serious quantities of reading hours potentially ahead of you with each one of these titles. You’re welcome.
Poldark by Winston Graham (Poldark Series): This is the first in a 12-book series written by Winston Graham and was first published in 1945. While later books in the series came out in the late 90s through to the early 2000s, I had never even heard of them until I watched the BBC series Poldark early last year. Even though a few books in the series are five hundred plus pages, I ripped through the entire series in a matter of months. The story tells of Ross Poldark and begins with him returning to his family estate in his beloved Cornwall from fighting in the American Revolution. I adored all twelve books about Ross, his neighbors, community, family and the struggles of everyday life as a Cornish citizen in the 18th Century. I especially enjoy the parts about how Ross straddles being a member of the British aristocracy while also feeling true kinship with the lower class citizens that are also a huge part of his life.
Still Life by Louise Penny (Chief Inspector Gamache Series): These books are pretty popular, but I still find people who have not heard of them so wanted to mention them here. Penny’s series, starting with this one, all follow Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and are set in the tiny, quaint Canadian town of Three Pines. They are heavy on atmosphere, cuisine and some really interesting, even quirky, characters. They are the quintessential “cozy mysteries” but Penny’s talented writing adds that special something that makes these books truly memorable.
Raven Black by Ann Cleeves (Shetland Island Mysteries): Similar to Poldark, I stumbled upon these books from watching the BBC series, Shetland. (See, watching television CAN help your reading.) Raven Black is the first in the series and the only one I have read, but I am already hooked and excited to dive into the next books. This one is about a hermit, a dark small-town secret, a little local intrigue and of course, a murder. The books seem to be just different enough from the series which I love because it does not spoil them if you watched it first.
One for the Money by Janet Evanovich: (Stephanie Plum Series): If you don’t love Stephanie Plum or at least chuckle at some of her adventures, I am not sure we can be friends. Getting laid off from her job and desperate for a paycheck, Stephanie takes a job working for her cousin as a bail bond agent in New Jersey. I have only read around ten of them (and #26 comes out this Fall), but they are all completely hysterical and escapist literature at its finest.
The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz (Spellman Files Series): If you read my blog, you know that these are on my all time favorites list. They are hysterical, well-written and just a really different take on your traditional mystery. The Spellmans are a dysfunctional family of investigators and to say they do life differently is a little bit of an understatement. Focusing mainly on the twenty-something daughter, Isabel “Izzy” Spellman, each one weaves an interesting mystery alongside the hijinks that is life as a Spellman.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larssen (Millennium Series): Most people have probably have heard of this one, but it is also on my all time favorites list, so I needed to include it here. I have heard good things about the later novels (written by a different author as Larssen is no longer living), but honestly I am not sure anything can hold a candle to the first three. They are dark, twisty, smart and completely engrossing with my favorite thing in the world – a strong female lead that has a major dark side but is basically just really bad ass.
The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith (Cormoran Strike Series): I love the Harry Potter books but have always been more a fan of Rowling’s story telling and not as much her writing. (These are written by J.K. Rowling under the pen name Robert Galbraith). These books have completely proven me wrong about her skills as a writer. The story follows private investigator Cormoran Strike and this one finds him investigating the murder of a supermodel, nicknamed “the Cuckoo.” Some book friends have said they found this one to be a little on the slow side, which I also found to be the case. (Really, I think the story is just very simple and straight forward.) If you can get through the first one, though, the second and third books are much more intricate and compelling. I have not read the fourth in the series, Lethal White, which came out late last year but hope to get to it soon.
Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce Series): I found this series a few years ago and quickly sped through the first eight books. Two new ones have been released since the last one I read – The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place and The Golden Tresses of the Dead. The main character in these mysteries set in 1950’s England is Flavia de Luce, an 11-year-old with a penchant for chemistry who lives in a small British town in a huge castle with her father, sisters and her father’s long-time trusted servant, Dogger. Each story circulates around a murder and Flavia is the amateur sleuth that uses her chemistry skills and precociousness to solve them. These are categorized as adult mystery but they do feel more like young adult or even middle grade which I do not always love but for these, I make an exception.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children Series): As stated before, I am not a huge fan of young adult titles, but I blew through the first three books in this series in a matter of days. It’s about a group of special youngsters who have some pretty amazing gifts and who have been hidden away from society. Including some pretty creepy real photographs to supplement the story, the group is discovered by young Jacob who has traveled to Wales to investigate a family tragedy and a wild adventure begins as they go up against the dark forces in the world who are set on destroying them. It’s maybe a common trope, but the actual story and world Riggs creates is incredibly imaginative, unique and super fun. I still need to get to #4, Map of Days, which came out last year, but I have heard good things.
The Cold Dish by Craig Johnson (Walt Longmire Mystery Series): This is yet another series I discovered after first watching the TV show (there is a definite pattern here). Walt Longmire is the no-nonsense sheriff in Absaroka County, Wyoming, and in this first book of the series, he investigates the murder of a local boy who, along with a few others, was convicted of raping a local Cheyenne Indian girl years before. There is something special about Johnson’s writing that makes these stories stand out among others in this category of westerns (not a genre I normally reach for). The remote Wyoming setting combined with the colorful characters including Longmire’s long time friend, Henry Standing Bear and his Sheriff’s Deputy, Victoria Moretti, not to mention the Native American lore and characters tied into each story, provides a really incredibly colorful and interesting backdrop to what is truly a stand out series.
What are your favorite backlist (older, non-new release) books?