Alas, No : In what order do you read book series?

This past week, I was listening to an episode of the Tosche Station podcast, and one of the participants was talking about Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkorsigan Saga. The discussion turned at one point to the whether they were reading it in chronological order or publication order.

This general question has bugged me since the mid-1990s, when Harper Collins gained the rights to The Chronicles of Narnia from Macmillan. Harper switched the numbering of the series to follow the story's internal chronological order, putting The Magician's Nephew as the first book, instead of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The Narnia books were some of the first that I read voraciously as a kid. I grew up with Macmillan's chronology, which was based on the books' publication dates.

The change of order bothered me. It didn't seem right, and I have never been able to come up with a good reason as to why. Maybe it is simply that I am used to reading the books in the order they were published, and I have a tough time with change and new things. In general, though (and listening to the podcast discussion of the Bujold books, which I have never read), I tend to think that it makes more sense to read book series in the order in which they were written or published.

As I listened to the Tosche Stations crew and thought more about this question, I was reminded of one of my pet peeves from TV and movie storytelling over the last ten years. When I am watching a TV show or a movie and the story jumps around in time—e.g., the "72 hours earlier…"-after-a-cold-opening trope—I get annoyed. I am immediately distracted and pulled out of the story, wondering what the director and writers are trying to hide. Maybe there are legitimate storytelling reasons to hop around in time, but mostly this tactic makes me suspicious that the writers are trying hide a mundane and/or uninteresting characters with narrative trickery (This Is Us, I'm looking at you here…).

But wait, I thought—am I being inconsistent? If I am immediately skeptical of a story jumping around in time, shouldn't I feel the same way about the order in which I read book series? Part of what I like about reading a series in publication order is finding out the backstory of characters and events I already know, as well as the the sometimes surprising reveals. How is this justification any different than a TV show that jumps back in forth in the timeline to deliberately obscure plot points and heighten tension and viewer interest?

I feel like there is a real difference between the two, but I am having a tough time figuring out exactly what it is. Perhaps part of it is that a book series is a string of long-form works, the creation of which is spread out over time. When we read them in the order in which they were created, we are carried along with the author as s/he discovers and builds the story. However, that explanation runs into conflict wiht another belief of mine—that authorial intent is irrelevant, that the primary (only?) meaningful relationship in a text is that between the text and the reader/viewer. At a pure storytelling level, why does it matter to me what the creation process was?

Clearly, I do not have an answer here. However, I do know that I still prefer to read books in order of publication. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the first Narnia book, damn it, and that's just how it is.

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  503. Grant Hart, *The Argument*
  504. Really, DC? REALLY?
  505. Washed Out, *Paracosm*
  506. Suspension of disbelief
  507. This is why bookstores are a niche business.
  508. True Widow, *Circumambulation*
  509. Personal experience v. policy
  510. Concern-trolling Gmail and "the cloud"
  511. Phosphorescent, *Muchacho*
  512. The Washington Post and AWS
  513. St. Patrick’s Day
  514. "You are wrong, and here are the reasons why."
  515. I find it unlikely that VMWare is going to suddenly embrace commodity cloud.
  516. Sometimes a methodology can be taken too far.
  517. "Let's just stick with what we've got..."
  518. What is good about *The Walking Dead* will also be its undoing.
  519. I'm not even sure your enterprise private cloud *could* succeed.
  520. If you haven't already, go watch *Dredd*
  521. The new How To Destroy Angels album
  522. A bit more regarding meetings, and how they suck
  523. Meetings
  524. And next, our plan for when we fail to plan
  525. Finally looked at the NYT's Snow Fall thing
  526. Time-tracking
  527. Prophecy
  528. More guns
  529. Guns
  530. Bold Leadership
  531. Hanlon's Razor
  532. That legacy stuff
  533. It's not about what box someone wants to put it in
  534. Tuhin Kumar on content in a digital era
  535. Money, politics, and Machiavelli
  536. I am skeptical that your tax plan will work any better.
  537. No, that's NOT the definition of insanity.
  538. The Walking Dead, now with more zombies
  539. The original Prometheus script seems interesting
  540. Commonplace is kind of nifty
  541. That Kant was a smart guy.
  542. Petraeus
  543. The World War Z trailer
  544. You should have bicycles
  545. The technorati fallacy
  546. One of my favorite types of requests
  547. The Lucasfilm thing
  548. The hermeneutics of automated configuration management
  549. I kind of agree with Descartes that philosophy should be done later in life
  550. It's not political discussion if you're just yelling at me.
  551. Complicated things are complicated (October 2012)
  552. The forest, the trees, and the DVDs
  553. Undecided voters
  554. David Quammen's new book seems good, but not sure I'll read it
  555. Found a new philosophy podcast
  556. Yes, pitty the poor billionaires and their thankless lives of toil.
  557. The ongoing adventures of Walter Bishop
  558. One can do a lot worse than "good enough."
  559. Is that a missile in your yard, or are you just trying to deter something?
  560. That's fine, but Aristotle still makes for tedious reading.
  561. Nevermind came out 20 years ago today
  562. Messing around with OpenPhoto
  563. Safety nets
  564. So, the Romney thing
  565. Your data-mining sucks
  566. Started watching Homeland
  567. The Clint Eastwood thing
  568. Enjoy the current plethora of music streaming choices while you can
  569. I invoke Sturgeon's Law
  570. Why would the FTC have anything to say about Twitter?
  571. The Lance Armstrong thing
  572. Actually, I expect Todd Akin to announce his candidacy for President any day now
  573. A lot of Can
  574. Finished the first series of *Downton Abbey*
  575. So Paul Ryan is Romney's VP pick
  576. Writing apps
  577. Distorted markets
  578., or, why it's still tough to compete with free
  579. Unfortunately, gun ownership and car ownership are not the same thing
  580. A bit more on the HBO thing
  581. OS upgrades
  582. Or I could just go listen to the album
  583. Monster Movie Week!
  584. As goes Sparrow...
  585. Why is Twitter more interesting to me than Facebook?
  586. Fantastical + Entourage + Exchange = WEIRDNESS
  587. Network neutrality, obviously a communist plot
  588. Nope, advertising just sucks
  589. Reading
  590. Interesting, but seems like asking for trouble
  591. Who needs it!
  592. Advantage, Mutt
  593. Do you want the answer, or not?
  594. ACA coverage and systems failure
  595. To-do lists
  596. So long, Weather Underground
  597. Checked baggage
  598. The challenge of spending any amount of time in Boston
  599. From the $2 bins at the record store
  600. I haven't seen *Prometheus*, but....
  601. The HBO thing
  602. It shouldn't matter which device I'm using
  603. Not exactly random, but good listening
  604. The Dark Knight... meh
  605. Because Kubrick is a good director, and Ridley Scott is not
  606. Country Roads, Take Me Home
  607. Memorial Day
  608. The revolution will not be Harvardized
  609. Chrome + Google Reader + space bar = ANNOYING
  610. Oddball behind-the-scenes photos
  611. The Times-Picayune, and chasing the wrong problem
  612. Experimenting with Pelican
  613. Readlists
  614. The classroom as an open, iterative project
  615. Yes, the Michael Wolff article
  616. Jevon's Paradox and the Cloud
  617. War Hazard Eliminated!
  618. Unintended Consequences
  619. Limbaugh blah blah blah
  620. You’re playing their game
  621. I highly doubt that AppleTV will magically kill the cable companies
  622. Breitbart
  623. I’m not sure I follow *you*, Mr. Romney…
  624. Maybe they think I’m going to buy another one?
  625. A bit more on The Shining
  626. Obviously, The Shining is *really* about the capitalist oppression of the working class
  627. 47 days of music seems like not that much…
  628. Regrettably, a post on campaign finance reform
  629. Why stop with in-app purchases?
  630. Opera would have saved the Lindbergh baby
  631. Actually, I would prefer not to deal with a human
  632. Ip Man
  633. Yes, but I’m still one one who has to decline the meeting invite
  634. Bogeyman
  635. Good streaming stuff I've found on Netflix: *The Blob (1988)*
  636. Good streaming stuff I've found on Netflix: *Isolation*
  637. Good streaming stuff I've found on Netflix: The Crack In the World
  638. BASIC
  639. In which I am paid back for 10+ years of scoffing
  640. The Comcast/Netflix thing
  641. My power is beyond your understanding!
  642. Out-stupiding the TSA
  643. I see what you did there
  644. The problem with *Stargate:Universe*
  645. That "15 albums" thing
  646. Pedestrian v. motorist v. bicycle
  647. Sorry guys, it's still just a hobby
  648. Sunny side up, hold the overflowing manure pits
  649. That's an interesting definition you have there
  650. James Cameron v. the philistines
  651. Sometimes zombies and politics do mix.
  652. Damn hell ass boobies (2006)
  653. Whither censure?
  654. Stealing TV, Part II
  655. OCTOBER?!
  656. Chasing boogeymen
  657. Nice vetting job, folks
  658. In a move that gives bootlicks and sycophants everywhere a bad name...
  659. As goes South Dakota... well, hopefully not
  660. A discovery that should surprise exactly no one
  661. And no, I don’t care what anyone was wearing
  662. The worst idea I’ve ever heard
  663. Once again, ladies and gentleman, the professionals at work
  664. Supporting the freedom-haters
  665. Why I’m glad I’m not a miner
  666. Say it some more, because that will make it true
  667. Music update - February 2006
  668. The Corporation
  669. Watching TV without having TV
  670. Google strikes again (2006)
  671. Belle & Sebastian – The Life Pursuit
  672. Touchy subject
  673. Take my ports. Please.
  674. NUTS!
  675. One year older than I was at this time last year
  676. Gaim 2.0 beta is surprisingly unannoying
  677. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
  678. Lewis Black
  679. Uhhhhhhh...
  680. The Yes Men
  681. And again, my apologies
  682. I did it for you, Damien
  684. The site may be slow today
  685. Electronic mediocrity
  686. Maybe they are better off...
  687. Angry Dick strikes again
  688. Capote
  689. The gang that couldn’t shoot straight
  690. Why I don’t believe in a lot of stuff
  691. Wherein Pete despairs
  692. A long overdue return to an old favorite
  693. The Plame Name Blame Game Revisited (with pictures)
  694. Meanwhile, in TV Land...
  695. Hide your puppies
  696. I like VoIP
  697. From the “Oh, ya THINK?!” Dept:
  698. More good stuff (hopefully) from the Beeb
  699. The Monkey and the Sock Puppet, Part VI
  700. So, Mr. Attorney General—what questions will you answer?
  701. The hearings are on.
  702. Apples and oranges
  703. And in somewhat less serious news...
  704. Tune in tomorrow. For nothing.
  705. War in name only
  706. What? Something good from Cincinnati?
  707. Lookee here—I got me a domain!
  708. I will gladly pay you on Tuesday for a scandal today
  709. I suppose that’s one way of putting it
  710. Hooray for books I’ve never read
  711. The State of the Union (in Happy Happy Gumdrop Land)
  713. Flirting with the dark side
  714. Countdown to a big waste of time
  715. What if you had a demonstration and no one cared?
  716. When the hair was big and the booze flowed like water
  717. Weekend music update
  718. The New York Times finally throws down
  719. Today’s project
  720. What not to be looking for on a slow Friday afternoon
  721. The broken record continues to spin
  722. Long time, no music
  723. Yes, I’ve gotten sucked into Battlestar Galactica
  724. At least someone is putting up a fight
  725. More legal contortions
  726. More on Iran
  727. It’s not playing politics when we do it.
  728. Only 20 more hours to go
  729. Original intent
  730. And Iran, Iran so far away, Iran all night and day
  731. You say Alito, I say whatever
  732. Tick, tick, tick, tick
  733. I don’t want to live with the bears
  734. Quick TV update
  735. Still nowhere on the wiretapping
  736. Alas Kermit, we hardly knew ye
  737. Reading too much into The West Wing
  738. A question, sir...
  739. Blogging about blogging
  740. A few changes
  741. HOWTO: The Straw Man
  742. Year-end music round-up
  743. Again with the wire-tapping
  744. The Great Wire-Tapping Caper That Almost Was
  745. King Kong is a giant piece of shit
  746. I’m genuinely shocked
  747. If only we were this interested in our own elections
  748. Angry Dick
  749. The Fellowship of the Wardrobe
  750. Sorry for the delay
  751. The time grows near
  752. Site news - October 2005
  753. Quote of the Day
  754. Serenity
  755. Stop! You’re killin’ me
  756. I want something like War of the Worlds, but on TV
  757. Forensic Show #23
  758. It’s TV time again
  759. Nothing to see here
  760. Going from bad to worse to...
  761. The Return of the Puzzled Chimp
  762. Google Talk
  763. The Crummy Governor vs. the Worst Newspaper on Earth
  764. Liquid Television strikes back from beyond the grave
  765. Voting != Democracy
  766. He’s not lying
  767. Trying to maintain my sense of perspective
  768. The perfect album?
  769. Movies, movies, movies
  770. Yes, Becky, there really is a new post
  771. A bit of background
  772. Leaving, on a jet plane
  773. He also likes puppies and helps crippled children
  774. Consequences of spending two straight days in the rack room
  775. No one ever said beggars can’t be complainers
  776. Again with this story
  777. Music update - July 2005
  779. Whither Rove?
  780. How quaint.
  781. Intellects vast and cool...
  782. and... They’re off!
  783. “I have a secret plan to win the war...”
  784. I’m back
  785. You say quagmire, I say... well... quagmire.
  786. Thank you, FARK
  787. ZOMBIES!
  788. On second thought...
  789. Worst... Interviewer... EVER.
  790. Not with a bang, but a whimper
  791. So it actually didn’t suck
  792. More on the filibuster debate
  793. YES!!
  794. Going nuclear/constitutional
  795. Worth a listen?
  796. Music update - May 2005)
  797. Well, at least it’s not wooden...
  798. Who would have guessed I’d make two posts about the National Weather Service in as many weeks?
  799. Because the government doesn’t have anything better to do...
  800. More on taxes
  801. Happy April 15th
  802. Normally, I welcome change, but...
  803. Long live the Death Tax
  804. Damn hell ass boobies (2005)
  805. Woohoo! It’s Windows Update day!
  806. Wherein Pete refuses to throw his lot in with the fanboys
  807. METAL!!!
  808. The Republicans step up their war on the judiciary
  809. This is the coolest thing EVER
  810. Your tax dollars at work - April 2004
  811. April Fools Day
  812. Groundhog Day, Part II
  813. The devil movies always get me.
  814. IM Annoyances
  815. Wherein Pete attempts to give Congressional Republicans the benefit of the doubt.
  816. What the hell?
  817. I suggest we start a pool...
  818. Drill, drill, drill!
  819. This is getting out of hand.
  820. I, for one, say “Woohoo!”
  821. the gates... THE GATES!!
  822. More “indecency”
  823. And again...
  824. Where have I heard this before?
  825. Anybody want gmail?
  826. Dirty, dirty titties
  827. It’s true because I say it’s true.
  828. Odds bodkins! It has failed again!
  829. One man’s Conservative...
  830. Google strikes again! (2005)
  831. wah-nah NAAHHH nah-nah
  832. More on the latest $80 billion circling the drain
  833. You just can’t write stuff this good.
  834. Argh, I say.
  835. A rose is a rose.
  836. I’d say good riddance, if only I didn’t fear something even worse
  837. Sorry...
  838. “Horse?” asked the Cart, “I don’t need no stinkin’ horse.”
  839. Amusement
  840. The bottom-end of 2004
  841. How Bush Won
  842. New Music
  843. Foolishness
  844. Good news, I think...
  845. The first of many, I’m sure...
  846. Numbers, numbers, numbers
  847. Remember that thing I said yesterday?
  848. We have answered your question, now please go away.
  849. Alright, we’ve fixed that problem. What’s next?
  850. Site news - November 2004
  851. A brief tale of political shenanigans
  852. More good web radio
  853. Another post-election site
  854. If we say it enough, that makes it true, right?
  855. Sorry, everybody
  856. What the hell *is* an activist judge, anyway?
  857. Apologies
  858. Nonsense
  859. Some new music
  860. Your argument is very convincing… if only it were not a tangled web of lies.
  861. The music is back online
  862. What is wrong with our culture, summed up in a single amusing anecdote
  863. Odds and Ends
  864. SCIENCE!
  865. Making a bad situation worse
  866. Derrida, Part II
  867. From the “It Couldn’t Happen To a Better Bunch of People” Dept.:
  868. The Faith-Based Presidency
  869. I am rather disgusted at the moment
  870. Two weeks, man… two weeks…
  871. It’s been fun, Linux, but I just don’t think this is going to work out.