Chronological or Release Order?

Do you read book series based on their chronological order or their release order?

What’s the best and why?

There’s a lot of debate over the right way to read a book series when it’s full of prequels, sequels, and everything in between. An author might publish 3 books in order, then add a prequel, then another 2 books, then a spinoff, and finally the conclusion. It can get a bit confusing to follow along as a reader if you’re not reading the books as they are released.

So if you approach a new series that’s been completed, where do you start?

I’ve put a little thought into this lately and came up with a few benefits of reading series in chronological order and release order. Here are my top 4 reasons to read series each way.

Benefits of Reading in Chronological Order


No Spoilers

Reading events happening in chronological order may prevent unwanted spoilers or flashbacks.



The order of events over the course of a series can get a bit tricky when you don’t see the events happen in real-time. Chronological order helps keep things straight.


Character Growth

Seeing a character age and learn keeps perspective. I love watching characters grow up.



Once a series is published, the chance to re-read in chronological order can mix up the experience the second time around.

Benefits of Reading in Release Order


Author’s Intent

The author wrote and released the books in that order for a reason. Trust them.


Read as Published

By nature, when you read in release order, you can read the books as soon as they are published. The second a new installment goes live you can dive in.


Author’s Growth

It stands to reason that an author will change their style and continue to improve with each book. Take advantage of joining them on their journey.


Revealed Information

As an author plans a series with prequels and sequels, they can masterfully dole out just enough information at just the right time to move the plot and make sense.

Since I really like fantasy and sci-fi series, I’ve found a few series that I prefer to read each way. My recommendations lead a little heavy towards release order. I think my trend is to read release order first, then chronological order on a re-read if I really liked the series. Or if it’s recommended to read that way.

Examples to Read in Chronological Order:

  • Witcher
  • Jack Reacher
  • Twilight

Examples to Read in Release Order:

  • American Assassin
  • The Wheel of Time
  • Discworld
  • Divergent
  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Maze Runner

What About Movies?

One of the most famously controversial movie series orders is Star Wars. 12 movies with release dates spanning over 40 years make it the perfect cinematic dilemma. I chose to watch these essentially in release order (even though I haven’t seen the last two yet).

I think some of the same arguments apply here as with books. But the exception might be that book series typically keep one author for the whole series, while movies can have a whole host of writers and directors making each one unique. So we lose the sense of following and growing with the author when we change the series medium to film.

Along the same lines, when a real-life human must be cast in the role of each character, we lose a sense of consistency that we can guarantee with books.

I think overall, I’m on board with watching film series in release order. Although after watching all of the Marvel movies in release order, I did eventually rewatch them in mostly chronological order for fun because I enjoyed them so much.

So… Do you read series in chronological order or release order?

Comment below to share what you do when reading a series.

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