Discussion: How do you remember what happened in a series?

January 15, 2016


How do you remember what happened in a series? Do you have any tips or tricks to keep your mind in shape while waiting for the next installment of a book you’ve just loved? Let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

tp-2-ironfey(The Iron Fey Series by Julie Kagawa – A perfect example of my series amnesia!)

All too often, I read series and then promptly forget what happens. A year later, a new book comes out and then I have to decide whether to pick it up totally blind, or sit down and re-read the first. This can be dangerous, because;

a) Re-reading takes time, you guys. You could be reading something new rather than something you’ve already reviewed on the blog.
b) The book might not be as good as you remember it (see my re-read of Cinder, for example)
c) If book #3 is coming out ANOTHER YEAR later, you risk having to do it all again.

Book nerd problems, I tell you.

It’s true that some books ‘re-cap’ what happens, and sometimes that can be a good enough reminder if you still remember the broader plot, but what I find is that my feel and attachment to the characters is gone. That’s a lot of what makes or breaks a book for me, so most of the time I don’t want to read BOOK TWO unless I’m carrying that feeling I had at the end of BOOK ONE. I want to get the best experience out of my read and I don’t feel like I’m giving it 100% unless I re-read. It’s a vicious cycle.

Though, sometimes books are too good to forget. I’ll think about it all YEAR, just waiting to dive back into the next instalment as soon as it hits shelves. It was like that for me with Linger by Maggie Stiefvater. I loved that series so much that I constantly thought about the characters I loved, the relationships I ‘shipped and the world of Mercy Falls. There was no way I was forgetting it!

Minor characters and plot arcs often get forgotten. Remember that character that was briefly mentioned in BOOK ONE and did something mildly suspicous? Nope. Neither do I. When the heroine starts talking about him/her and his/her bad deeds of the past, I’m totally lost. There’s nothing worse than being disorientated while reading. You just want to scream at the author to THROW YOU A HINT, but quite often they don’t. For the first half of the book you find yourself stumbling around, trying to dust off your memory in time for the big showdown at the end.

If the book has a movie or tv series, certain actor’s faces are embedded in my memory, and it helps me remember what happened. This is another reason I love adaptations. It really hammers the plots and characters into my brain. But, it can be a double-edged sword, too. Did it happen in the book, or is what I’m remembering from the altered tv show or film? Ack!

So what do you do?

Recaptains – it has saved many a series for me

Recaptains: I had no idea this gem of a blog existed until author Maggie Stiefvater did a guest post re-capping her Raven Boys release. Ever since then, I’ve had this baby bookmarked. Recaptains gives you the rundown of the basics, ‘what went down’ and the ending of numerous YA titles. Seriously, check this one out before you sit down for a re-read. It may be enough to jog your memory.

Write your review so that you re-cap what you need to know: I used to do this, but gave this method away in light of writing more thought-orientated reviews. I didn’t like re-capping the plot, which ruined the review-writing process for me. But it could work for you.

Keep a notebook: This may be a little tough to manage, but possible if you’re desperate enough. Dedicate a notebook to jotting down the characters, discoveries, important plot points and developments. When the time comes to read book two, you’ll have something to go on.

Watch the movie/series: This one is great if the series you’ve read has a film franchise or tv deal. It’ll be enough of a refresher course to get you going on with book two.

What do you do to ensure you remember what happens in a series?


  • Reply Jeann @ Happy Indulgence January 21, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    Fantastic pointers Brittany! I’m absolutely terrible at remembering things that happened in books as well, and instead of re-reading I’ve stuck to reading recaps of series. It’s really saved me for sequels that are out!
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  • Reply Kelly January 18, 2016 at 3:14 am

    That website is the best thing since sliced bread! Thanks for the link Britt, I’ll be using that one until the cows come home. Unless I’ve fallen head over heels for any book, I tend to forget pretty quickly. Like an acquaintance that you can vaguely remember them, but have no idea what their name is. I find recapping when writing a review helps me. It’s how I interpreted the storyline and then I usually discuss my feelings on it. It would be awesome to see a prologue recap in every book series from book two onward. I never reread and would rather drop a series then go back again. Great post Britt, loved it <3
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  • Reply Kyra @ Blog of a Bookaholic January 17, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    This is a huge problem for me! I generally try to marathon my series because I am SO FORGETFUL and there’s just something so amazing by reading all the books in one go. I still remember I read the 4th Harry Potter book when I was 12 and then decided to reread it this year when I’m 16 and there’s a huge plot twist and this was reading it the second time I was like NO WAY, I DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING WHAT even though I’d already read it. It’s terrible, really. So yep, I just google what happened so I can remember what went on so I’m not completely lost in the sequels. :)
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  • Reply Lu (@Sugar_and_Snark) January 16, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    This happens to me often. I read as much reviews on goodreads as I can, of the previous book. There are generally a few reviews that give a good summary :)

  • Reply Alicia January 16, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    What I used to do was skim through the previous books, paying particular attention to chapter titles (if they have them) and the last chapter, and then look at other people’s reviews to see if they recap a bit because I usually don’t in mine. Now I’ve started writing notes on the books I read that I know won’t have sequels for a long time.
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  • Reply Danya January 16, 2016 at 4:05 am

    Oh man, this is definitely a problem for me. I often only have this sort of hazy idea of what went down in previous books by the time the next book has come out!! So frustrating, especially when the new book just dives into the story and *doesn’t* do a good job of recapping, and I’m left going, ‘Huh??? What’s going on???’ Sometimes I can glean some info from my previous review (if I did one) but other times it doesn’t have the info that I need. What I do sometimes is if I own the previous book, I might skim parts of that to remind myself of the last book’s events. Awesome topic for a discussion post, I’m sure lots of bloggers have the same trouble.

    And I hadn’t heard of the Recaptains site, I’ll have to check it out!

  • Reply Aj @ Read All The Things! January 16, 2016 at 1:41 am

    This is why I usually wait until an entire series is out and then marathon the books. I have a terrible memory and no time to reread long series.
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  • Reply Hannah January 15, 2016 at 9:17 pm

    I’ve never heard of Recaptains! That is definitely getting bookmarked. I do the re-read for major series – like ToG, but other times I’ve just delved straight back into the series without any prep. Maybe that’s why I go off a lot of series? I know there’s the last book in a few series I’ve not gotten around to simply because I can’t remember from that long ago. Maybe that’s why GR is good – having a review up to help recap and refresh your memory!

  • Reply Bec @ Readers in Wonderland January 15, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    Once upon a time I had a really good book plot memory… that was before uni started stole all my reading time. Now I’m so terrible at remembering tiny little details and characters in some books. Which is why for my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE SERIES I make time for a rereading marathon each time a new books comes out. For series I’m not so invested in I’ll either jump right in and hope the book jogs my memory, look up other peoples reviews (spoilery reviews are great for this), see if there’s a wikipedia page or Recaptains, or just roll with it and pretend I completely remember. Keeping a notebook is a great idea (it could help with writing reviews too) but also a lot of effort haha
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  • Reply Bec January 15, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    It depends. I love to reread because I like seeing character development in action. I will be doing that with Outlander at some point. Probably not just yet, seeing as I have books to read for uni. But because thosr books are so complicated, rereading is essential.
    If the newest book comes out within months of me reading the series, I can usually skip the reread. Like with “Calamity” in February. I only finished Firefight about two months ago, so the story is still really fresh for me!

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