Brain Candy Sale

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores


Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.


Entry Points

There's nothing quite as awesome as getting hooked on a great book series. You suddenly realize there's a huge pile of content just waiting for you to love it. But starting in on a series, even one that's popular, can be intimidating. It's not always best to start at the beginning. Sometimes a series takes a few books to really get good. Other times, the best book for introducing new readers ends up somewhere in the middle. So where do you begin? The following are cases where I personally think you're better off starting somewhere other than the first book.

Wagers of Sin by Robert Asprin and Linda Evans. The second book in the Time Scout series, Wagers of Sin is a clear-cut case of the "Empire Strikes Back Effect," where an already-good story has a sequel that outshines it. The loveable rogue Skeeter Jackson (a minor character from the first book) takes over as protagonist in this amazing tale of a time-traveling con man. It's much more likely to suck you in to the Time Scout universe than the titular first book.

Neutron Star by Larry Niven. "Known Space," where Ringworld takes place, is a vast and beautifully detailed universe. The short story collection Neutron Star gives you an excellent cross-section of Niven's complex world. By reading Neutron Star first, you can enjoy Ringworld all the more because it will take place in a familiar setting.

The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks. The first of Banks's iconic Culture books, Consider Phlebas, is uncharacteristic of the series, featuring the normally peaceful and benevolent Culture in a brutal war. The Player of Games shows what the Culture is really like and how they interact with other civilizations. By reading Consider Phlebas later, you can truly appreciate what a shocking event the war was to their civilization.

Small Gods by Terry Pratchett. Nowhere near the beginning of Pratchett's rich and hilariously funny Discworld series, Small Gods is nevertheless a standalone novel that demonstrates one of the core concepts of its world: how belief shapes the gods. That, plus the excellent story and brilliant narration, makes Small Gods the ideal gateway into these wonderful books.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. R. Dneel Olivaw is Asimov's most commonly recurring character, and newcomers to Asimov's oeuvre might be tempted to start with the first book in which he appears, The Caves of Steel. This would be a shame, because not only is I, Robot one of the greatest science fiction books of all time, it clearly and completely lays out the Robots series to come.

÷ ÷ ÷

Andy Weir was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age 15 and has been working as a software engineer ever since. He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel.

Books mentioned in this post

  1. The Martian
    New Hardcover $25.00
  2. I, Robot Used Mass Market $4.50
  3. Small Gods: A Novel of Discworld... New Mass Market $9.99
  4. The Caves of Steel (The Robot Series #1)
    Used Mass Market $3.95

  5. Consider Phlebas
    Used Trade Paper $9.50
  6. Ringworld, Part One: The Graphic Novel Sale Trade Paper $8.98

  7. Time Scout: Time Scout
    Used Mass Market $3.50
  8. Wagers of Sin: Time Scout II Used Mass Market $2.95

Andy Weir is the author of The Martian

2 Responses to "Entry Points"

    Dennis Gerson February 17th, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Two more series: Alan Furst, The French Corespondent in his WW2 historical fiction series of spying before, during and after WW2. Jean Claude Izzo, Total Chaos, the Marseilles Trilogy, crime and murder in early 60's Marseilles.

    Miranda B February 22nd, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    It's funny that you mention Small Gods as your introduction to Discworld; when we were kids my brother had every single Discworld book and was consistently annoyed by my sister, who would reread Small Gods about once a year but never touch any of the others. I've read a few Discworld books but never that one, your post may have inspired me to actually go through with it.

Post a comment:

Get Your Gravatar

  1. Please note:
  2. All comments require moderation by staff.
  3. Comments submitted on weekends might take until Monday to appear.
PowellsBooks.Blog uses Gravatar to allow you to personalize the icon that appears beside your name when you post. If you don't have one already, get your Gravatar today!
  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at