Is there anything better than a book series that has you immediately reaching for the next book and feeling devastated when it’s over? The best book series of all time deliver.
Following these characters over the course of several novels, sometimes for generations, can make readers feel like they are part of the family. Adventure stories take you along on an invisible participant in the group’s quest.
Sometimes a series can take you to completely different worlds or one that feels slightly familiar. Other series may involve time travel or other galaxies. But wherever these books take you, you are sure to have a good time! And in the course of literary history, a popular series can even open up new opportunities for writers in different genres, inspiring generations of authors to come and expanding the number of stories published.
Just a few notes on the list: when choosing the series for this list, I didn’t include any children’s or young adult series, which typically make up a lot of the “best series ever” lists. And while we love those types of series too, this list just includes books written for adults, both finished and unfinished series. Okay, what are we waiting for? Let’s jump into the books!
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein
In the world of fantasy novels, few have been as influential as J. R. R. Tokein’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and his other books about Middle Earth. The world is so vivid in his mind, and each new character that appears has an incredible backstory that only he knows. But once you’ve read some of the additional material in his other books, you begin to see how layered Tolkein’s Middle Earth really is.
The Broken Earth Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin
N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy is a revelation. Set in a world that has an apocalypse every “fifth season,” the trilogy begins when a woman’s husband kills their son and kidnaps their daughter. From there, Jemisin’s masterpiece unfolds, each book better than the last. The Broken Earth series was the first trilogy where each novel won the Hugo award for best novel.
Saga by Brian K Vaughan, Illustrated by Fiona Staples
In this space fantasy comic series, we meet two people from opposing sides of a civil war who have fallen in love. When their daughter is born, they find themselves fugitives from both sides of the conflict. Along the way, we meet ghosts, bounty hunters, and robot royalty. This comic drew in new readers to the genre and solidified the comic as a medium for more than just superhero stories.
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin
Eddard Stark lives with his family in peace and comfort, ruling the North in the name of his king. But when King Robert Baratheon arrives at Winterfell, the Stark family’s lives will never be the same. Now an incredibly famous HBO series, A Song of Ice and Fire has introduced a whole new generation to epic fantasy books. While the book series still remains unfinished, it’s already made a lasting impact on the genre.
The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
Outlander helped establish historical fiction as a genre that can move a lot of books, opening the door even wider for other historical fiction writers. The series starts right after the end of World War II. Nurse Claire Randall reunites with her husband and travels with him to Scotland. There, she finds herself sent back in time to 1743. The highlands are in turmoil as a larger war is brewing. Unable to figure out how to return to her own time, she finds her fate tied up with Jamie Fraser, a Scots warrior who steals her heart.
The Binti Trilogy by Nnedi Okorafor
Nnedi Okorafor’s original novella Binti won both the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novella. The story begins when Binti, a Himba girl from Earth, is accepted to an intergalactic university, the first of her people to do so. But on the way to her new school, her transport is attacked. Binti’s story was eventually expanded to two other novellas and a short story, which you can now purchase in a gorgeous omnibus edition.
Love Medicine Series by Louise Erdrich
Ojibwe literary icon Louise Erdrich has gifted the world with her incredible Love Medicine series, an epic story focusing on generations of two Ojibwe families — the Kashpaws and the Lamartines — across its generations. The first book in the series, Love Medicine, focuses on the two Ojibwe families living on a reservation in North Dakota, giving readers a multigenerational portrait of their lives.
The Parable Duology by Octavia E. Butler
Set in an alternate future America, Parable of the Sower follows 15-year-old Lauren Olamina, who has a vision for a life lived in peace, away from the chaos that is apocalyptic America. When her compound is attacked, she decides to travel on foot in search of the future she sees for herself and her growing chosen family. Butler saw so much about where America was headed and captured it so perfectly in her work.
The Wolf Hall Trilogy by Hilary Mantel
With Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel astonished the literary fiction world by proving once and for all that historical fiction can be a serious work of literary art. The first two books in the trilogy won the Booker Prize, and all three have received incredible reviews from literary critics. The trilogy focuses on Thomas Cromwell, who aids King Henry VIII of England in divorcing his first wife by separating from the Catholic Church and establishing the Church of England.
The Gilead Quartet by Marilynne Robinson
In her quartet of literary masterworks, Marilynne Robinson begins with the story of John Ames, a Congregationalist pastor in the town of Gilead. He is an older man with a young wife and son. While he knows his death is coming soon, he doesn’t want his son not to know him. So he begins writing about his life. Robinson’s intense knowledge of theology and skill as a philosophical thinker shine on every page of this quartet.
The Neopolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante | Translated by Ann Goldstein
In My Brilliant Friend, the first book in the series, we meet two girls from a working class neighborhood in Naples. Both possess incredible potential, but one is given the means to continue her education and one is not. From there a story of a complex friendship unfolds as each girl’s future shifts and changes through the decades.
Dublin Murder Squad Series by Tana French
Rob Ryan is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad. He prefers to not think about his childhood, but when he’s called to a case set in his hometown, he’s forced to face the worst trauma of his life. Twenty years before, some of his best friends disappeared, leaving him as the only survivor. In the Woods is the start to one of the best mystery series in recent years. Each consecutive book focuses on different characters in the same literary universe.
The Easy Rawlins Novels by Walter Mosley
It’s 1948 in Los Angeles, California, and Easy Rawlins has just been fired from his factory job. When a man approaches him about finding a missing woman, Easy feels like he doesn’t have much of a choice. This one decision begins one of the most iconic detective series of all time, featuring the much beloved Black detective, Easy Rawlins.
The Loyal League Novels by Alyssa Cole
In one of the most riveting historical romance series of all time, we are introduced to Elle Burns, a former enslaved woman who’s determined to do her part helping the Union win the Civil War. She voluntarily goes undercover as a spy for the Union Army, returning to the South as an enslaved woman. Her love interest is Malcolm McCall, a detective for Pinkerton’s Secret Service who has been tasked with infiltrating a Rebel enclave in Virginia.
Highway 59 Series by Attica Locke
While there are only two books in this series so far, I think it’s safe to say that Attica Locke’s Highway 59 mystery novels are an instant classic. They feature Darren Mathews, a Black Texas Ranger. In the first novel, Bluebird, Bluebird, we meet Darren when he’s on suspension after getting himself entangled in a case surrounding people close to him. But when a white woman and a Black man are found dead in a small Texas town, Darren is sent to investigate as his superiors hope that the presence of a Black officer will calm the rising racial tensions in the town.
The Appalachian Trilogy by Silas House
Appalachian literary gem Silas House made his name with his Appalachian Trilogy, which follows generations of family in Eastern Kentucky. The series starts with A Parchment of Leaves, set in the early 1900s in a rural mountain town. Vine, a young Cherokee woman, has just married a white man from a nearby holler. We follow her as she settles down into her new life and begins a family that readers follow for decades through this whole series.
The Dark Tower Saga by Stephen King
In The Gunslinger, the first book in the Dark Tower Saga, we meet Roland of Gilead: The Last Gunslinger. He is a myth of legend, a figure from the Wild West. As he tries to keep tabs on the Man in Black, he meets other people along the way. With each new piece of the puzzle, readers become more captivated by this story from a master in adventure horror.
The Brown Sisters Series by Talia Hibbert
Talia Hibbert has written some incredible books that center on disabled and neurodivergent Black women finding love in the contemporary UK. The first book in The Brown Sisters series introduces us to the eldest sister, Chloe Brown. Chloe has decided to strike out on her own, managing her chronic illness and working from home. She moves into a building with an incredibly hot property manager. Will she be able to resist the sparks she feels with him or will she choose love?
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
In one of the most epic series of rich people problems, Kevin Kwan introduces us to a wild trilogy full of incredible characters. Rachel Chu, a Chinese American woman, loves her boyfriend Nick, who is from Singapore. But on their way to visit his family, he finally reveals that he’s from a rich family. So begins the trilogy full of over-the-top characters who are seriously ridiculously rich.
The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells
In this series, made up mostly of novellas, we meet murderbot, a bio-robot sort of hybrid who has been commissioned by a group of people exploring a planet. Murderbot has found a way to override their maker’s instructions, but they know they must pretend to carry out their maker’s will or be forced to comply. Full of adventure and plenty of plot twists, the Murderbot Diaries are sure to keep you wanting the next book immediately.
Whichever of the best book series of all time that you pick up, you are sure to find a great reads! For even more series recommendations check out The Best Book Series for Adults in Every Genre and 8 of the Best Book Series Ending in 2021.