Where to Find Book Series Recaps. (Since most books don’t have a synopsis.) Let’s Discuss.

August 29, 2018 Let's Discuss 38

The other day, I posted a random tweet about how I wished there was a synopsis at the beginning of new books in a series. Based on the response I got, I’d say quite a few people agreed with me.

First off, I was excited for the fact that my tweet went mini-viral (well, at least, it’s by far the most attention one of my tweets has ever gotten). But I was also both amused and educated by the responses.

But what did I mean by these 280 little characters? Some people misunderstood my intent. There were quite a few responses like this one from @BedCraib:

They do have it – well good writers do – they work in the *previously* to the text of the new book – they remind the reader of what happened in the first over the first few chapters of the second, or where appropriate and if they do it skillfully you don’t notice.

I realize that most authors embed background info into the first few chapters of a book. My problem is that I’ve often forgotten so much that I spend those chapters puzzling through them, trying to put it all together, trying desperately to remember who Joe is and why he no longer works for Monster Hunters Inc. It tends to ruin my enjoyment of the beginning of the book because I’m so focused on figuring out what the heck is going on.

PLUS, having a quick synopsis at the beginning of the book that’s well-marked and easily skippable would be a win for binge readers as well. No more slogging through a bunch of exposition out of fear of missing something new. And no more awkward recaps. I thought @kalbzayn said it best with this hilarious reply to my tweet:

It would also minimize the amount of backstory infodumps authors would have to awkwardly do to catch the reader up on the previous books by saying things like, “I know you passed that class with a C last year because the werewolf kidnapped you the night before finals, but…”

Of course, there were plenty of people who told me I should just read the previous books again. (Some people were nicer about it than others—some people seemed downright insulted that I’d want a synopsis instead of just rereading. Others implied that if I didn’t remember the details of a book I’d read, I must not have liked it very much. They obviously have superior brains to mine.) While rereading sounds great in theory, I know from experience that it doesn’t happen. I have the best of intentions, but inevitably new books crowd out any room for rereads. Plus, I think I could spend a year just rereading books from all the series I still need to finish!!

Where to Look for Recaps

Several people pointed out places you can go to look for recaps. Here are a few that were mentioned to me or that I found, in case you’re looking:

  • Recaptains This has always been my go-to. I really should submit my own recaps to them for series I don’t want to forget!
  •  – I hadn’t heard of this one, and it’s a GREAT resource for YA series recaps.
  • SERIESous Book Reviews – Both reviews and recaps!
  • Fantasy Book Recaps – This looks to be mostly YA and hasn’t been updated since May, but still seems like a great resource.
  • SparkNotes – This site seems to have mostly classics on it, but there are some other books on it too. (Especially if they might end up in a curriculum. For instance, I saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower in their list, which isn’t a series, but there might be others that are.)
  • Wikis – Lots of series have wikis that have been created for them. Unfortunately, fandom.wikia.com doesn’t have an easy to click category for books like it does for movies and TV, but you can just search for the series name in the search bar. You can also just do a Google search for the name of the series and “wiki” (AKA “Game of Thrones wiki”) and you might find others!

Recap-Friendly Authors

And lots of people gave me names of authors that do recap the books in their series. I can’t confirm that all of these are true synopses (rather than just reminders built into the narratives) because I haven’t read them all, but here are the books that were mentioned to me, if you’re looking for a recap-friendly series!

  • Jay Kristoff recaps in his Stormdancer and Nevernight Series.
  • Rachel Caine says she recaps in some of her series. (And she told me she’d make a video recap of Honor Among Thieves before Honor Bound comes out. How cool is that?)
  • S.J. Pajonas does them in her Nogiku Series.
  • Tad Williams was mentioned A LOT, so I think he does it with all of his series.
  • Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series.
  • David Weber, author of the Honor Harrington space opera series.
  • Gini Koch.
  • Brent Weeks’ The Lightbringer Series.
  • Mark Lawrence’s The Grey Sister Series
  • CJ Cherryh does this in some (but not all) of her series.
  • Raymond E. Feist included an “Our story so far” in his initial Riftwar series.
  • The Saga of Darren Shan has them.
  • Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Series.
  • R. Scott Bakker.
  • Jim Butcher did it a lot with the first books of the Dresden Files.
  • Victoria Dannan does this in her Knights of Black Swan Series.
  • The Inheritance Cycle (Eragon) by Christopher Paolini.
  • The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin … best recap ever at the start of book 2!
  • The ILLUMINATUS! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.
  • Stephen Donaldson did amazing recaps in his Thomas Covenant books.
  • James Islington did this in his sequel to The Shadow Of What Was Lost.
  • Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator seems to have a nice recap of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the beginning.
  • Lots of people mentioned the Harry Potter books too (though I’m not sure that these have an easily skippable synopsis right at the top).

A couple of people also mentioned these creative ways authors included recaps:

  • Jasper Fforde once had the main character go onto a tv chat show to talk about the events of the book previous in the opening chapters
  • David Eddings’ novels would have a prologue pretending to be an in-universe history textbook covering the basics of the previous books

And here are a couple of other fun replies that I just want to share because they made me laugh:

@El_Dodgero gave this little tongue-in-cheek recap:

“Previously on Lord of the Rings: Frodo and Sam hung out with a guy under a waterfall. Trees talked for seventy five chapters. Then they killed Saruman and Merry spent fifteen pages looking for pipeweed. Let’s hope nobody turns Faramir into an asshole in the film!”

And @KWilsonAuthor said (I think I actually know what book she’s talking about here.):

I just started book 3 of a series & the MC has amnesia, so neither of us remembers what happened in the last book 🙄

And I’ll end on that fun note.

Do you wish that series books had synopses in them? Do you know of books that do (besides the ones I’ve listed)? Or any other recap sites I missed? I want to know!

 

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38 Responses to “Where to Find Book Series Recaps. (Since most books don’t have a synopsis.) Let’s Discuss.”

  1. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    Praise be to this post! I am checking out the recap links to see if the series I was going to read is on there. I’ve found a recap for book 1 (which I sort of remember) but not for book 2.

    I agree with you, sure, good writers do integrate the past book well into their book but I’m with you, trying to put it all together when you’re reading does put you off a bit. I want to go in knowing where I stand and carry on. And not remembering a book well does not mean you didn’t enjoy it. Book amnesia is a thing! I mean, I loved a book I read the other day but when it came to writing my review a couple of weeks after finishing I still had to go back and read characters names because I’d blanked them and I forget events until I see them in someone’s review. Ugh, some people just do not understand.

  2. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight

    The amnesia tweet cracked me up, haha. But yeah, you know I agree. I actually just keep my own summaries for series books, but that’s a pain in the butt. It would be much better if this were just a thing. And I love to binge read, so I do find it really frustrating when I have to sit through characters awkwardly explaining things I just read about. Once I was binging two books, and the second one had literally a pages-long thing where the MC sat down with another character and explained the entire plot of the first book to him -_-

    You know, maybe another idea would be for authors to keep a recap on their websites? Not as handy as having it right there in the book, but a note with a link to their site could still be useful, esp if you were reading an ebook!

  3. Grace @ Rebel Mommy Book Blog

    Yay for a viral tweet!! And I so agree with you. That is kind of why I stay away from a lot of series. I am totally not going to reread the book. I would love a little recap to remind me. I am so going to check out those sights for sure. And those last two tweets were funny!

  4. ShootingStarsMag

    Okay, whoever wrote you and was snippy about you not re-reading…are they bloggers? Because I’m going to guess no, since most bloggers just don’t have TIME to re-read even though we would love to. We tend to read way more than the average reader – I think – and some of us don’t have wonderful memories! I’m a little indignant on your behalf now. LOL I love all the nice/funny comments though. But to answer your question, yes! This would be amazing and it would make it so much easier to start the next book in the series without worrying about forgetting important things! More books should definitely do this, and I’ve never seen one that does, so thanks for the suggestions and the sites!

    -Lauren

  5. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    Wow, that tweet kind of exploded. It’s weird that some tweets get tons of attention and others get none. Thanks for the recap sites. I appreciated the recaps in The Dark Tower series. There were so many years between the release of one book and the next that it would be reasonable to assume that the reader had forgotten EVERYTHING. And the reader probably misplaced their copy of the previous book and can’t reread. It was a long wait.

  6. S. J. Pajonas

    I do this! Or at least I did this for the Nogiku Series. I need to work this into the Hikoboshi Series, too, so maybe I’ll do that when I get the new blurb for Crash Land on Kurai. And I definitely plan on doing this for my next series. I even plan on doing “Next time in Book 2…” and then a quick “Previously in Book 1…” at the beginning. I put them in the “foreword” area on Vellum so they can be skipped easily.

  7. Sam @ Sharing Inspired Kreations

    That’s great you got so many replies (and maybe not so great if you’re thinking about the not-so-nice ones). I only ever really knew about Recaptains (and I agree that I should be submitting to them too – I kick myself sometimes when I get to a series that no one has written a recap on and I could have done it when I read the previous book). Thanks for sharing! I love the comment about the character with insomnia! Ha!

    Sam @ Sharing Inspired Kreations recently posted: Authors I Want to Read More From
  8. Jessica @ a GREAT read

    Oh yes, I soooo wish there were recaps for all the books! Sadly that doesn’t always happen! I know of some of these websites that have some, but that’s just it. It’s not all of them! Like I was trying to find recaps about the Mara Dyer books and no one seems to have recapped those nor Noah Shaw. So diving into that one was tricky! I think it was last year I decided I would take as detailed notes as I could and keep them in a journal to reference for the next book. It helped me some, but not all the way. There’s always something I might miss, but I usually get the general points and that’s helpful!

    Rachel Caine’s Weather Wardens was always a favorite of mine because her character/narrator did a brief rundown of what happened in the last book and that was soooo helpful after I binge read the first few and then was subjected to wait for the rest! I can only hope that Rachel does this when the next installment eventually comes out, as that’s been delayed like 2-3 years now.

    Great post too!!

  9. Lindsi

    Lovely post! I’ve been saying something similar for ages — book a brief recap of the series in every additional book. Readers then have the option to read it or not. If I’m binge-reading the series, I’ll skip the recap. If I’m reading them as they’re released — GIVE ME THE RECAP. If not, I feel like I have to back and read the first book in its entirety.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

  10. Sam@WLABB

    Some authors are better than others at embedding enough information from the past book into the current book, and that is usually enough to reactivate that information in my brain, but others are NOT as good at it, so I really appreciate those awesome people, who do the recaps. I don’t reread. It’s just not going to happen. I have heard other bloggers say they do their rereads via audiobooks, but I am not successful with fantasy audiobooks, and most of my series reading fall into that genre.

    Sam@WLABB recently posted: Review: Meet the Sky - McCall Hoyle
    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      I sometimes reread via audiobook (sometimes on 2x speed so I can just power through since listening takes even longer than reading). But I’d still much prefer a simple recap. When I read Kendare Blake’s latest, there were lots of hints sprinkled in, but I was still really glad I’d found recaps on Recaptains.

  11. Jennilyn V.

    Three cheers for that viral tweet! I can imagine how hard it is to keep track of all those notifications but regardless, Twitter fame!

    Thank you for putting up this post and sharing all the resources you were able to gather. I am not a big reader of book series mainly because of this forgetting what happened in the previous book problem. Pre-blogging days, if I can’t remember what happened in the previous books, I tend to resent my limited memory space and hate myself a bit when I realized recently that this is hardly my fault. It was super bad for my mental being, so now I just veer away from series and read mostly standalones. Or I wait until every book in the series has been published and binge read, lol.

  12. Tanya @ Girl Plus Books

    I so agree! A synopsis would be a *huge* help. And, like someone else mentioned, would alleviate the need for info dumps At the beginning of subsequent books. I’m not much of a re-reader so I hate feeling like I need to reread a book (or more) for every new release.

    Love that tweet about the character having amnesia so “neither of us remembers what happened in the last book.” LOL

    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books recently posted: Top Ten Tuesday: Books with a School Setting
  13. Malka @ Paper Procrastinators

    This is such a brilliant idea! I usually tend to reread the series beforehand, but it is an extremely time consuming task that has become pretty unmanageable recently. But I suffer from the forgetfulness syndrome you mentioned (even if I loved a series) so I can’t figure out a better method. This is the #1 reason why I don’t continue with series. I just don’t remember enough to continue on, and the little details or side characters I don’t remember always drive me mad when I try not rereading the earlier books. I’ve only read Recaptions for fun (Maggie Stiefvater’s recaps of The Raven Cycle are hilarious) because I’m too scared they’ll miss something, or won’t be enough to jog my memory. I’m so glad I now have this list to go through when I feel stuck.

    Malka @ Paper Procrastinators recently posted: Mispronouncing Words: A Bookworm Story
    • Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

      Someone else mentioned Maggie’s recaps too, and I’m so glad because they’re hilarious!! I need reminders, even for books I absolutely loved. Some days, I’m lucky I remember what happened to me yesterday, much less what happened in a book a year ago!

  14. Jo

    I think recaps at the beginning of books are so helpful when they’re there, both for people who have had to wait for the next book for a while, and for those who are reading one book after another. I’m currently rereading the Harry Potter series, and I roll my eyes each time, at the beginng, it talks about how Harry is an unsual boy, because he’s a wizard, who attends Howarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and how each book explains the rules of Quidditch. It gets annoying pretty quickly.

    However, I read Red Sister a few weeks back, and Mark Lawrence started the book with a recap which was pretty much him talking to the reader. It said something like, “To remind you of what happened in the last book, and to save me from having to try and somehow work all this in to the story, here’s what happened.” And it wasn’t just a recap of the plot, it explained the worldbuilding, the different races, the power dynamics, etc. It was brilliant!

    I absolutely love Eddings’ prologues, too. So clever to have “excerpts” from history books that not only explained the world, but also recapped the previous story. I do love them!

    However, I’ve never actually gone looking for a recap. It’s never really occured to me to do so. I’ve just struggle through normally. But I will definitely be checking out some of those links from now on. Thanks, Nicole!

  15. Wendy @ Falconer's Library

    If I love, love, LOVE a series, I might do a re-read. I think I’ve re-read Megan Whalen Turner’s first 3 Attolia books twice as the next two have come out sloooooowly. I re-read the Blake books after seeing your posts about the 3rd book coming out, and it wasn’t quite as magical the second time, BUT hopefully having read them twice will let me dive into book 4 with just the recaps.

    Thanks for gathering the resources for us!

  16. Lisa Mandina (Lisa Loves Literature)

    I love this post! I always think about this exact same thing. Like, sometimes I don’t get back into a series because it has been over a year since I read the last book and I can’t remember exactly, and I’m worried I won’t remember enough to enjoy it. So I love it when an author can skillfully weave it throughout the beginning of a story in a way that isn’t info dump, but also helps me feel caught up. I do get annoyed with the “last time” bit on tv shows, especially if I’m binge watching. But if I’m watching it live, or it is the beginning of the next season after a long break, I love those same little recaps. Thanks for sharing all these sites, I know I’ve looked at Recaptain before.

    Love the little tweets you got at the end, especially the LOTR one. LOL!!

    Lisa Mandina (Lisa Loves Literature) recently posted: Discussion Post: Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover, or a Narrator by their Voice

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