The Endless Summer Reading List: 14 Long-Running Novel Series

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If you're anything like me, you finish your summer reading list by mid-July. To help curb your end-of-summer reading blues, here are some of the longest-running series of novels in the most popular genres. If you're so inclined, these will keep you busy until next summer.

Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Discworld "“ 62 books (37 novels and 25 companion books)

This groundbreaking series takes place in a fictional disc-shaped land populated by wizards, elves, and even a walking suitcase. The stories borrow from standard fantasy tropes, but uses them in a humorous, often satirical way. And if 37 novels isn't enough, there are also 25 supplemental books on topics ranging from short stories to maps, and even educational books that use the series to help explain real scientific concepts.

Deathlands -135 books and counting (including a spin-off series)

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If elves, wizards, and barbarians aren't your thing, how about nuclear bombs, machine guns, and teleportation devices? Created by Jack Adrien and James Axler, the series takes place in a world devastated by nukes, making food, supplies, and civilized people a rarity. Ryan Cawdor and his band of post-apocalyptic warriors use top secret teleportation machines to explore and fight their way across the vast wasteland that was once America. A sequel series, Outlander, continues the story one hundred years later as society begins to recover, though it still has a long way to go before it's civilized.

Malaf Al Mostakbal (The Future Files) - 158 books

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In this series by Egyptian author Nabil Farouk, a team of scientists are brought together as the Egyptian Scientific Intelligence Agency (ESIA) to deal with madmen using technology to commit crimes. Their leader, Nour, is an all-around genius, and the rest of the team includes specialists like a communications guru, an engineer, and even a computer tech who is artificially aged so she can join the ESIA. In later books, after aliens invade Earth, the series goes off in some wild directions including time travel, outer space adventures, and into other dimensions of reality.

Romance

Montana Mavericks "“ 63 (including spin-offs)

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The citizens of Whitehorn, Montana, include a woman who takes in a fugitive and ends up falling in love (Outlaw Lovers), a respected woman judge who marries a mysterious stranger tied up in a custody battle for his infant child (The Law is No Lady), and a widow who must repay her husband's debt to a ruggedly handsome cowboy by whatever means necessary (The Widow and the Rodeo Man). Not exactly Norman Rockwell material. The original 12 books were followed by nine spin-off series, whose stories ranged from historical romance to Christmastime flings.

Fortune's Children "“ 69 books (including spin-offs)

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The Fortune Family "“ rich, powerful, and good-looking "“ is a dynasty of American business. The series and its six spin-offs have been running since 1996 and feature a seemingly never ending supply of Fortune heirs. Many of the stories handle romance like a business deal, entered into only to save the family business or protect the family name. Of course the characters end up finding true love in the end, but the pretenses for these relationships must require a lot of couples' counseling.

Action/Adventure

The Destroyer "“ 149 books

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Remo Williams is part of an elite squad of covert government operatives called CURE. He is trained by Chiun, a Master of Sinanju, a fabled form of martial arts that gives its disciples super-human powers like the ability to dodge bullets. The original series, created by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir, started in 1971 and ran until 2006, followed by a short-lived series, The New Destroyer. The books were adapted into a movie, 1985's Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, starring Fred Ward, but it was not well-received by the books' fans nor the authors, who integrated jabs at the film into later novels.

Nick Carter: Killmaster "“ 260 books

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First printed in 1964, the series was a knock-off James Bond with fewer gadgets. But what Killmaster lacked in exploding pens, it made up for in all-out action and gratuitous sex (seems like a fair trade-off). Nick Carter of AXE, a super-secret espionage organization, is a master spy thanks to his cunning, good looks, and his favorite weapons "“ a German Luger named Wilhelmenia, a stiletto knife named Hugo, and a gas bomb named Pierre. Cheesy but popular, the series was a mainstay on the paperback racks until the 1990s. While the sheer number of novels is impressive, perhaps more so is the fact that there is no official author of any of the books "“ all the writers used the same pen name: Nick Carter.

The Executioner "“ 709 books (including spin-offs)

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Mack Bolan was a skilled sniper, registering 97 confirmed kills in the Vietnam War. But when virtually his entire family was murdered, Bolan came home to seek revenge on those responsible: the Frenchi crime family. Created in 1969 by Don Pendleton, the main series "“ currently on book #369 "“ has spawned four long-running spin-offs: Able Team (53 books), Phoenix Force (58 books), the Stony Man series (#102 is due in August 2009), and Super Bolan (#127 is due in July 2009). If The A-Team was your favorite show, or The Punisher is your favorite comic book, these books ought to be right up your alley.

Kids/Young Adult

The Baby-sitters Club "“ 207 books

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During the series run from 1986 until 2000, it seemed like every 10-year old girl was reading The Baby-sitters Club books. Following the adventures of Kristy Thomas and her gang of middle-school babysitter friends, the series was a cultural phenomenon, branching into a TV series and a feature-length film. In the final book, the frozen-in-time heroines finally graduate the 8th grade and move on to high school, signifying the end of the "BSC," as well as the end of an era for many young readers who, two decades later, still hold fond memories of the series.

Inspector Jamshed "“ over 400 books

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While Harry Potter might seem daunting to some kids, seven books is nothing compared to this vast library of spy/detective novels - some as long as 2000 pages - by Pakistani author Ishtiaq Ahmad. Popular from the 1970s through the 1990s, the series followed the adventures of Inspector Jamshed (sometimes spelled "Jamshaid") and his three children, Memood, Farooq, and Farzana. Most stories had a Muslim moral message, so they had parental approval even if some kids were only reading for the adventure aspect. The books are pretty hard to find in America, making them collectors' items for Pakistani adults looking to recapture their youth.

Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys "“ 616 books combined

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When it comes to kid lit, very few beat the one-two punch of Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. The adolescent Sherlocks have been a publishing powerhouse since the Boys debuted in 1927, followed by Nancy in 1930. With numerous spin-offs (nine each for Nancy and the Boys, and even three separate series of cross-over adventures), the total number reaches a staggering 616 books. That'll keep even the most voracious young reader occupied until school starts up again.

Mystery

Perry Mason "“ 87 books

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Mason got his start in 1933 with the first of many novels by writer Erle Stanley Gardner, a self-taught lawyer who passed the California state bar exam in 1911. The books usually featured Mason and his crew of investigators digging up evidence to prove their client's innocence, as well as finding the real guilty party. Over the years, the Mason novels have been adapted to TV (Raymond Burr's 1957 "“ 1966 series is the quintessential portrayal), radio, comic books, and 30 TV movies. And through all that, he never lost a case. What are the odds?

Nero Wolfe "“ 97 books (including novellas and companion books)

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Nero Wolfe, the rotund, beer-drinking recluse, who spent much of his time "“ and completed almost all of his crime-solving "“ inside his New York City brownstone, debuted in 1934. Over the years, author Rex Stout wrote 87 novels and novellas, as well as three companion books, including a cookbook of the foody detective's favorite dishes. After Stout's death, the series continued for seven more books by Robert Goldsborough, writing with the Stout estate's approval. Like Perry Mason, books were just the beginning for Wolfe, who branched into radio, a popular TV series on A&E, and even shows on Italian, Russian, and German television.

Did we miss your favorite book series? Or do you have some suggestions for great summer reading? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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July 7, 2009 - 7:32am
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