12 book series to binge read during the holidays

The 12 Days of Christmas, the latest Top 12 list on BuzzFeed… it definitely ’tis the season for lists of twelve.

And with the paucity of new releases this month, we thought we’d toss out a list of some of our favorite (but perhaps lesser read) book series that may have flown under your radar over the years.  Because what bibliophile doesn’t love a nice, meaty saga you can really sink your chops into, especially with the days growing shorter and the weather getting colder?  So here’s a nice variety of book series, with a heavy emphasis on the sci-fi/fantasy that we here at Pop Mythology love, for your holiday shopping and binge-reading pleasure.

(And we’re just gonna assume you’ve already read all the most popular series like Harry Potter or The Vampire Chronicles so those won’t be on this list.)

1.  Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series

(Pocket Books)

This is probably the most popular series on this list but still not as widely read as, say, Lord of the Rings or A Song of Ice and Fire. Inspired by the poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” by Robert Browning, this seven-book series is a blend of multiple genres: sci-fi, fantasy, western, and horror.  And how can you not read something that Stephen King describes as his “magnum opus”?

Buy on Amazon

2.  Stephen Donaldson’s The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant


Lord of the Rings fans will love this ten-book series written in the high fantasy tradition of magic, epic, sweeping quests, and battles of good vs. evil—plus those awesomely cool maps that every self-respecting fantasy book has in the front of it!


Buy on Amazon

3.  Wilbur Smith’s The Egyptian Series

(Pan Books)

Novels set in ancient Egypt always contain a natural element of fantasy to them and Wilbur Smith’s excellent series is no exception.  Battles between Pharaoh and Kings, treasure, and a wily warlock named Taita, this series has all the adventure and fantasy you could ask for!

Buy on Amazon

 4.  Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan novels


Popping over to the mystery genre for a moment, here’s one of our favorites, the books upon which the television series Bones is loosely based.  Kathy Reichs is often compared to Patricia Cornwell, but if you ask me, Kay Scarpetta has nothing on Temperance Brennan.

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5.  Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series


Classic sci-fi time here.  If you are a sci-fi fan and haven’t read this one, do so.  These are the archetypal galactic empire style novels and you can even read the cross-over books into the I, Robot (no, not iRobot!) series.

Buy on Amazon

 6.  Philippa Gregory’s Tudor Court and Cousins’ War series

(Harper Collins)

Technically classified as historical fiction, anybody familiar with the soap operatic history of the British monarchy knows that these stories contain more dish than most Game of Thrones episodes.

Buy on Amazon

7.  Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber series

(Harper Voyager Books)

Family succession battling, but with a cool twist: this family can shape reality.  This is a seriously addicting read, but be forewarned, if you read past the initial story arc of the first five books, Zelazny died before completing the second set so you will be left hanging.  Totally worth it, though.

Buy on Amazon

8.  Charlaine Harris’s The Southern Vampire Mysteries (aka The Sookie Stackhouse Novels)

(Ace Books)

Also a popular series but overshadowed by the loosely adapted True Blood, this is the totally guilty pleasure of the lot.  Sex… vampires… more sex… werewolves… yet more sex…  50 Shades of Grey for geeks!  We promise we won’t tell anybody you read these if you won’t.  ; )

Buy on Amazon

9.  Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series

(Roc Trade)

Another excellent high fantasy series.  Because we can never have enough of them, especially when it takes George R.R. Martin so daggum long to write his next book!

Buy on Amazon

10.  Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series

(Harper & Row)

Time out for some campy fun here.  Originally published as a mystery serial in the San Francisco Examiner, this set has the added bonus of having been turned into several excellent PBS miniseries for those who need a break from all the reading!

Buy on Amazon

 11.  Edward Rutherfurd’s historical novels


London, Paris, New York, Dublin, Russka, these are a series of epic historical novels that turn the progression of human history into a thrilling fantasy saga.

Buy on Amazon

12.  Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos

dan-simmons-hyperion-cantosSaving the best for last, IMHO.  This series epitomizes the higher art of literary imagination that science fiction and fantasy can embody.  The Canterbury Tales-style stories of the first two books are truly stunning in their scope of creativity.

Buy on Amazon

So that does it for this list. Hopefully, you were able to find something in the mix for your holiday reading. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

About Andrea Sefler

Andrea Sefler
Andrea is a consultant and technical writer for various scientific software and instrumentation companies. She has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Berkeley and has never met a genre of music or books that she hasn’t liked. As a gamer since the days of the Apple II, Andrea can relate any number of hair-raising tales about role-playing games stored on 360 kB 5.25” floppy disks and may, someday, put them to paper.


  1. I like the sound of that Amber series. Will definitely look out for that one. Thanks for posting that up.
    Fans of epic fantasy need to grab themselves a copy of Circle of Reign by Jacob Cooper. Great characters, really engrossing story and beautifully written battle scenes. Jacob Cooper really nails the epic fantasy genre. I felt like I was reading a big budget movie. http://www.circleofreign.com/

  2. David Eddings – The Belgariad, The Tamuli and The Elenium
    Raymond Feist – The Riftwar Saga
    Dorothy Dunnett – The Lymond Chronicles and The House of Niccolo

    • Andrea Sefler

      Familiar with the Eddings- good stuff! Have not read the other two authors, but Dunnett in particular sounds intriguing. I love well-written historical fiction.

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