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

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.


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)

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

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.


Montana Mavericks "“ 63 (including spin-offs)

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)

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.


The Destroyer "“ 149 books

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

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)

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

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

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

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.


Perry Mason "“ 87 books

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)

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.

Why a Major Error in 'A Wrinkle in Time' Was Never Corrected

Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time was published in 1962, and thanks to the recent release of a big-budget Disney adaptation, the book is just as popular as ever. The book has earned its status as a modern classic, but according to the Daily Beast, there's something hiding in the text of every copy that is rarely seen in titles that have enjoyed such a long print run. The book features an error that's been reprinted millions of times, and unless you read Greek, you would likely never notice it.

The mistake falls on page 59 of the new Square Fish edition that was published to tie in with the new film. On that page you'll find a quote from Mrs Who, one of the three mystical beings that guide the protagonist Meg and her companions across the universe. Because verbalizing in her own words takes a lot of energy, Mrs Who communicates strictly by quoting great writers and thinkers from history. In this case, she's quoting the playwright Euripides in his original ancient Greek. She follows it with the English translation, "Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything," but Greek speakers will notice that the two quotes don't match up. The original line in Greek includes words that don't make sense together or don't exist at all.

How was such a glaring error able to go unnoticed in a major work for so long? The answer is that it didn't: L'Engle was made aware of it by a friend of Greek heritage in the 1990s. According to L'Engle's granddaughter, the writer could trace the typo back to the Dictionary of Foreign Phrases and Classical Quotations, the book she pulled all of Mrs Who's quotes from. While transcribing the Euripides quote by hand she must have omitted a letter by accident. The quote was further removed from the original when the typesetter chose the Greek characters from her manuscript.

Even after hearing about the mistake, L'Engle didn't make fixing it her top priority. Instead she invested her energy into tackling other copyediting issues for the 1993 reprint, like removing all the periods from Mrs Who's, Mrs Which's, and Mrs Whatsit's names. When L'Engle died in 2007, the mangled quote was still standard in new copies of A Wrinkle in Time.

To date, only one English-language edition of the book contains the corrected quotation: the 1994 audiobook narrated by L'Engle herself. But the publishers of A Wrinkle in Time at Macmillan are apparently aware of the error, so the next printing may finally be the one that gets it right.

[h/t Daily Beast]

iStock // Heinrich Hoffmann/Keystone Features/Getty Images // collage by Jen Pinkowski
When German Scientists Tried to Rename Bats and Shrews, Hitler Threatened to Send Them to War
iStock // Heinrich Hoffmann/Keystone Features/Getty Images // collage by Jen Pinkowski
iStock // Heinrich Hoffmann/Keystone Features/Getty Images // collage by Jen Pinkowski

In The Art of Naming (The MIT Press), Michael Ohl, a biologist at the Natural History Museum of Berlin, delves into the art, science, language, and history of taxonomy. There are some 1.8 million known species—and scientists estimate that 100 million more await discovery. Every one will need a name. How does the process work? 

Ohl takes us into the field with the explorers and scientists at the forefront of naming the natural world, including Father Armand David, a French priest who was the first to describe the panda to the Western world; American paleontologists Edward Dinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, who bitterly battled in the Bone Wars; and Polish biologist Benedykt Dybowski, whose unique naming system for crustaceans called gammarids (a.k.a. "scuds") resulted in tongue-twisters such as Cancelloidokytodermogammarus (Loveninsuskytodermogammarus) loveni.

In the excerpt below, Ohl tells the story of one of the little-known footnotes to World War II: When Adolf Hitler threatened the German biologists who wanted to rename bats and shrews. And, read on for the best bat nickname of all time: "bacon mouse."

—Jen Pinkowski


On March 3, 1942, a brief item with a rather peculiar headline appeared tucked away in the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper. "Fledermaus No Longer!" the bold letters proclaimed. The following short text was printed underneath:

"At its 15th General Assembly, the German Society for Mammalogy passed a resolution to change the zoologically misleading names 'Spitzmaus' [shrew] and 'Fledermaus' [bat] to 'Spitzer' and 'Fleder.' Fleder is an old form for Flatterer [one that flutters]. The Spitzmaus, as it happens, has borne a variety of names: Spitzer [one that is pointed], Spitzlein, Spitzwicht, Spitzling. Over the course of the conference, several important lectures were held in the auditorium of the Zoologisches Museum […]."

To this day, despite the problems announced by Germany's leading specialists on mammals on the pages of one of the capital's daily papers, fledermaus and spitzmaus remain the common German names for bats and shrews. Neither dictionaries nor specialized nature guides contain entries for fleder or spitzer (provided one disregards the primary definition of spitzer, which is a "small implement used for the sharpening of pencils").

Indeed, a swift response to the item in question arrived from an unexpected source. Martin Bormann, Adolf Hitler's private secretary, sent a message on March 4, 1942, to Hans Heinrich Lammers, head of the Reich Chancellery. The missive contained remarkably unambiguous instructions from Hitler:

"In yesterday's newspapers, the Führer read an item regarding the changes of name ratified by the German Society for Mammalogy on the occasion of its 15th General Assembly. The Führer subsequently instructed me to communicate to the responsible parties, in no uncertain terms, that these changes of name are to be reversed immediately. Should members of the Society for Mammalogy have nothing more essential to the war effort or smarter to do, perhaps an extended stint in the construction battalion on the Russian front could be arranged. Should such asinine renamings occur once more, the Führer will unquestionably take appropriate measures; under no circumstance should terms that have become established over the course of many years be altered in this fashion."

There's no question that the "responsible parties" understood and responded to the injunction, which could hardly have been misinterpreted. On July 1, 1942, at least, a notice was printed in the Zoologischer Anzeiger—at that time, the "organ of the German Zoological Society"—that comprised a scant five lines. The notice has no byline and can most likely be attributed to the journal's publishers:

"Regarding the discussion [in earlier issues of the Zoologischer Anzeiger] about potential changes to the names 'Fledermaus' and 'Spitzmaus,' the Editors wish to make public that terms that have become established over the course of many years are not to be altered, following an announcement by the Reich Minister of Science, Education, and National Culture, as per the Führer's directive."

It's conceivable that Lammers forwarded Hitler's instructions (which had reached him by way of Bormann) to Bernhard Rust, the Reich Minister of Science, Education, and National Culture. Rust will then likely have ordered one of the "parties responsible" for the unpopular initiative to publish the retraction in the appropriate platform. The Zoologischer Anzeiger fit the bill, considering the fact that by 1941 it had already featured two articles debating whether the name spitzmaus should be changed.

What is the problem, though, that veteran scientists have with spitzmaus and fledermaus, those innocuous terms for the shrew and the bat? And how could it come to pass that Adolf Hitler—preoccupied as he was in 1942— should personally join in the campaign for the correct classification of these small mammals?


The common thread in these two unremarkable and familiar terms is of course the second word component, maus, or "mouse."

Fledermaus and spitzmaus … are (linguistically) first and foremost mice. By referencing certain characteristics in these compound words (fleder comes from flattern, "to flap"; spitz, or "point," refers to the shrew's pointy nose or rather head shape), it becomes possible to provide a clear name—or almost clear, at least, because there are many bat and shrew species, but more on that later.

Both names, of course, imply affiliation with mice, and that's the sticking point. In zoological terms, mice are a group of rodents known at the higher level of classification as Muroidea, "muroids" or the "mouse-like." The group includes quite the mix of animal groups, with occasionally curious names like zokor, blind mole-rat, spiny tree mouse, and Chinese pygmy dormouse, not to mention our pet hamsters and those domestic but unwelcome mice and rats. Common to all muroids are sundry and complex structural features in the skull, coupled of course with the oversized, continually growing incisors typical of rodents. Beyond that, although endless evolutionary gimmickry can revolve around this mouse theme (long or short legs, different fur colors and tail lengths, and much more), and even without biological expertise, most muroids tend to be identifiable as mice, if only vaguely.

Zoologically speaking, a mere mouse-like appearance is insufficient to denote a muroid. Instead, the specific anatomical features of the skull must be in evidence.

Field, house, and deer mice are familiar to many North Americans, although they typically live hidden away, and we don't often encounter them. These animals with the "mouse" base in their name are truly mice in the zoological sense.

The same cannot exactly be said for the bat and shrew—the fledermaus and spitzmaus—despite their names. Neither of them is even a rodent or, consequently, a muroid. Then what are they?

In the classification of mammals, a whole series of groupings is traditionally distinguished, usually assigned the rank of order within the class of mammals. Depending on scientific opinion, there are 25 to 30 of these orders of mammals. Rodents comprise one of these orders, to which muroids and several other groups of mammals belong.

Bats, meanwhile, are typical representatives of the order of flying mammals. Their scientific name is Chiroptera, from the Greek words chiros (hand) and pteros (wings). Chiroptera, then, means "hand-flier," which is a fitting name for bats and their closest relatives, flying foxes.

The systematic placement of the shrew, or spitzmaus, is determined in much the same way. They, too, fail to possess the mouse characteristics in question, although they do share traits with moles and hedgehogs, as well as with the solenodon (meaning "slotted tooth"), which is a venomous critter native exclusively to the Caribbean islands. They are now situated under the wondrous designation Eulipotyphla, but only since 1999. How they are related—along with ties to an array of other mammal families, such as tenrecs, desmans, and golden moles—has not been conclusively explained.

Experts have known for a long time—since Linnaeus's Systema Naturae at the latest—that neither bats nor shrews are related to mice, to which common parlance pays no heed. The fledermaus and spitzmaus comfortably maintain their spots in the lexicon.


One of the first mammal biologists to campaign for the standardization of German mammal names was Hermann Pohle. Born in Berlin in 1892, Pohle remained faithful to the city until his death and spent a large part of his life working at the natural history museum there. His career as a mammal biologist started early, when as a university student he worked as an unpaid hireling in the museum's famed mammal collection. Through diligence, endurance, and scientific acumen, he worked his way up to head curator of mammals. He thus held one of the most influential positions, of both national and international significance, in the field of systematic mammal research.

In 1926, Pohle—along with Ludwig Heck, the former director of the Berlin Zoo, and a number of other colleagues—founded the German Society for Mammalogy, of which he was the first head. Pohle thus had his finger on the pulse of mammal research, as it were, and he followed the history of the society over the next five decades "with keen interest," as one biographer noted.

In addition to his work as a researcher and curator of the mammal collection at Berlin's Museum für Naturkunde (Museum of Natural History), Pohle's interests also lay with German mammal names. Not only did he push for standardization of names, Pohle also campaigned to have existing names assessed for scientific plausibility and changed, should they not pass (his) zoological muster.

In 1942, Pohle published a summary article addressing the question, "How many species of mammals live in Germany?" He appended a comprehensive list of all German mammals, each with its correct "technical name," as Pohle called it, as well as its corresponding German name. When it came to the various species of spitzmaus (of which the Germans have eight, incidentally, despite the long-standing impression that there is "the" one and only shrew) and the 16 species of bats that have the base word "fledermaus" in their name, Pohle consistently uses alternative terms. The eight shrew species thus became waldspitzer, zwergspitzer, alpenspitzer, wasserspitzer, mittelspitzer, feldspitzer, gartenspitzer, and hausspitzer. For the bats, the base of their compound name was changed to fleder: teichfleder, langfußfleder, wasserfleder, and so on, all the way to a term of particular elegance, wimperfleder.

Pohle's article, which predates the society's 15th General Assembly and Hitler's emotional veto by more than a year, is a particularly interesting source because he also shares his actual motivations for the suggested changes. His emphatic objective is to see "the term 'Maus' disappear, responsible as it is for laypersons' wont to lump the animals together with actual mice."

In the estimation of these laypersons, mice are something "ugly and destructive that must be fought, or ideally exterminated." Shrews and bats, harmless as they are to humans, are thus subject to the same brutal fate. Pohle hopes for a "shift in perspective" to occur, once the endangered animals are no longer referred to as mice.

What to do, then? Pohle would prefer the term spitz for spitzmaus, but it's already been assigned to a dog breed. Rüssler could also work, only it already applies to some other insectivore. That leaves spitzer, a name that emphasizes the pointy head as a distinguishing characteristic and is still available.

Pohle wants a name for bats without "maus" but happily with a nod to the animals' flying ability. Most names of this kind are already employed for birds, and "flatterer" or "flutterer" could only logically be used for a certain population of bats, namely, those bad at flying. "Flieger" or "flyer," another hot candidate, is also in use by various other animal groups.

But why, Pohle asks the reader, would one even need to say "fledermaus," when "fleder" actually makes perfect sense? Pohle mentions that the original meaning of "fleder" was different, but few people were aware of this fact anymore.

On the off chance that he was correct in this assessment, let it be noted that fledermaus can be traced back to the 10th century, to the Old High German "vledern" or "flattern" (the infinitive form of "flatterer"). The image of the bat as a "fluttering mouse" has existed since this time in many languages, including "flittermouse" in English. A number of other German terms exist for bats. In some regions of Germany, such as Rhineland-Palatinate and Southern Hesse, the Old High German "fledarmus" is said to have been used to describe nocturnal creatures, such as moths. There, bats were apparently called "speckmaus," instead of fledermaus, because while hibernating, they could be seen hanging like pieces of bacon (speck) in the smoke.

Pohle's dedication to promoting the protection of bats and shrews through a bold name change reached its temporary culmination a year later, when—at the 15th General Assembly of the German Society for Mammalogy in Berlin—a resolution was passed on a universal and binding adoption of the spitzer- and fleder-based names Pohle had suggested. The results are known: Hitler was not amused.


We can only guess at what Hitler's actual motive was in issuing such drastic threats to prevent the name alterations proposed by the German Society for Mammalogy. It could have been his outrage that in 1942—hard times because of the war—leading German intellectuals were concerned with something so unimportant and banal as the appropriateness of animal names. Perhaps this anecdote is just a further example of Hitler's hostility toward intellectuals.

It is ultimately unclear, even, to what extent Hitler was the driving force behind this directive or whether this is a case of subordinates "working towards the Führer," as historian Ian Kershaw describes it. Conceivably, after reading the Berliner Morgenpost, Hitler may have remarked negatively regarding the zoologists' plans. His circle—in this case, Bormann—may have immediately interpreted this as "the Führer's will" and sprung to action accordingly. As for Pohle and his colleagues, it can't have mattered much whether the "invitation" to the Eastern Front came directly from Hitler or was communicated in an act of premature obedience.

Whatever the case may be, Pohle's suggested name changes did not fail because of Hitler's intervention, which presumably resonated as little with the German-speaking public as the original notice. Pohle failed because he wanted to take the basic idea of a standardized naming system out of the scientific context and transfer it into the realm of vernacular. Everyday German is not formally and officially regulated, and like every other vernacular, it follows different rules than scientific speech. It is shaped by a multitude of factors and influences that have their own unpredictable dynamic, which leads to some word usages changing while others stabilize.

In kindergarten, we learn that small, furry four-legged animals with a tail are "mice." This act of naming fulfills the exact function expected of it. It "tags" specific linguistic content—a meaning—that is generally understood. The difference between muroids and insectivores, which is important to zoologists, has no application in everyday confrontations with "mouse-like" animals and makes no difference to most people. A mouse is a mouse, whether a striped field mouse or a shrew.


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