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.

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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Central Press/Getty Images
Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
Central Press/Getty Images
Central Press/Getty Images

Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 119th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."


Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."


Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."


By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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Marvel Entertainment
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.

1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.

Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.

2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.

A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.

3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.

Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”

4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.

For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.

5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.

Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.

6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.

Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”

7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.

8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.

John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.

9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).

When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.

10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.

The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.

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