I just finished the book "The Fellowship of the Ring". Now I've started with "The Two Towers". It begins by recapping the story of the first book.

For who exactly is this "recap"?

If you haven't read the first book, it would be insanity to start reading the second in the trilogy.

If you have read the first book, why do you need to be told in extremely broad terms what you already just read in detail?

I always hated it when TV series would show a "this has happened" series of clips before the show starts, but at least it's more understandable due to the "viewing habits" of the general public. However, reading a book series is quite different. Nobody in their right mind jumps into the middle of a trilogy and starts reading it without having read the first part.

So who is it for? What is the purpose? Why does it not simply state on the first page:

This is the second part in a series. If you haven't already done so, please read the first book before continuing.

? Or even leave that out entirely and just get right to the story? Imagine how fundamentally confused one would be if they started reading "The Two Towers" with just the knowledge from the one page of "recap". They'd be jumping right into an epic adventure that has already gone very far. They would be utterly confused about so many things. It wouldn't make a bit of sense in any possible manner.

Perhaps if you got stranded on a remote island for 40 years and only had The Two Towers, it would make sense to read it and try to "reconstruct" the story from the first book using the recap page, but other than that very specific and very unlikely situation, I just don't understand why this was ever a "thing".

Please explain.

  • 4
    Typically there are months if not years between book releases. You need a little refresher to get back into the story and perhaps reminded of some details. Human memory is not perfect.
    – Skooba
    Aug 15, 2020 at 17:20
  • 2
    I agree with @Skooba. I have occasionally started the third book of a series, and gotten totally lost because I don't remember everything that happened in the second book. (Today the Internet might be able to help with this, but it didn't exist when The Two Towers was published.) If you've just finished the first book and remember all the details, nobody is forcing you to read "the story so far" section.
    – Peter Shor
    Aug 15, 2020 at 17:40
  • 1
    Also, in the old days (i.e. 1960s or before), books in stores or libraries were not always available in a series: you might find The Two Towers on the shelf & not The Fellowship of the Ring. Will a potential reader wait until the first book appears to start reading the series, or start with what was there? And if he/she did, it might be months before a copy of the second was available. (Even booksellers did not always have control of what they sold.) Having a "The story so far" summary encouraged sales a publisher might not otherwise have as well as readers.
    – llywrch
    Aug 17, 2020 at 15:13


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