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Ten Reasons to Start Reading Outlander

Posted on 15th September 2017 by Martha Greengrass
Author Katherine Webber is a self-confessed superfan of Diana Gabaldon's bestselling series Outlander (it even made it into her husband's marriage proposal). As it returns to screens for the third season of the blockbuster television adaptation, Webber lets Waterstones in on the secret to why the Outlander books are so impossible to put down and why readers yet to encounter the series should make it top of their to-read pile.

This month season three of the hit show Outlander premieres, and whether you are a devout fan of the show or have never seen it, you should absolutely make sure to read the books that the series is based on. The show is fantastic and the casting is perfect, but the books are even better. 

Here are ten reasons the Outlander books are simply unmissable:

1. No matter what kind of genre you usually like, there will be something for you in Outlander. As a historical-time travel-romance-adventure, it has something for everyone. You can read it for the heart-pounding adventure, the swoon-worthy romance, the fascinating historical setting—but I guarantee by the end you’ll be blown away by how author Diana Gabaldon weaves them all together in a genre-busting epic. 

2. The books are incredibly addictive. People toss around the phrase “couldn’t put it down” but once I started the first Outlander book, I stayed up all night to finish, and then immediately bought the rest of the series. The stakes are high, and as a reader, you need to know what happens next to the characters. I’m already dying to find out what happens in book 9…

3. One of my favorite things about the series is how it flips common tropes. No spoilers, but I will say at the start of the series the male love interest, Jamie Fraser, is the younger and more inexperienced one, and the main character Claire Beauchamp, is more worldly and experienced. It’s a refreshing flip on the romance trope where the woman needs the man to teach her everything about what goes on in the bedroom. And role reversal isn’t just limited to their sexy times. Throughout the series Claire has to save Jamie just as often, if not more, than he has to save her. 

4. It is ridiculously romantic. Full disclosure, I think the books are so romantic that my husband incorporated Outlander in his wedding proposal and we had a reading from the first book at our wedding ceremony. Both characters are headstrong and passionate, which inevitably leads to steamy love scenes as well as tempestuous arguments. It feels like Claire and Jamie are a perfect match for each other in every way; they learn from each other, they challenge each other, respect each other, and even when things get incredibly bleak, they always manage to find joy and comfort in their love. In addition to the emotional connection the two have, they can’t keep their hands off each other, which guarantees plenty of hot and heavy sex scenes. 

5. Jamie Fraser. I have never fallen so hard for a fictional character as I did for James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. He’s loyal, stubborn, sexy, and completely and utterly devoted to Claire. The dynamic between an independent woman from the 20th century and a young Scottish highlander from the 18th century is fascinating, and the author does a brilliant job of showing how their relationship evolves, even over the course of just the first book. Jamie often follows his heart and his instincts instead of thinking through the consequences, which is equal parts frustrating and endearing. He’s got everything it takes to be a hero, but he’s also flawed and makes mistakes, which makes him interesting to read about. Sam Heughan, the actor who plays him in the show, is perfectly cast, something you’ll especially appreciate if you read the books. And if you’ve already watched the show, well now you can picture Sam Heughan as you read, which is no bad thing. 

6. Claire Beauchamp. Oh Claire. What a woman! She’s brave, smart, charming, and passionate. Whether she’s administering medicine to the local townspeople, outsmarting the head of a Scottish clan, saving a child, sassing a British soldier, or downing wine at a feast, she does it all in a quintessential Claire way that is impossible not to love. Like Jamie, she’s complex and flawed and often makes mistakes, but she’s always trying her best. She’s a glorious heroine that will have you rooting for her from book one all the way to the end of the series. It is worth noting that Caitriona Balfe, the actress who plays Claire in the show, does a magnificent job of bringing Claire to life. You’ll especially appreciate her performance after reading the books. 

7. Vile villains you love to hate. Outlander has some of the most despicable and unrepentant villains I’ve ever come across. Captain Jack Randall is up there with Voldemort for despicable hideousness, as are other villains we meet later in the series. You’ll hate them with a vengeance, but you’ll also love how much you hate them. 

8. Amazing settings! Outlander is mostly known for its Scottish setting, but as the series progresses it takes readers on a journey from the wild Scottish Highlands to the decadent royal courts of Paris to rollicking ships in the Caribbean to the unknown wilderness of North America. And if you wanted to read about Outlander for the Scottish setting, don’t worry, Scotland is an important setting throughout the series. 

9. Incredible historical details and excellent historical figure cameos. Author Diana Gabaldon is an academic as well as an author, and her attention to detail and careful research results in a book so historically accurate it is almost as if you’re time traveling just by reading it. The only exceptions to her historical accuracy are the wonderful historical figure cameos (because we all know that those people never really met Claire and Jamie). The historical figures are portrayed the way they might have been in real life, right down to their mannerisms and what they wear, and their encounters with the fictional characters are always amusing. You never know who Claire and Jamie might meet next. 

10. It is binge-ready and perfectly poised to be your new obsession. There are currently eight books in the primary series, with a ninth one coming, as well as novellas and spin off series. As the series progresses, new characters are introduced, smaller characters get their own story arcs, and of course, you get to follow the main characters on one adventure after another. It is the perfect series to become obsessed with because with eight books you can really get entrenched in the world. Plus there is an amazing and active fandom, so you’ll always have people to gush about the series with. Read all eight books, watch the show, and then if you really want the full Outlander experience, head out to a stone circle in the Scottish highlands and try to travel back in time. If that doesn’t work, you can always reread the books. 

Katherine Webber is the author of the YA novel Wing Jones. Originally from California, she lived in Hawaii, Atlanta, and Hong Kong before settling in London. She spends far too much time on Twitter and invites you to say hello @kwebberwrites. 

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