Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers Series is my Annual Must Re-Read

When it comes to book series that I enjoy, I tend to be a serial re-reader. I’ve read the Wheel of Time series a few times, and any time a new book comes out in Will Wight’s Cradle cultivation series I end up re-starting the series from scratch. There are a few regulars that always seem to crop up every few years.

There’s something about returning to something you read that you love (especially when it’s a nice juicy series) that’s just super satisfying.

And there are few series out there that I return to with as much regularity as I do with the exceptional Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers. I just started my annual re-read this week and thought I’d share why I enjoy this series so much and frequently.

What is the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers?

There are four books in the Wayfarers series, and each of them touches on entirely different (though connected) stories, all set in our own galaxy in the far-flung future.

  1. A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
  2. A Closed and Common Orbit
  3. Record of a Spaceborn Few
  4. The Galaxy, and the Ground Within
The four classic covers to the Wayfarers quartet by Becky Chambers. The covers have new designs that I just don’t like as much, so I end up using these on my Kindle every time

In the Galactic Commons of this optimistic science fiction future, Humans are just one of many different sapient species that populate the stars. Where other, more gritty, series might center conflict between cultures or focus on human supremacy in the stars, Chambers imagines a future where we are a relatively new and weak addition to the galactic stage and where attempting to get along is more the order of the day than anything we know today.

You see more of the Galactic Commons from different perspectives as you read the series, and I’m always impressed at the depth and creativity that Chambers accomplished. It all feels like it would absolutely be the wondrous yet mundane world of a space-bound future.

Why do these stories feel so special?

There’s always been a phrase I’ve used since first watching the early 00’s remake of Battlestar Galactica: “It’s a story about people in space, not a space story.” Though it’s a lot less impactful when I read it now. 🤣

All this has happened before, and it will all happen again. And now I need to re-watch this series too.

Basically, the Wayfarers series is a story about people, first and foremost, and the science fiction setting truly plays the role of a stage. In some sci-fi work, the setting itself can be the star of the show, but the strangeness of the Galactic Commons just serves as a tool to enable the telling of deep and thoughtful stories.

Chambers writes so eloquently about topics like found families, intimacy, and what it means to be human (even when you’re learning that lesson through the experiences of a seven-foot-tall reptilian humanoid with feathers growing from their heads) that the stories have never failed to resonate with me.

As of the time of writing this, I’m about 45% of the way through “A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet” and I’ve found myself feeling at so many points of the story. The experiences of these characters paint a portrait so engaging that it makes you wish you could step onto the Wayfarer itself and feel welcomed by the people there.

Why does re-reading feel satisfying?

Something is comforting to me about returning to a book or series that I’ve read in the past, especially when that book or series was particularly resonant with me. I still remember how I felt when I first started reading the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett (probably my all-time favorite series) and then when I came back to it a few years later.

When you come back to something you’ve read, you always approach it from a slightly different perspective, a shifted personal context. Things you read before might resonate more deeply, or parts of the story you glossed over last time might jump out more strongly.

And when it comes to a series like Wayfarers that has consistently hit emotional and story beats I connect with every time I read it, those same beats start to feel like a cozy blanket. You can come back to them when you feel like you need to get lost in a story that wraps you up in a hug and never be disappointed.

Writer Emily Rudow shares her criteria for what books might be a good candidate for a re-read in her blog article titled The Magic of Rereading Your Favourite Books:

  • books that have had a big influence on me during a specific point in my life;
  • a ‘paradigm-shifter’; one that has shaken up my long held beliefs. A perspective that, as Rick Rubin so eloquently puts “[allows me] to glimpse at life through a different window. One with the potential for a glorious new view”;
  • a read that I just simply enjoyed—which could be a novel that gave my spirit a boost and provided me with a more positive and inspiring outlook on life or;
  • A more complex read that was “above my level” at the time of reading—I found it challenging to grasp at the time, either because I needed to go through it a second time with a fine tooth comb or because I didn’t have the foundational knowledge to really benefit from it.

Yet what I’ve found is that by revisiting older reads that fit my aforementioned criteria, I can be awarded many new gifts. It can be highly fruitful and rewarding, sometimes more so than reading something new for the first time.

What other books do I tend to return to

A peek at one of my admittedly lacking shelves of physical books, I tend to be more of a Kindle guy these days because it makes it a lot easier to read into the night 🤣

There are a good number of books and series that I come back to aside from the Wayfarers series. Honestly, I’d probably get a lot more reading done if I didn’t come back to so many books again and again 😂

  • The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
  • The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson)
  • The Chronicles series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
  • The Cradle series by Will Wight
  • The Awaken Online series by Travis Bagwell

Try revisiting a good book series some time

While it may not be everyone’s cup of mek (hah, Wayfarers reference), coming back to resonant series like these can feel like spending time with an old friend. And I’m always really excited to share this particular friend with others.

Someone on a Discord server I’m a part of described the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers as “special,” and it truly is such an apt word for it. Even on my fifth or so read-through, these books are hitting all the right notes and the stories feel every bit as moving and thoughtful.

If you’re a fan of optimistic science fiction that makes you go “aww” a lot, give the Wayfarers series a try. I have a feeling you’ll like it!