Ken Follett’s Book Bag: Five Greatest Trilogies

The author of the epic new novel Winter of the World, book two of the mammoth Century Trilogy, picks his favorite triptychs.

When you’ve really enjoyed a book, it’s great to come back to the characters again and see what they or their children did next. However, a trilogy is difficult to write, because the author has to revisit the same set of ideas and get more stories out them. It’s hard work for the imagination, but it’s worth the effort. Here are a few that I’ve enjoyed hugely.

The Forsyte Saga (three novels plus two bonus “interludes”)By John Galsworthy

Mean Soames, sexy Irene, idealistic Philip, and unconventional Jolyon tangle in a steamy tale that is all the more fascinating because they belong to such a stiffly respectable Victorian family. Galsworthy mocks them all in a gentle Jane Austen way.

The Millennium TrilogyBy Stieg Larsson

Once you start you can’t stop reading, and the main reason is Lisbeth Salander, one of the great literary characters. She’s vengeful yet sympathetic, scary but sexy, and so logical that everyone thinks she’s crazy. I wish I had created her.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyBy Douglas Adams

If my late friend Douglas reads this in heaven he will smile, because there are actually five books in what he used to call “the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker Trilogy.” He was as hilarious in person as he was in his books, and I miss him.

Fear of Flying, How to Save Your Own Life, and Parachutes and KissesBy Erica Jong

There are other writers who are this wise, and others this funny, but none who are both. The smart, feisty, randy hero, Isadora Wing, taught us what women could be if they broke their bonds, and kept us smiling all the while at her wit and perception.

The Foundation TrilogyBy Isaac Asimov

“Future history” is now a genre of its own, and Isaac Asimov invented it. I met him in 1979, soon after my first bestseller, Eye of the Needle, was published. Breathlessly, I told him that I had reread his Foundation books several times. He thanked me as graciously as if it was the first time he had heard a fan say that. It was probably the millionth.