Last updated on June 18, 2023 by Liza Hawkins
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (I’ve been guilty of that), you’ve likely heard of Outlander, and there’s probably some head-scratching while wondering what all the fuss is about. Here are 10 reasons why Outlander is so popular that will help explain why you should read the books and watch the series!
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This post may contain affiliate links.
I’m not afraid of change or of trying new things.
That said, sometimes it takes me a while to catch on to pop culture trends — to pause a beloved TV series that I’ve watched a bazillion times, or to put down a dog-eared favorite novel.
Okay, that might be a tad over-dramatic.
The reality is, I’m busy. It takes loads of energy to seek out a new novel or television series that’s not just good, but is also worth my time.
Like, suck-me-in, binge-watch, can’t-put-it-down, GOOD. Part of me always wonders if these mega-popular, virally-loved books and shows are really that amazing, or if people are simply being … lemmings.
Who has the time to devote to figure out which are worth the trouble? I certainly don’t.
Sometimes, though, the number of friends who espouse the greatness of certain shows and novels stops me in my tracks. Catches my eye. Gives me pause for thought.
I’ve seen a hundred different friends posting on Facebook about Downton Abbey. Wait. Should I be watching this? Have I been living under a rock??
This has happened a few times in recent years with television shows like Game of Thrones (and the books), Breaking Bad, and most recently, Younger (which, coincidentally, is about a 40-year-old named Liza, soooo…).
And, yes. Downton Abbey, too.
And, no. While I do own the a few of the A Game of Thrones books (like, the actual paper copies), I never have cracked them open. But, I DID listen via Audible.
Late. To. The. Game.
Audiobooks can be a lifesaver these days, truly, so if you’re new to the world of book-listening instead of book-reading, use this to try Audible and get two free audiobooks.
I discovered the Outlander book series about a decade later than every other woman on the planet.
By the time I finally decided to give the books a go, the television show was already airing on STARZ. I vowed to read before watching, and ordered books one and two as we were preparing to head out on our family’s summer vacation in 2015.
I gobbled up the first book, and like everyone else, fell in love with Jamie and loved everything about Claire.
Then I started the second book, which, admittedly, took me a little longer to get through — thanks to all the historical and political narrative — but ended up being worth it once I powered through the first half.
I finished the third book on vacation two years later in 2017, just in time for Season 3 of Outlander to begin airing on STARZ (each season tracks with its respective book).
The Outlander books are not for the faint of heart for a variety of reasons.
The biggest and most obvious, though, is that they’re realllllly long (most obvious if you’re reading the paper books, as opposed to the digital version on your Kindle). Some might argue — like my book club, for example — that a hundred or so pages could probably be omitted without harming the story line at all. Perhaps.
But I’ve still loved every word, and every episode.
10 Reasons Why Outlander Is So Popular
If you’re new to Outlander, or need a refresh, now’s the time to get caught up! Seasons are easily stream-able via Amazon and the STARZ app, and some of the early seasons are even available via Netflix.
And, unbeknownst to many, you don’t need to have the STARZ channel via your cable or satellite provider. In fact, as I’m writing this, I’m watching an Outlander season premiere … GAH! And, because I’m a streamer, I’m catching it earlier than anyone who’s relegated to watching via a traditional TV schedule later this evening.
Truth be told, though, I’ll be watching the episode a few times this week. Here’s why Outlander is so beloved:
1. Diana Gabaldon is a wiz with detail and historical accuracy.
Knowing this going in makes it easier to stomach the 800+ pages per book. Her characters are well-developed, and even though there are a lot of them, it’s easier than you think to keep track of their stories.
Unlike years ago, it’s likely that you’ll see the actor who plays Jamie before picking up the first book in the series. Somehow I hadn’t (living under a rock, remember?), so when I read through the pages and built the character in my head, I hoped — oh I hoped! — that the show wouldn’t ruin the Jamie in my mind’s eye.
He’s handsome, tough, sweet, smart, and basically everything you’d want in a perfect Highlander (or modern man).
Nope. Sam Heughan is perfect. A Scot himself, his accent is mesmerizing, and aside from his hair maybe not being “firey” enough for the “book Jamie” description, at a strapping 6’3″, he otherwise fits the bill.
And Sam also manages to pull off the mix of smarts and stoicism with ease, connecting beautifully with the actress who plays Claire.
Also, Sam is approaching 40 years old in real life, which makes the ogling totally okay for me and my fellow Gen Xer fans. Because, that smile and those eyes…
Claire Beauchamp (pronounced Beechum — don’t worry, they explain why). I love her character in the books, a strong and intelligent woman who’s not afraid to speak her mind, is beautiful in a “regular lady” kind of way, and whose heart loves fiercely and unapologetically. She’s the main character in the books and the show, as well as the narrative voice.
So, naturally, I wondered the same with Claire as I did with Jamie.
Will “TV Claire” meet my expectations?
Well, aside from the fact that Caitriona Balfe is a wisp of a woman, standing 5’9″ and maybe 130 pounds (she was actually a runway model years ago), I love how she plays Claire. Her emotions are believable.
The wit, the desperation, the love, the despair, the snark, the happiness — they make up for the fact that her physique isn’t as shapely as “book Claire.” And despite being Irish, she pulls off the English accent well (considering I have American ears).
Caitriona Balfe is in her late-30s, too, a year older than Sam Heughan in real life. In the books, Claire is older than Jamie — though they’re only in their 20s — so I really appreciate that the actors weren’t pulled into the Hollywood “standard” of older man, too-young woman.
The fact that Sam and Caitriona are a decade older than their characters in real life doesn’t bother me one bit — it works beautifully.
4. Scottish and English accents galore (and French, too)!
I’m a sucker for a non-American accent, especially English, Irish, and Scottish. So, basically anything in Great Britain.
On paper, an English accent is pretty close to an American one. Well, for the most part anyway, save certain colloquialisms and spellings, or geographical nuances like the Cockney English dialect.
Scottish words on paper though — Ach! You definitely read Jamie and the clansmen’s dialogue with a lilt that’s not English, nor could even be mistaken for Irish. Especially with Gaelic words and phrases interspersed.
And in the TV show, it’s even better. Jamie and his fellow Scotsmen regularly slip into Gaelic, which in the early 1700s was probably very common anyway, but was also used to communicate discreetly in front of Claire or other non-Scots.
And then there’s how Jamie uses Sassenach and Mo nighean donn as terms of endearment for Claire. Ye ken? **Swoon**
5. That scenery…
The Outlander books are long because Diana Gabaldon spends so much time describing everything from the Highland countryside, to the castles, outfits, and decor. It’s true that the story line would likely be fine without that level of detail; however, it truly gives you, as a reader, her vision.
Moving to the Outlander series on television, you can see how her gift of illustrative language was a huge asset to the screenwriters and the director.
The first season of the TV series is filmed entirely in Scotland, with its rolling hills, green pastures, fog and grey skies, and castles. You can even take tours that bring you to each of the filming locations! Who knew?
Costuming has been a treat for the eyes, too: men in kilts. Women in the Highlands of that era weren’t very lavish, so the dresses and other garments are plain for the most part in Season 1.
BUT, your thirst for ornate and intricate coifs will be quenched in Season 2, I promise, as much of it is set in 18th Century France — it’s a more urban setting, and the attire that befits the lavish lifestyle in which they find themselves… You’ll have to read and watch to find out more!
Season 3 is just getting started, and after having read the book, I can only imagine the treat we’re in for, both with landscapes and geography, as well as costuming.
6. Never mind historical accuracy, how about human accuracy?
Jamie’s sister Jenny shows up as a character in the first book, as well as Season 1.
She’s pregnant, and shortly after giving birth she needs to leave with Claire, on horseback, for a very urgent mission. I can’t stress the words “very urgent mission” enough, but I also don’t want to give any major spoilers away for those of you who’ve yet to read or watch.
Riding away after giving birth (with or without the baby), may not seem very humanly accurate, especially to those of you who, like me, have birthed several bairns yourself. Let’s remember, though, it’s the early 1700s, and likely women of that era pulled up their pseudo bootstraps — especially those in the Scottish Highlands — when needed.
And, it. was. needed.
The parts of this story that are satisfyingly and humanly accurate are these:
Before Jenny leaves, she tells the maid to “milk the goat” because they’ll need to use goat milk to feed the baby temporarily until she returns. It’s long been thought that goat milk is one of the closest available options to human milk, as far as types of mammal milk are concerned. And for many reasons, lack of formula and/or a wet nurse being a major one, you can see why they’d go right to the goat while Jenny can’t be there herself.
While she’s gone, Jenny has to stop several times to hand-express breast milk since clearly, at a few days post-partum, she’s a nursing mom with copious amounts of milk and potential for engorgement! Never mind the worry of messing up supply and demand for milk production, I’m sure mastitis doesn’t always end well in those days before antibiotics…
Well done, Diana Gabaldon. Well done.
And another “well done” to STARZ ( in America, anyway) for not putting that on the show’s cutting room floor.
7. Magic and fantasy, but not too much.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good novel with vampires and witches and wizards and all kinds of other mystical creatures and story lines.
Sure, there’s mysticism and lore in the Outlander series. But it’s not overdone.
It’s peppered throughout, some real, some folklore. It’s the perfect amount.
8. Steamy love scenes between characters you love.
You spend a lot of time getting to know Jamie and Claire before they become lovers, and whether you’re a reader or a watcher, that’s vitally important to the story.
Also, they’re really good together. Claire and Jamie; Caitriona and Sam.
And, while steamy and sometimes graphic, their scenes aren’t inappropriate.*
Though, I definitely agree with the Common Sense Media age rating of 17+, for both sex and violence, if you’re thinking of watching it with your tween or teen — there are a lot of nudity, sex and generally adult themes.
*It’s really important to note that while most of the sex scenes happen between characters you love, there is one graphic scene between two characters that you don’t want to read or see together. It’s not to be taken lightly, and I’ve know several friends who’ve had to skip over the pages at the end of book one, or fast-forward past the scene in Season 1. It involves Captain Jack Randall; you’ve been warned.
9. A thriving fandom.
I love a good fandom, especially if there’s a podcast to go along with it.
With Outlander, the first place I look for info and updates is Hypable.com (same place I go for Game of Thrones and Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts, too), because it’s well-written by fans themselves.
This Hypable post about the Season 2 teaser? Spot on. “8. We needed to hear Sassenach! We’ve missed Jamie’s cheeky grin.” YES.
As for Outlander, The Outlander Podcast is my favorite, despite the sometimes overwhelming conversation style of the sister hosts. I love how they do a read-through when the series isn’t airing, so you can follow along “book club style” with reading the books chapter-by-chapter, if you want!
10. It’s a long series with more books coming and it seems the TV season complements won’t be stopping anytime soon!
Nothing like getting sucked into an amazing book and knowing that it’s a really long series with so much more to come, along with an amazing TV show companion in its infancy!