Been sucked down that tunnel and lost days of your life? We ask if binge reading is a good thing or a bad thing. Taryn Leigh Taylor and Melinda Curtis give us their opinions...
Taryn Leigh Taylor
So, full disclosure. I’ve always been a binge reader. Since my earliest recollection, I was the girl scouring book stores (and later, ordering online) for the first book in the series. There’s something so magical about reading a bunch of books in a row, in the order the author intended, and then standing their matching covers side-by-side on my bookshelf that has always been a quintessential part of the reading experience for me. And I’m thrilled that television has finally caught up to my way of thinking.
So why do I love binge reading/watching so much?
Be it the wilds of the Scottish Highlands, a glittering Regency ballroom, or an eerie concrete jungle zombies prowl around every corner, once I’m transported to a time and place, I’m all in. I’ve always tended to read in genre pockets. Sometimes I’m really into historical romance, sometimes I’m in the mood for vampires, and sometimes I just want a good mystery.
It’s like reading Shakespeare—once my brain clicks into the language, or in this case, the rules of the genre—I just want to hang out there a while and take it all in. For instance, the first book I read that featured the Fae folk and their courts was interesting, but it wasn’t until I’d immersed myself in the genre that I started noticing the rules, and discovering how much research and work these authors put in. I love watching the mastery of story-telling in action, and sticking with a genre, at least for a little while, always makes me adore the craft so much more.
I recently reread all of my Judith McNaught historicals (six books and a novella in nine days…indulgent and awesome), and I noticed for the first time all the fun little in-jokes and callouts to other books and characters, something that is lost when I space the books out. Things like how I’d never noticed in the prequel when the hero acquired the dukedom that I’d taken for granted, since in subsequent books I knew he was a duke, or the intricate web of near-misses to account for how one of my favorite heroes had never met the heroine before his HEA. And characters aside, there’s something really lovely about losing yourself in a world created by an author you love, her style and phrasing, even if none of her books overlap.
Let’s face it, we’re all busy. As Ferris Bueller so wisely put it, “Life moves pretty fast.” And that’s why, no matter how much I love a book, if I finished it a year ago, the scores of other books I’ve read and TV shows I’ve watched in the meantime, have dulled my memory of it. I’ve been known to pluck a book off a bookstore shelf with only the vaguest memory of, “I know I liked the first one.” And when that happens, I know I’ll waste a good amount of reading with my face scrunched up as I wonder, “What happened to her mom again? Who is this person?” and hoping that it will all come back to me when I turn the next page.
In TV land, I think binging has changed things for the better. More complex, epic stories (and to my great pleasure, a lot of them are literary based! Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and Outlander all have their roots on the page…) on our screens mean more viewer investment. Instead of hours of schlocky sitcom programming, television writers are freer to take risks now that good shows aren’t slaves to immediate ratings (R.I.P., Firefly) but instead have a chance for word of mouth to lift them to the heights they deserve. As a result, we’re seeing more fresh ideas come to life on our screens, and I couldn’t be more thrilled
As for the book industry, I don’t think binge reading is a new phenomenon. While plenty of people I know wait for a season of TV to end before digging in to the nirvana that is television sans commercials, readers seem to me an entirely different breed. Most avid bookworms, myself included, rail at the thought of waiting for a series to end before diving in. If you’re an author I love, or one who has intrigued me, I will still count down to release dates, rely on context and an eventual memory-jog to get me back into the misadventures of the characters I love. And when your series does come to its conclusion, I’ll be the one setting aside my week’s vacation to re-devour it from the start.
For me, there will never be anything quite as sweet as discovering an incredible series that’s already a few books in (or in one amazing case, when I discovered JD Robb’s In Death series, I was thirty-three books behind, *dreamy sigh*) or re-reading a beloved series, that sucks me in fully and makes me never want to leave. And that is why I’ll always be a binger at heart.
Taryn's latest book, Playing Dirty, is out now. To find out more about her and her writing, check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
I confess. I used to be a binge reader. I’d buy a book the day it came out and read it front to back in less than twenty-four hours. I’d find a new author with a great series and read all the books in the series in a weekend. But I’ve changed. And here are four reasons why you should, too:
It’s bad for your health. Honestly, this is a thing. Have you heard about the long-term impact of looking down at your cell phone? The same applies to reading a book on your e-reader. If I wanted privacy to read, I had to read in the bedroom or my office. I’m not able to dive into a book with lots of noise around me. In the bedroom and office, I could never get the right back support or neck support, which often gave me a headache or backache. Not to mention the eye-strain, no matter how large you make the print.
You neglect your loved ones. Do you binge read after work? Or on the weekend? And what are your family, spouse and friends doing at night or on weekends? I bet they want to go out and shop. Or have dinner together. Or go see a movie. Binge reading is a solitary activity. We’re only given a short time on this earth. If you’re lucky enough to have family and friends nearby, make sure you don’t trade-off quality time with them for a binge reading session.
It’s Over Too Quickly. Maybe your family is like my husband’s family on Christmas. They sit down with all their presents and each dive in individually. In less than fifteen minutes, Christmas is over. And it’s going to be 364 days until Christmas rolls around again. Let’s say you’ve been waiting for the next installment of a billionaire romance series. If you binge read it in one night, it’s done. And it’s going to be months (or years) before the next installment is released.
The Wanting Beats the Having. Studies have proven that we derive more excitement from the anticipation than the actual owning of an item or event. That means you need to enjoy counting down the days to a new book release, you need to enjoy any bonus material, and perhaps – if you can stand it – avoid reading the story in one day.
Now, admittedly, there are downsides to avoiding the binge. My most frequent complaint to myself is that I forget to finish reading something. I only read about 15-45 minutes a day. If a favorite author releases a new book, I switch to starting their latest. And since I’m a 95% e-reader, I don’t have a physical stack of books to get back to. This is only a good thing when my husband asks me how many books I’ve bought lately. Sometimes I have to go back and skim the chapters I’ve already read to get back in the groove. I’ve been stressed out when I discover a new series with lots of books, because I’m so far behind everyone else, that I feel I must read quickly to catch up.
The way you read probably matches the way you approach other things in your life. Ultimately, it’s your choice how you get your reader high – fast or slow. No matter what you decide, go in peace and with plenty of charge in your e-reader.
Melinda's latest book, Love, Special Delivery, is out now. To find out more about her and her writing, check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest.