Binge Reading

Over at SF Signal, there’s a nice little discussion about binge reading going on. I started to add my two cents worth (comment 7), then realized I was going on too much. So let me start over here:

Hi, my name is Mike, and I’m a repeat author binger. In fact, I will go so far as to say, I have an author binging problem.

I like my stories long, drawn out, and complex, and the only way to do that is to find one that’s across multiple volumes.

And I don’t like waiting for “the next book.” No, I’ve been burned by that stick more than once, and its not for me. I like to read a series from start to finish, in as close to a single gasp as I can. And I can only do that, without waiting for years, if I wait to start to dive into an author until they’ve finished their current work.

But is it really so wrong? I mean, sure, people like me us distort the publishing industry’s expectations, but we have needs too, right? So we waited to read the Malazan novels until they got to book six or seven; so we didn’t start the whole Kevin Anderson Hidden Empire [CORRECTION: Seven Suns, Hidden Empire was just the first book] series until years after it ended; yes, I waited for Reynolds to finish an arc before picking it up. When I did pick them up, I read them in a complete package, start to finish.

I have a problem with waiting for the next book. I lose interest, my memories become cloudy on characters, and in the interim I’ve filled my noggin’ with other books. But if I wait it out to get a series in a single grab, I get the whole story arc in one swoop.

This isn’t to say that I restrict myself to only “series” novels. I binged a little on Stephenson, and really, who hasn’t at least once binged on Asimov or Heinlein? But as a general rule, I binge read because I’m immersing into a series. One commenter mentioned that they burn out when they do this, but I find that switching genres helps immensely. I’ll binge read a fantasy series, then wash myself clean with some swashbuckling space opera until I’m ready to see some more fey lands in peril.

What about you all? Surely at least a few of my blog readers read in genres that support these long arc books (trying not to pigeonhole this as a sci-fi/fantasy phenomenon, though I think its more common to see long story arcs in these genres). Go wild – leave a comment 🙂 And I won’t be offended if you leave it over at SF Signal where the thread originated.

The immature superhero dilemma

We have in our midst someone with a great power who isn’t yet capable of understanding that with great power comes great responsibility (Thanks Uncle Ben!).

The “we” I speak of is Kim and I, of course, and the great power is that revered and dangerous power: the power to read.

Katy, who will be seven this Saturday (ZOMG!), was always intrigued by reading. And then something happened. Something exploded in her cranium, and what should have developed at a steady pace over the course of the next year or so exploded into full maturity before she was ready for it.

She discovered she could read.

And the more she read, the more she could read, and the more she could read, the more she read. You begin to see where this cyclic parasitic infection could be problematic, no? On the one hand, our darling is capable of reading anything you set before her, and cognizant enough to know that if she doesn’t know or understand a word, to look it up in the dictionary or worst case, ask Mom and/or Dad.

The problem, you see, is she doesn’t understand that there are boundaries to what she should read. She doesn’t understand how to keep her super powers in check. She doesn’t understand that being able to read something doesn’t mean she should read something. She is capable of picking up one of Mom or Dad’s books and reading them (and there are certainly plenty around the house, with five full book cases and random piles here and there), but not necessarily of comprehending them. She’s just not old enough, but doesn’t understand that having the power to do something doesn’t mean she needs to.

Perhaps more dangerous, though, is that she is so enthralled with her new power, she doesn’t know how to respect privacy yet. You or I, being mature(ish) adults, know there are certain boundaries you don’t casually cross. You don’t look over someone’s shoulder to read their email with them; you don’t crane to see what they’re typing in a chat window. You understand that there are personal space boundaries. But she has this power ahead of her time and hasn’t yet learned about these boundaries. And you know what? They’re damn hard to explain to someone just turning seven, as it turns out.

And so our immature superhero dilemma – an individual with the power to read at a third or fourth grade level, but without the maturity to understand where to refrain from exercising it.

And in case you were wondering, yes, she has begun to write. Precious short stories inspired by her favorite TV shows (Word Girl in particular), I’m fully prepared for her to publish ahead of me (because let’s face it, I write for fun more than anything else…well…yeah…).

And that, folks, is the first post of 2009!

I can’t do it

I thought I could do it, really I did. I had this shiny newish kindle, with the power to order and read books on the fly. If your a truly avid reader who has that burning hunger, you know what a draw that is. And how could I resist? I’d read Snow Crash with glee. I’d read Diamond Age and seen a kindred mind. I even braved Cryptonomicon in a fell swoop. So when I pre-ordered Neal Stephenson’s Anathem for the Kindle, I was excited. Sure, I absolutely could not get into his last series no matter how hard I tried. But this would be different. An alien world, a new language, where could it go wrong?

I don’t blame the format of the kindle, let me say that. I’ve read a fair number of books on the kindle since I bought it, and I’ve read Asimov’s and Analog for two months running without any problems. No, I really think the problem is (now that I’m halfway through it) is that I’m just not engaged in it. Its not for me. Don’t get me wrong, its fine writing, I’m sure its compelling enough if you have the right mindset.

I just don’t

And hence my struggle. Do I quit? I don’t want to do that. But there are so many other books that I know I want to read (like the third book in the Fallen Empire series). I’ve put it aside for a few weeks now and I’m still not compelled to read it. I feel like I’m giving up. Does this ever happen to you? Not just the disinterest in finishing a book, but the guilt, the remorse at having to put it aside for a while because you just can’t bring yourself to read it any more? Continue reading “I can’t do it”