Binge Reading: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
  Up Late    January 16, 2017     Cindy Marie Jenkins

 

For some unknown reason, teenage goth Cindy never read The Sandman. I decided to remedy that while on a Neil Gaiman binge, but stopped at volume six. I’d read one volume a week consistently. It was too much. My head swirled with so much imagery and so many strange dreams – both daydreams and sleeping – that I just couldn’t take it.

There’s a reason why comics are spaced out as much as they are, I think, and it isn’t just for more sales. Writers must count on that time in between a reader’s experiences for certain story or visual elements to seep. As a reader, my emotional journey needed a break, much longer than the time it took me to go out and buy the next volume.

“Day 89 – Gaiman Binge” photo by crimsong19

Later, I read Watchmen for the first time, during a period of insomnia. For one thing, I definitely don’t suggest reading it while most of the world is sleeping. For another, I found the plot was too much to absorb if I read too many pages. I purposely put it down after each original issue ended, so my brain could take the time it needed, the time that the artists initially intended for each character. I find it interesting that I don’t have this problem binging other comics, like Ms. Marvel or Thor, which have more straightforward story-lines than the denser Sandman and Watchmen

That same year, I caught up on the modern Doctor Who series. I’d grown up watching the classic Doctors and never took the time to jump into these new stories. My tendency was to binge 5-8 episodes every night as I finished busy work and avoided bed. The companion Martha, and her lovelorn story-line, annoyed me to no end. It felt so repetitive that it distracted from the adventures. I mentioned this to my friend who has a very critical eye, and she didn’t remember feeling that way when she originally watched it.

Then I wondered: could it be because I just watched six Martha episodes in a row? With a week between each show, would her love-sickness grate on me so much? Likely not. I would have watched the progression of her hope, then despair, over a longer period of time and empathized more. Doctor Who was not created for streaming, thus not made to binge.

Shows produced by streaming companies are specifically structured for binging: House of Cards, Good Girls Revolt, Luke Cage. They’re easy to just press play, and watch into the wee hours. There are also some books that can benefit from binging, and I have found that experiencing them that way enhanced their stories.

Binge-worthy? Or will you slowly turn into a giant sandworm?

The Martian was a good binge, because I couldn’t remember all the details otherwise, or even where the protagonist was in his journey. I tried it in spurts, but kept having to read back and remind myself of what had just happened. If you don’t try to comprehend all the science but focus on understanding what he’s doing, why it works or what’s gone wrong, it is a very fast read.

Cinder is sort of a cheat, because I binged it on a plane trip cross country. At 390 pages, that’s still no small feat!

One book I do not suggest binging while on an airplane is The Time Traveler’s Wife. By the time I landed, I was so paranoid about my partner’s safety that I tracked him down through friends after he didn’t answer my texts. He had been in a movie theater. That was embarrassing.

Another Cinderella re-telling is Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, and it fits well as a binge read, because we are so used to hearing the fairy tale in one sitting. Since we “know how it ends,” all the new ideas excite the older, familiar ones, and move the reading faster. This was not the case, however, with Maguire’s other works like Wicked, Son of a Witch or Mirror, Mirror.

Long after the movie premiered, my friend Etta told me I would finish The Hunger Games in one sitting, and that was about all the attention I should give it. When I was in my 9th month of pregnancy, that’s exactly what I did. Then I picked up Divergent, which turned out to be a little too much time in dystopia YA land for a mother-to-be. Still, both books are good for binging.

Speaking of YA, any John Green book except for his most famous, The Fault in Our Stars, are great binging. If you’re still a teenager, they might be too intense. If you’re far enough from your teen years that they no longer pain you, Paper Towns is especially good. It did run a little into the Martha lovesick problem, though: Green repeats his main points often enough that it may feel redundant on a binge read.

The first four Harry Potter books were great binge reads. The longer ones don’t work quite as well, but I have been able to read them in two good sittings.

Do you have books you like to binge? Any you wouldn’t suggest reading in one sitting, or unexpectedly finished all at once? Tell us in the comments.

 

 

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