We’re a culture that rapidly consumes media. We’ve literally appropriated the term for overeating to discuss our watching habits. And I’m right there with you–I mean, who hasn’t had Netflix interrupt her weekend Friday Night Lights marathon to ask if she’s okay?*
So yes, I’ll watch 9 hours of Battlestar Galactica with the best of them,* but I have another problem: binge-reading. It’s worst when I’m reading a series, which is naturally most common for mainstream, plot-driven fiction, but even when I’ve just finished a standalone novel or story collection or essays, sometimes my first impulse is to just pick up another book and keep going.
I know, “Julia, how could that be a bad thing? Reading is awesome and good for you.”
This is quite true, but “I was reading” is rarely a satisfactory response to the question: “what did you do all day?” Maybe it’s not quite so bad as watching an entire season of Orange is the New Black in one sitting,* but you can’t exactly call it productive, can you? Not unless, I suppose, you were reading for study. Otherwise even the most high-minded reading is a type of leisure and entertainment. Yes, we get something deeper and more meaningful out of it, but it’s still…not work.
As a writer, it’s certainly informative and necessary, but there’s another balance to find because if I’m reading, I’m certainly not writing. Reading is essential to my development, but if I just read, I don’t write. And generally speaking, I try not to read the same kind of work that I’m writing. I.e., if I’m writing essays, I’m probably reading fiction or poetry and vice versa. If I want to write something more genre-minded, I’ll read more literary work. The balance isn’t just regarding the time, it’s also a balance of concerns and mindsets and ideas.
There is no balance in binge-reading. It’s perhaps the exact opposite of balance.
Mind you, I only occasionally feel guilty about it. At the moment, I’m binge-reading the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik (dragons and the Napoleonic Wars) and I am not even a little bit sorry.
Do you binge-read? If so, what?
*All of these things are 100% true and not one bit hyperbolic