Is Binge Reading > Binge Watching?

Daniel Ford: You can binge watch all manner of movies and television thanks to the likes of Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix (admit, you started humming the intro to “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt!”). But is there such a thing as binge reading? And if so, what genres/series/authors provide binge reading potential?

Sean Tuohy: Of course! You can binge read a series. People do it with Game of Thrones. I have done it with James Rollins’ Sigma Series. Like any content—movies, TV shows, podcasts—if the content is good people will eat it up. The content has to have quality or be relatable in some way.

It’s easy to binge a series or an author. There a time I ate up everything that David Morrell published because I got into a groove and enjoyed his work. In a week, I went through all three Rambo novels, Last Reveille, and three short stories. I have done the same thing with TV shows.

What are you binge reading now?

Daniel: I'm not binge watching an author or series at the moment; it's more like I'm binging a genre. I read Eric Foner's The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery, and it was so well written and fascinating that I wanted to plunge into the stack of nonfiction tomes I have stacked on my nightstand. At some point, I'll get burned out and return to fiction to even myself out, which is when I'll dig into an author like James Rollins or Craig Johnson.

In my younger days, I remember flying through the Harry Potter series and anything written by Clive Cussler and Nelson DeMille. For whatever reason, I think I've outgrown those genres as a reader, but I enjoy knowing that those worlds are there should I decide to drop back in. 

I also binge reading short stories. I devour The Best American Short Stories and the O. Henry Award winners every year. I love finding new short story artists, such as Molly Antopol, Scott Cheshire, Kirsten Valdez Quade, Jordan Harper, and Kelly Link. I could read short stories all day long.

I was thinking back to when I was a kid and I certainly binge read series like The Boxcar Children, Berenstain Bears, and...The Babysitter's Club (I wore out a copy of the one where they put on a production of “Peter Pan,” which I credit for my brief acting career). I also devoured copies of Where the Red Fern Grows, anything by Avi, and the Goosebumps series. As my parents point out to my impressionable nephew Jack, I used to bring one or two books with me even on very short car rides. Reading is just built into who I am.

I can also binge read really well written journalism. I went on a David Halberstam run a couple years ago, reading The Best and the Brightest, The Fifties, War in a Time of Peace, and The Coldest Winter. I love reading anything about Watergate and the Civil War as well. I devoured the recently published Ghettoside. I used to be unable to focus on one book at a time, but I've learned that if I finish what I start, I can easily just reach for the next one!

Sean: That is a very cute story of young Dan.

I never binge read as a kid, mostly because I could not read. Because of my learning disabilities, I had a hard time reading and the idea of binge reading was very scary to me. It wasn't until middle school when I was able to read that I began to binge read.

Well, I just tore through an advance copy of Rory Flynn's new novel Dark Horse. My mostly recent binge read was Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series. I fell right into the Bosch’s world.

Interesting take on binge reading good journalism.

Daniel: I can't imagine a world where Sean Tuohy isn't reading something. The written word is much better off with a Sean that overcame those early struggles.

Michael Connelly's Bosch series is a great example. Our man Rory is another one. I like spending time with Bosch and Eddy Harkness because of the care each author takes in crafting their character, even when it is at the expense of the plot.

Sean: Bingo! You hit the nail with that. I love following those two characters. Recently read the latest Harkness story, and Rory’s love for Boston is evident in a big bad way. He wrote this lovely farewell letter to old dirty Boston and welcomes the new Boston with a faint of sadness.

Lindsey Wojcik: While I do not do it much anymore, I'd say binge reading is certainly better than binge watching. Think about where it takes your mind as opposed to binge watching, where everything—setting, sounds, etc.—is laid out for you. Binge reading allows the imagination to create its own version of the stories and characters that the reader often becomes invested in.

Daniel pinpointed the best time in a person's life for binge reading, as I also recall binge reading a lot in my youth. The Sweet Valley High series and novels spun-off from “Full House” kept me engaged as a kid. I wore out my copy of Full House Stephanie: P.S. Friends Forever.

I think my last binge was the Gossip Girl series in college. Of course, again, I read it while the television series aired. Although reading novels based on a hit TV show does not really do much for the imagination, I guess I've always been fascinated to see the difference in how the characters are portrayed on the screen versus on the page.

And while I enjoy a TV binge as much as the next streamer, I always feel like I need my brain needs a palate cleanser after a long binge watch. That's usually when I turn to a good book. Who knows? Maybe my next binge read is around the corner.

Matt DiVenere: You absolutely can binge read. Goosebumps, Animorphs (anyone else remember this one?), and any and every book written by Robert Cormier. My sister is notorious for this. You know how some people stay up all night reading a book? She stays up for days finishing series of books. It's a bit of a health hazard.

Here's a question: Is binge reading or binge watching more engulfing? I feel like I can switch off a TV series much easier than a book series. There are so many shows to watch on TV right now, so it's easy to series hop. But books? I feel like you invest in them so much more. Thoughts?

Daniel: You're absolutely right that a book or a book series can be way more engrossing than a TV show. First of all, it involves more work. You're on your own reading this thing without the help of visuals or sound. Your imagination is on overdrive. You're creating the action in your head, regardless of what's on the page. Secondly, is there anything better than holding a hardcover or paperback in your hands? It's tactile. It feels way better than a remote control. You can ruffle the pages, admire the cover every so often, or pleasantly drop in a bookmark when you take a bathroom break (or you can bring it into the bathroom and keep reading!). And let's be serious, there is no better smell in the world than book smell.


Lisa Carroll: Series are a middle school librarian's best friend—getting reluctant middle school readers hooked on a series or author is my greatest accomplishment. And, admittedly, I too get hooked on them because, you know, I have to read them. Because I'm the librarian. Because I want to inspire kids to read them. Because it's my job. And, because I am a binge reader—once I start I cannot stop. I was the "flashlight under the sheets" kid who read and read and read and read.

I am thrilled that The Raven King has finally arrived (Book Four of The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater, which I binge read last summer until, of course, there wasn't another book to read) and I plan to read it myself before putting it on the shelf. Other favorites include The Hunger Games, Throne of Glass by Sarah Mass (except Book Five isn't due until September freakin' 6), Matched by Allie Condie, Michael Vey by Richard Evans, The Selection series by Kiera Cass, any of Rick Riordan's series (Lightning Thief, Red Pyramid, Heroes of Olympus), Harry Potter, of course, and, on the lighter side, The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. My middle school boys cannot get enough of the interminable Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and because we had Tim Green speak at our school this fall, his books are wait-list status.

It's a tougher job these days—competing with all the multimedia options out there makes it hard to convince kids about the importance of reading. But, if I can get them to spend a little time with a book instead of “One Tree Hill,” that's progress.

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