This holidays, if you want to be a better writer, don’t binge eat – binge read!

Image source: Corbis via Jennifer Armstrong article in BBC News.

Image source: Matthias Tunger, Corbis Photographer, via Jennifer Armstrong article in BBC News.

I can’t say I’m a stranger to binge eating, or even binge TV-watching. But with the holidays coming up, I can think of something much healthier to do with my time.

Binge reading.

It’s been a lot time since the last binges, and I was a lot younger. I remember the Harry Potter books being devoured especially quickly and ferociously. Having to wait a year or more between books was torture back then!

Thankfully, when it came time to dive into the Tomorrow when the war began series by John Marsden, most of them had already been written, so I didn’t have to wait between books. I just had to scour every bookshop at every shopping centre near me until I had collected every book.

"One does not simply read the first Divergent book; you binge read them all then regret the third one immediately." Image source: MemeCreator image created by me :)

Image source: MemeCreator image created by me 🙂

More recently, there’s been the Divergent and Hunger Games series. (Tangent: Don’t you wish ‘serieses’ was a word? Sigh.) Again, I didn’t know about them until my Youth Group kids told me the movies were coming out. Sweeeeet!

Now yes, if you go too far too fast with binge reading you still feel as awful as if you’d binged on food or drink. You feel full and a little dazed, starved of sunlight (unless you have an awesome reading window or back porch) and kind of wilting from lack of exercise.

But it’s still the most productive of binge behaviours, since it helps you write better when you get back to your own stuff. Phil Edwards in the Huffington Post talks about his experience of reading 300 books in 2013, and how it actually helped him to know more (he wrote for a trivia site to prove it) and write better.

Reading is mentally engaging. When you binge-watch, you feel shame afterwards because delightful though those Gilmore Girls were, you realise you’ve just wasted a whole day watching one series. By comparison, if I binge-read War and Peace, I don’t have to apologise for the days (weeks, months) spent reading it – I’ve accomplished something akin to scaling Everest!

When I reread Watership Down last week (one of my childhood favourites), I was so terrified for the fate of the poor heroic rabbits that I stayed up late and got up early just to keep reading. I stopped watching Gilmore Girls entirely (wow). And that Richard Adams is a sneaky guy, because now I know waaaay more about rabbits than I did at the start of the book, without getting bored once!

'Books worth binge-reading' by Modern Mrs. Darcy

Books worth binge-reading‘ by Modern Mrs. Darcy

Now, I have to admit, I didn’t come up with the idea of setting aside time for a book binge all on my own. I’ve just discovered the incredible Modern Mrs. Darcy blog and loved this post about binge reading instead of binge TV-watching. I didn’t even know there was a term for what I do when I devour a book over a day or a couple of days. I felt validated.

Where did binge reading even start? With binge writing. Books weren’t always written as full novels – think of Charles Dickens slaving away week by week to publish his monthly chapter instalments of his scary novels in serial form. I’ve heard that during one series, he got mobbed at the docks by crowds of readers demanding to know whether their heroine, Little Nell, was going to live or die in the final instalment.

Christmas is all about family and Jesus – and that’s excellent – but if I also make some couch time for my fictional family members and reading about things I haven’t learned yet, I haven’t lost anything.

Books I’ll be binge reading this holidays:

  1. Anne’s House of Dreams and Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery. How did I miss these wonderful additions to the Anne of Green Gables saga? I found them at last year’s Lifeline Bookfest and look forward to digging in. The great thing is they are in the series, so I can binge read the whole series if they do reawaken that hunger.
  2. Toad Triumphant by William Horwood. It’s the only Wind in the Willows book that I have and I’ve read it many times, so it’s like catching up with an old friend.
  3. BattleAxe by Sara Douglass. A friend recommended this 5 years ago and I’ve never gotten around to it. It missed that medieval fantasy phase I went through in high school and then in uni, I was too busy studying law to read much for pleasure for a few years.
  4. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy. Seriously, I would love just to be able to say I’ve read this.
  5. Kitty’s War by Janet Butler. All about nurses in World War II. Can’t wait to learn more!
  6. God tells the man who cares by A.W. Tozer. Can’t go past Tozer. This one is a classic that I found this year but forgot to finish. But now that I’m reading more about prayer and prophecy, it just makes sense!

 

What books will you be reading this Christmas?

 

Lolcat binge reading - read that part again, the part about the cheezburger. Image source: Adventures in Twilighting

Image source: Adventures in Twilighting

This post was written by TJ Withers-Ryan © 2014. Reblogging is always highly encouraged as long as you credit me as the author.

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