On Binge Reading

I have a confession to make.

I’m a binge reader.

A month or two will go by with few or no books read. My attention is elsewhere. Maybe I simply can’t sit still long enough to read. Maybe it’s internet addiction — you know – checking Facebook, Twitter, and email continuously for two or three hours at at time in case someone responded to that hilarious post I made about Tea Party people or the latest meme.

Then, finally, I read. And I read and I read and I read. Usually I’ll hammer out four books in short order (which for me is a week or two because I’m a slow reader). If the weather is crappy (which we’ll discuss later), I’ll knock out a book per day.

I alternate between depressing real-world stuff about how the financial sector is screwing everyone and the politicians are all bought-off, books of funny and interesting stories by comedians, and real “literature” that I’ve been wanted to read but never really gotten around to reading. Lately I’ll throw in a graphic novel comic too, just to stoke my inner nerd fires.

I might order, in hard copy, one of Henry Rollins’ tour/road journal type books. I’ve got a cool book of skateboarding stories I’m about to start next. Right now I’m reading Attempting Normal, by comedian and podcaster Marc Maron. I read this kind of stuff on my Kindle.

Actually, other than books I really want to collect in hard copy format, most of my reading is done on the Kindle. That means that when the shit hits the fan and our petro-culture collapses, taking the internet, computers, Kindles, and most of modern life with it, I will not not have the physical artifacts of “the books” to prove what a smart person I think I am. However, most of us will be scrambling for operational hand-crank can openers and preserved food, as well as water without fracking fluid in it, so I guess my lack of books won’t matter too much.

This last winter we had some heavy snow/ice/shit weather here in the Dallas area. I work for a local municipality that never shuts down for weather. EVER. Except this last winter. It was actually bad enough that we shut down for a day or two. Combining that shutdown with the normal inclination to stay inside and do sedentary things when it is shitty outside, and I got a lot of reading done. Good ol’ binge reading.

Binge reading is a lot easier to get into if you don’t have cable TV. Of course, we have Netflix and Amazon Instant-Movies, but nothing can suck time away from reading hours more easily than cable TV. There’s always something retardedly compelling on. Shows about modern-day moonshiners. The History Channel’s exploration of Nazi Flying Saucers. Reality shows about the day to day lives of people who are famous for no reason. The problem with Netflix and Amazon, or most any streaming video service, is that you have to put some active thought into what you are going to watch, and eventually you have to make a decision. Kind of like back in the days when you’d have to go to the video store, scan the wall over and over again looking at all the movies you’ve seen there one hundred times before, and finally perhaps go home empty-handed because it was all just too much for you. Oh sure, you might have some Twizzlers to munch on, but no movie.

And it is this fact, this phenomenon, this inability to decide upon a movie to watch, in the absence of the mindless information-push of cable TV, that opens the Gates of Knowledge offered by binge reading. Oh sure, you have to decide on a book to read, but once you’ve done that (assuming it’s a good one!), you can read for hours without making any kind of decision beyond when to eat, sleep, or use the restroom.

The Kindle, I must admit, has increased my propensity for binge reading. I might have 15 unread books on my shelf, but if I’m on a binge of books by comedians, it is waaaaaay easy to just download that new book by Patton Oswalt. And I will. From the comfort of my couch, without even sitting up, enabled by the magic of WiFi and the interwebs and Amazon.com, I will download that new book with scarcely a second thought.

Eventually I’ll come down. Not sure why. Maybe my eyes get tired? Usually I think I get the feeling of “What am I doing? Has my life lost all balance? I can’t just lay here reading all week! What kind of person am I? ”  There’s a fine line for someone like me between what I would call productive, appropriate reading and doing nothing with my life.

It’s all about the ability to moderate, and apparently with regard to reading I lack that ability. And thus, I binge read.


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