Binge Reading

Admit it. You’ve done it. I’ll bet 90% of my readers have done it. You’ve stayed up too late reading. Or you’ve neglected your job or housework or other obligations to read just one more chapter.

It’s called binge reading. It’s a recognized disorder. There’s even a WikiHow on the steps to do it.

I’m guilty.

As a writer, it is the greatest compliment I can receive to have someone tell me they couldn’t put my book down, they had to find out what happened, they read until 2:00am. I grin every time I hear someone say that, and I’ve been privileged to hear people tell me that my novels are page-turners.

As a reader, I’ve done it all too often, and regretted it the next day.

What makes a book a page turner? I’m sure the answer is unique to each reader. And WikiHow doesn’t provide any guidance on this question.

My tastes are eclectic—I’ve binged on thrillers, mysteries, romance novels, and literary fiction. I rarely binge on non-fiction, though Unbroken came close. I want interesting characters I care about, accessible writing, and bad things happening to good people that make me want to know how they will survive. I want to feel with the characters about their predicaments.

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I come from a family of binge-readers. This bookcase in my parents’ last home was filled two-deep with books.

I started binging in childhood. I could check out six books at a time at the public library in Richland, Washington. I began reading in the car in the way home (which I regretted because of motion sickness, but usually couldn’t stop myself). I often had one book finished by the time we reached our house.

I continued reading straight through my six books, and then move on to my brother’s. That all took a day or two in the summer time, and then I’d beg my mother to take us back to the library again. My favorites at the time were Phyllis Whitney’s mysteries for kids and Nancy Drew mysteries, though I’d binge on my brother’s Hardy Boys and Robert Heinlein books also.

As an adult, I remember one fateful night in Mobile, Alabama, in the early to mid-1990s. Another attorney and I were there taking depositions, and the depositions ended a day early. We couldn’t get a flight home to Kansas City until the next morning.

I had discovered that the paralegal traveling with us had the newest Mary Higgins Clark novel. Mary Higgins Clark in her prime was the perfect binge author, because her villains were sadistically vile, but the nice women they attacked always survived after suffering multiple incidents of significant terror. And the heroines got the guy as well.

I borrowed the paralegal’s book and read well into the night. I knew I shouldn’t, but all I would be doing the next day was sitting on an airplane. After making our connection, we would get back to Kansas City too late to make it worth going into the office. So I read until I finished . . . around 3:00am. I staggered to make our morning flight.

I don’t even remember which Mary Higgins Clark book it was. But it was worth it.

What books have you binge-read?

Posted in Family, Reading, Writing and tagged , , , , , , .


  1. It’s nice to hear “binge-reading” rather than binge-watching, which is all I ever hear. When I was younger, I’d stay up late to finish a book. These days, even if the book is a page-turner, I’m out by 9:00 p.m. I suppose that’s what being at the office at 6:00 a.m. does to a person.

    • Jill, it is increasingly difficult to binge read by staying up late at bedtime. But the countervailing side of getting older is reading when I wake up in the middle of the night!
      Oh, well,

  2. Love this post! Lately I have been a blog binge reader. I can think of few things that are a better use of my time than reading late into the night, or getting up early to read before starting other tasks. The multiple worlds we experience through reading are enlivening and interesting. I can’t find a thing wrong with it, even if it is a disorder. As someone who was an educator for more than twenty-five years, I can attest to the awareness that students now have different reading habits, even to the point that some schools suggest not giving them lengthy articles that do not contain media. Hmmm. Not sure about that one. However, I notice myself becoming used to multi-media and I’m sure it has an overall effect on what we learn, expect, and retain.

    • I agree! If reading is a vice, then I’m addicted.
      I worry about students who can’t concentrate on a lengthy piece. Today’s world is full of distractions, but we need to be able to operate in both modes, and there’s evidence that multitasking isn’t really efficient.
      Thanks for the comment,

      • That’s true, Theresa. I see more and more material about the effects of social media as well as multi-media educational materials, and I still feel unsure about the overall results in terms of reading, focus, and thinking.

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