Thursday, January 26, 2006

Binge Reading

It started with Nancy Drew. My father gave me that first book featuring the titian-haired sleuth and I had to read the next one and the next and the next until I had devoured all forty-two volumes (that’s all there were back then so now you know how old I am). Then Georgette Heyer satisfied my insatiable hunger. Thank goodness she wrote dozens of books!

I went through Dick Francis like a hot knife through butter and then salivated over each new release. I read seven J.D. Robb novels in two weeks while vacationing in the south of France (I love saying that; it sounds so jet-set. Of course, I had my husband, sister, brother-in-law, cousin, and five children with me.) Most recently, I went on a Lisa Kleypas binge, heading to Barnes and Noble, grabbing four of her books at a time off the shelf, and wolfing them down before scheduling the next trip to B and N.

I got to wondering what triggers these binges and whether other readers experience the same obsessive—but blessedly low calorie!--behavior.

Here’s my theory on the necessary conditions:

1) The author has to be a great storyteller.
2) The characters have to be so compelling that you can’t tear yourself away from their company.
3) The story has to suck you in so completely that you find the world of the book more real than the world surrounding you.
4) The author has to have a backlist of at least ten books either still in print or attainable from the local library.
5) You need to escape from your everyday life for a brief period. Or you simply have the time available to escape from your everyday life.

Are there any other binge readers out there? Have you got any ideas about what gets your obsession going? Most importantly, what authors do you binge on? (I’m always looking for new fodder.)


Allie Mackay said...

Ahhh, Nancy ...

Binge reading days are long gone in this chaotic household. Sue-Ellen is ever pecking away on her deadlines (and mine) and has hardly any pleasure reading time. And as for me, well, everyone knows, I am always cycling up a storm or walking Sue-Ellen's little dog!

But knowing Sue-Ellen as I do, I can tell you that she'd surely have smiled with delight had she taken time to look in here today. She, too, loved Nancy Drew and still has her collection of those classic girl sleuth mysteries.

In fact, ssssssh now, and I'll tell you something else, too. Sue-Ellen loved Nancy Drew so much that she organized a Nancy Drew Fan Club. Six little girls joined. And ... Sue-Ellen even composed an official fan club theme song:

Nancy Drew, Nancy Drew, Nancy Drew,
How many mysteries you've been through.
You will dare to take a case, no matter the pace.
Nancy Drew, Nancy Drew, we love you!

Hah, oh man! But Sue-Ellen was only 9 or so when she wrote that. Her and little pals sang it enthusiastically at the opening of each fan club meeting. And I am toast if she finds out I posted it on here.

So I better get myself into hiding. But before I go, I'll tell you one more thing ... Sue-Ellen also devoured every book of Victoria Holt's and, later, the fabulous paranormal romances of her dear friend, Becky Lee Weyrich, a grand dame of the genre.

Oh dear, I hear Sue-Ellen stirring ....
So long, folks! Don't tell her I told you about that silly old Nancy Drew song.

Outta here,
Allie Mackay

Sue-Ellen Welfonder said...

Hah, indeed, Ms. Mackay!

Making careless typos ...

Her and little pals sang it enthusiastically at the opening of each fan club meeting.

... is divine justice for revealing childhood secrets!

Sue-Ellen Welfonder, betting old Allie-gal will think twice before she spills the beans on me again.

Sue-Ellen Welfonder said...

Oh, dear, well, excuuuuse me, Allie.

Looks like I better not comment back on Ms. Mackay's posts. She seems to have conjured some mysterious powers from those paranormals of hers and zapped my photo from my earlier post!

Guess I need to watch myself around her.

Going back to my work (where I should have stayed in the first place)

Sue-Ellen Welfonder

Nancy Herkness said...

OMG, Sue-Ellen, I love the Nancy Drew ditty! I would have joined your fan club in an instant if I'd lived in the neighborhood.

One of my saddest moments was when my daughter finished the first Nancy Drew I had ceremoniously presented her with (I had, of course, saved them all from my childhood) and said, "It was okay but I don't want to read any more." Oh, the disappointment! We wouldn't be able to share a love of blue roadsters and Ned Nickerson.

Fortunately, a friend's daughter was overjoyed when I offered her my vintage collection of "Nancys". They are now shelved in a place of honor in her room, as is their rightful due.

P.S. I loved Victoria Holt too!

Shanna Swendson said...

I definitely have been known to binge on Dick Francis. There's just something about his books where if I read one, suddenly that's the only thing I want to read for a while and I'll re-read every book of his I have on hand.

I can also binge on the romantic adventures by Madeline Brent. I know not to just check one out of the library because I'll only have to go back again in a day or so to get the rest (I've only found one to purchase, but I keep scouring bookstores).

When I read the latest book in a series, I'll often catch myself going back and re-reading the entire series. When a new Harry Potter book is coming out, I'll plan ahead and re-read the whole series just before the release date.

And sometimes I can binge on a genre. Sometimes I just get in the mood for a bunch of chick lit or mysteries or whatever, and I'll wallow in that one genre for a while.

Nancy Herkness said...

Shanna, thanks for sharing Madeline Brent's name; I'll have to track down her books and see if she sends me on a binge too.

And I'll add "genre bingeing" to my hypothesis; I do that as well.

Milady Insanity said...

Every now and then, I do that. It's fun.

The last one I went on was David Eddings.

Allison Brennan said...

I, too, read Nancy Drew when I was about 9 or 10 . . . after I devoured Trixie Belden (which was still coming out with a few new titles when I was 8).

My mom had every Agatha Christie and one summer I read most of them. I wouldn't say she was the best storyteller in the world, but I absolutely HAD to find out who did it to see if I was right, and I never could skip ahead and check the ending.

I did the same thing with the JD Robb books--I bought one in the middle of the series (I think it was #6 or 7) and then I bought the backlist and read them from first to last. Now I buy them in hardcover because they are such great reads.

I don't know if I'm a binge reader in as much as when I find a new author, I'll go buy her backlist. I did that with Jayne Ann Krentz, Tess Gerritsen and Mariah Stewart. But when I read Tess's THE APPRENTICE, she only had 3 or 4 single titles at the time. I devoured them. And for Mariah Stewart, I bought three of her backlist after I read her DEAD series two summers ago.

I did go on a Nora Roberts binge back in 2001 and bought up a lot of her re-issues from Silhouette--up until that point, I'd only read her single titles. And once I was behind in reading the Stephanie Plum series and read three in a row in one week.

Shanna Swendson said...

Nancy, those Madeline Brent books are fun. I think most were published in the 70s an 80s (I started reading them as a pre-teen), and I've heard that "Madeline" was actually a male British historian who is now dead.

The books also all seem to follow a pattern, but it's a good pattern. The heroine is orphaned (or thinks she is), has grown up in some strange, exotic place (like with a traveling circus or in the Australian Outback) which has given her special skills but which also means she doesn't fit into the mainstream when she has to go to England (I think all of them take place in the Victorian era). Then she gets caught up in deceptions and intrigue, where her special skills come in handy. There are always a couple of potential love interests, usually one who seems like a bad guy but who turns out to be a good guy and one who seems like a good guy but who turns out to be bad. Often, she'll end up back on her familiar turf in the exotic place, where she has the advantage over the bad guys.

Great stuff. I call it literary comfort food. In the weeks following 9/11 that was all I read.

Nancy Herkness said...

Shanna, you're right about there being a certain pattern to the stories; I hadn't thought of that before. Perhaps that's part of the comfort factor: knowing that you can trust the author not to throw you a curve ball when you really don't want one.

David Eddings? Tell me more about him, Milady! (What fun to address someone as "milady"!)

Allison, I have to admit that I never warmed up to Trixie Belden, although I did enjoy Tom Swift (and Tom Swifties: "I'll have a martini," he said drily) and the Hardy Boys.

Did anyone read any Cherry Ames books? She was a nurse who had all kinds of adventures.

Gail Dayton said...

Hmm. I never really got into Nancy or Trixie--I read the cover off my copy of TARZAN OF THE APES and went on an Edgar Rice Burroughs binge for a while.

I binge all the time these days, and not just on Hershey kisses. Now, I discovered Madeline Hunter with her first book and have never had the opportunity to binge--had the same problem with Julia Quinn--but I have binged on Laura Kinsale, J.D. Robb, Lisanne Norman, Laurell K. Hamilton, Roberta Gellis, Kim Harrison (except she only had 3 books to binge on--I felt deprived) and Amanda Quick/Jayne Ann Krentz. I'm an equal opportunity binger--and yes, I genre binge too. Often. You know, I'm thinking my binge habits could also contribute to my forgetfulness...

Nancy Herkness said...

Gail, I went through a Tarzan binge too--I'd forgotten about that. What fun to be reminded!

Your comment about Kim Harrison only having three books to binge on supports my theory that an author really needs ten or so titles to allow a real binge. Thanks for the validation.