My different binge reading habit

Binge reading

My binge reading habit started a long time ago. More accurately, it began when I first fell in love with the Canadian author, L.M. Montgomery. The habit resurfaced recently when I discovered the amazing author, Elizabeth Strout. I’ve written about her and why I love her writing here.

Definitions of binge reading include ‘the act of reading large amounts of text in a short amount of time‘. People whose reading fits this definition skim-read, read all night, read instead of doing all (or any) things they should do.

But my sort of binge reading doesn’t fit that definition. 

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My definition of binge reading

The reading that I describe as bingeing involves discovering a new-to-me author and reading everything they’ve written that I can get my hands on. Except when reading for information (work, study, research) I read slowly and savour words, images and ideas. Literature demands that I honour the art and craft of the author.

Learning to read

My parents set a reading example to their children from an early age. I heard my father’s voice in utero. He read to my mother while she knitted as they sat by the fire. They told me he read Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell, 1936) while she knitted a whole layette for me, their new baby born at the end of 1937.

Dad binge read to me. He read every word that AA Milne wrote for children. Poetry, stories, series. He read it all and could recite much of what he read without the benefit of books. That handy skill stood him in good stead as the driver of the family car when he entertained us on country holidays. .

My mother read to her children more selectively. But she also binge read single authors such as Agatha Christie, who wrote at least 70 books, and Erle Stanley Gardner, who wrote 84 stories featuring Perry Mason alone. I’m not sure how many Mum read but she always had a book at hand.

With role models like that, its no wonder I learned to read early.

My binge reading history

I fell in love with some authors when very young. I still fall in love with writers (or their writing) regularly.

My first serious foray into binge reading came about when I was 12. My paternal grandmother gave me a copy of Anne of Green Gables by Canadian L.M. Montgomery (published 1908) for Christmas. I think I have read all 20 of the novels by this author, who wrote series about young women who were role models.

I can’t remember how I discovered most of the writers. Probably not through school! My formal education finished when I turned 15, because, they said, ‘Girls don’t need an education. They get married and education is such a waste.

Sad day

It was a sad day when I moved after we married into the house John lived in. He had an extensive library. So did I. We decided to let many of our books go. Letting the books I loved, especially when I had large collections of writing by single authors felt like cutting part of my brain away.

When we moved into our much smaller apartment, it was easier to let books go.

I discovered there are books that I cannot live without, and over the years, I’ve replaced some of those.

A random list

Here’s a list of some of the writers that have attracted my prolonged interest

  • Australian Patrick White. I fell head over heals in love with White’s writing when I read Voss (1957). Voss wasWhite’s fifth novel, and I read backwards and forwards across the whole list.
  • South African Doris Lessing. Her feminism took my breath away. I loved her earlier books, but felt disappointed when she wrote science fiction.
  • British Faye Weldon. A prolific writer of feminist novels that were fun, frivolous and feisty.
  • French Simone de Beauvoir. A philosopher and writer of fiction and non-fiction. Her book, The Second Sex, was among the first feminist writing I encountered. The open relationship she shared with Jean Paul Sartre, also a French philosopher, intrigued me.
  • Australian Alex Miller. The bookclub members with whom I went to Perth Writers Festivals accused me of being a Miller ‘groupie’. I’m delighted he has published a new book, still to read.
  • Australian Helen Garner. Writer of fiction and later non-fiction, my favourite writer.
  • Australian Tim Winton. A Western Australian and four times winner of the Miles Franklin Award, Winton has also been twice short listed for the Booker Prize. I wrote a blog about our Cloudstreet River Christmas.
  • Australian Tony Birch. A much awarded Victorian writer and First Nations man, Tony Birch has written three novels, and five collections of short stories as well as mny articles. I’ve reviewed several of Tony Birch’s books including Common People. The Promise and Ghost River

There are more. Looking over the list, it’s difficult to believe that it is so top-heavy with men.

If asked, I always tell people that by preference I read books by Australian women writers. Perhaps my list of authors I’ve binge read is top heavy with men writers because, on the whole, women writers are less prolific than men for a number of reasons. Binge-reading requires a large body of work.

I’d love to hear if my readers also binge-read and who are their favourite writers. Please share your favourites in a comment. (Like all bloggers, I really love reading comments from readers.)

Copyright, Maureen Helen 2022
Photo, Maureen-Helen

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17 Comments

  1. Don’t think I meet your definition of a binge reader- maybe I have a different one? Definitely have to have a book on the bed-side table, read every day. Am really envious of your lovely
    childhood experiences – your dad reading to you so regularly. My favourite writers? Sorry dearest friend – you know my horrible lack of memory of names. As always – love your blogs.

    1. Yes, I know you are a passionate reader, Elizabeth B, and we share many similar tastes in reading. I couldn’t find a word that described the process of reading all the books by an author/ But it is a kind of binge-reading, just different from the normal idea. My childhood like yours encompassed all the World War II years. My father was man-powered, unable to enlist in the armed forces. He was home during my formative years although he worked incredibly long hours. In many ways, I was fortunate.

      1. My lovely friend you are fortunate in many ways. My father never hugged me – the only time I was touched by him was when he hit me for another mistake or wrong doing – but he was a journalist, w widely read man – didn’t share.

  2. I love this blog as I had not thought about binge reading before, but I have done it since age 10 in fits & starts. My first books were by Enid Blyton & then onto the Nancy Drew mysteries & as a teenager the Georget Heyer romantic books. Recently I have borrowed a book on display from the Quick Read section. A random collection of books on loan for 1 week only.I have just read a Jeffrey Archer & an Anne Cleeves book.

    1. I’m delighted that you liked the blog, Maureen, and also that you share my interest in reading. I think my sort of binge reading can only be intermittent as we find authors we can’t leave on the shelves. My current passion are the books of Elizabeth Strout. I can’t believe I hadn’t even heard of her until a month or two ago. And I’d forgotten Georgette Heyer. The romance! You sound as if you are a faster reader than me, if you can borrow books (plural) for a week or less.

      1. Not usually a fast reader, & I only borrowed one a week.This was a new experience. They were both fast paced crime novels…not reads for “savouring” beautiful prose but great reads.I recommend them.

        1. Do you borrow from the Subiaco Library? If so, I must check it out. I love crime novels.

  3. I too share a love for books. They become wonderful friends almost. I have given away in bulk twice now as I was downsizing. I still have quite a collection and these just have to stay. What wonderful parents to give you that lifelong gift-and such beautiful memories.

    1. Yes, Michele, I was very fortunate my parents read widely and encouraged us to read. I understand books which are our friends, and knowing which have to stay when we downsize. As I said in the blog, I had to replace some I found I couldn’t live without after I’d downsized too vigorously.

  4. My father was never without a book by his side, my mother, on the other hand, never appeared to read anything other than newspapers.
    Dad read to me all the time but I cannot remember my mother doing the same, however, she frequently read to my children.
    Like you, thanks to my father I was a very early reader. Today I can go for months without a book and then I’ll suddenly begin again and spend an hour every afternoon with my feet up reading a book.

    1. Hi, Sue There seems to have been something very special about fathers who read to their children when we were young (although I know I’m much older than you). These days, the fathers I know do all the things that mothers do, including care of newborns and getting children ready for ballet, as well as cooking, cleaning and reading to children. We both seem to have been lucky with fathers who read to us.
      I went for months earlier this year, finding reading a chore and not bothering. But now I’m also reading regularly.

  5. I read like you – slowly and carefully – because I think literature warrants it. I agree with your definition of binge-reading, and read like that as a child. Loved Noel Streatfield, the Pollyanna books (which probably infected me), the Billabong books, and then in my teens Nevil Shute and Jane Austen (though she only wok 6 novels).

    then, in the 80s and 9Os, I read a lot, but not all of (in random order as they come to me) Anita Brookner, Elizabeth Jolley, Elizabeth von Arnim, EH Young, Edith Wharton to name a few. Mostly women, though I have also read quite a bit of Kazuo Ishiguro, David Malouf, and Tim Winton. Back in the mid 1990s I had a big weekend binge on Armisted Maupin’s Tales of the City series. I still don’t know how I managed that.

    These days, with blogging, I don’t have time to read “into” loved authors and also spread widely, so the latter usually wins out. A bit sad really.

    1. Hi, Sue. Thank you for sharing some of the authors you have enjoyed binge-reading. When I read your list, I thought ‘Oh, I’d forgotten those.’ It’s lovely to share with other readers those authors who shaped not only our reading but ourselves.

      Blogging takes up some of my time, caring for my husband a large heap, and I find myself longing to write, and playing on the edges again.

      Happy Christmas!

  6. Maureen, I like the way you write. However, I have to wonder what attracts you to certain books. Is it the style of writing, or the type of story. Maybe you connect with certain characters. As a fairly new author I am still trying to find style that is me. My last book was written in the first person. The latest reviewers commented on the narration as being jerky, whereas I thought she was telling her story as best as she could. I have started a new book, but I have been sick and unable to write. If any of your readers like to jump in and say what they think makes a good book, I would be happy to hear from them.

    1. What a great topic for discussion, Miriam. Thank you for your comment about my writing style and the question.

      I read very widely from many genres, and I review books I think the readers of my blog might enjoy, books that are on school lists, book-club choices and books that have been long-or-short listed for awards. My reading preferences include literary novels, biographies, memoirs, travel books, mysteries, history, classics… whatever appeals on the day. I often don’t finish books if I don’t like an author’s style, or if the characters are not well developed or a plot is too predictable. Sometimes books I start reluctantly (for example book club choices) often end up delighting me.

      I would love it if others feel they’d like to comment. Good luck with your writing and publishing career.

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