Waiting for books to come out, either the next in a series or an overdue book by a favorite author, may build, or at least strain, our character. Good for us, I’m sure, but binge reading is much more fun. Let us therefore leave the soul-testing labor of locating the Holy Grail to Sir Gawain today and turn our attention to the shallower quest of finding the perfect binge read.
Binge reads can center on a single series of books all of which are already out, or on the works of a single author. One could go on a binge genre read too, of course, but we are seeking the perfect binge read and an astute observer once rightly defined it as “a finite number of great books.” Genre binging is clearly too open-ended and voluminous to meet our definition. Our first task, then, is to determine whether the discovery of a single already completed series rates higher than the discovery of a newly beloved author with an established backlist.
From the standpoint of both a bookseller and a reader there is a great deal of satisfaction to be found in a single series that ends well. It should be noted, that even the very best of series written by a living author can be undone by unlooked for and unhappy additions. The classic Earthsea trilogy is a good example. The original trilogy could launch one off on a great binge read only to leave you to crash and burn in the pages of Tehanu, that ill-considered fourth book. Even when later books are only lesser than their predecessors, as opposed to abominable, as in books five and six of Chrestomanci, it still removes the series from being the perfect binge read.
For this reason Fablehaven, The Amulet of Samarkand, and Chaos Walking exemplify great binge reading, because they end cleanly and strongly. Such series are close to perfect but not quite. They are still subject to both waiting for future series by their authors and or possible disappointment with their authors’ backlist.
Given that the most perfect binge read would be “a finite number of great books,” I submit to you that the most perfect binge read is the lifework of a deceased novelist who produced a manageable body of work of uniform excellence. I submit that an example of the ultimate binge read is the complete works of Jane Austen.
One can easily form the wrong opinion of unread classics. Once the mistake is revealed the results can be truly sublime. In the case of Austen she had the foresight to write the perfect number of great novels, just enough to provide complete satisfaction. One is not left in want of any more or any less. Even the original misperception of the character of her novels is rendered amusing and ironic to the binge reader, who encounters similar foibles in the lead characters of the novels themselves.
Agree? Disagree? What do you deem to be the greatest binge read ever?