The Ultimate Binge Read?

Kenny Brechner -- February 5th, 2015

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?

9 thoughts on “The Ultimate Binge Read?

  1. Melissa

    The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger is my most recent awesome binge read (or binge listen, actually; the narrator’s amazing). I binged on an Anne McCaffrey re-read last year, and it does bog down in some of the later books (The Renegades of Pern, for instance) but I still tore through them like I haven’t done since I was 14.

    I agree that Anne of Green Gables makes an excellent binge read, ending on the high note of Rilla of Ingleside; the very binge-worthy Betsy-Tacy series ends on the hopeful note of Betsy’s Wedding.

  2. Liz Parrott

    I loved The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer. Also Trollope’s Palliser series. I’ve heard that Trollope’s Chronicles of Barchester is also very good. All my books are packed away right now, in preparation for a move, so I can’t look at my shelves to be reminded of other great binge series. I do agree with you, though, that the six Jane Austen novels are the best!

  3. Ellie Miller

    Kenny…you’re singing my song! I ‘binge’ read VERY frequently (have made a point of ‘filling’ favorite series for my library so I could), and I couldn’t agree more with your POV about its many joys. While my preferred reading matter is – not surprisingly – usually of an adult nature (mysteries/sf/historicals) since the focus here is children’s/YA reading, let me suggest that “time doth not wither” Anne Shirley! L.M. Montgomery certainly meets your above criteria, and there’s nothing I can think of that’s a more pleasurable, character-focused binge than reading straight through from “Anne of Green Gables” to “Rilla of Ingleside”. I also believe that her “Emily” trilogy also fits the above mold. More of an author-centered binge, I would put Diane Duane’s utterly intriguing “Young Wizard’s” series well-up in the you-can’t-read-just-one category, likewise Anne McCaffrey’s “Harper Hall” trilogy. I also believe that Robert Heinlein’s juveniles are hard to abandon once you’ve had a taste.

    1. Kenny Brechner Post author

      Great choices Ellie, thanks! I just put the Duane books both on order and on my to do list. Harper Hall is definitely a strong move. I actually remember waiting for the White Dragon to come out when I was a lad. Oy!

  4. bill palizzolo

    I discovered the Patrick O’Brian seafaring novels after he had completed most of the series. My wife was ready to divorce me by the time I finished reading them as I read them all over a period of about 4 months. I just couldn’t stop until completed, marriage be damned! My greatest binge read ever.

    1. Kenny Brechner Post author

      I hear you Bill. I thought O’Brian too. I made a sign that we posted at the store next to the series that reads, “Friends Don;t Let Friends Not Read Patrick O’Brian.” Reading all twenty at once is not quite perfect as he did get a bit morbid as he approached death himself and started killing off characters, like Bonden, that were really painful to lose. I do think that the Aubrey Maturin books are a great binge re-read as you jump all over the place reading great sections for days!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *