I just binge read all of Isla and the Happily Ever After in one four-hour sitting. I didn’t stop for a bathroom break or to eat, I just kept reading, never quite letting myself break away from the world bubble created by Stephanie Perkins’ words.
When I was done, I laid back on my pillows to enjoy the post reading high. I languished in the surreal feelings of contentment that I get only after marathon reading a book that I really love. I thought about what I’d read, reimagined the moments and scenes I’d just devoured in the last few hours, and savored the emotions evoked by 400 pages of words.
Then, as the high faded, I started to think about binge reading. Why do I do it and what makes it different from binging on other media platforms like TV or video games?
In the last few weeks, I’ve binge watched two and half seasons of Arrow. So I’m not new to loving television and I’ve certainly spent more than my fair share of time on the couch, hitting the next episode button on Netflix. But books have always been different for me. When it comes to books I really enjoy, my old favorites and new loves, I can’t stop myself from binge reading. I fly through the pages, one after another, until there’s nothing left. I’m unable to slow down and appreciate it over time the way I can stretch out a television show for weeks or even months.
I wondered at the reasoning for this compulsion. Is it because reading is seen as a more highbrow activity? Am I less ashamed of it?
In the end I think it’s because, unlike other mediums, books have a way of wrapping things up. They tie things together, maybe not always with a neat little bow, but at least in such a way that I can walk away at the end. I can close the book and know that it finished the way that it should.
Life isn’t anything like that. It’s messy and directionless and there are plot holes everywhere. In a world of so much uncertainty, I think I crave the wrap up I find in books. They make sense to me in a way that real life never can and, unlike TV shows, they don’t get cancelled halfway through. I can always count on final chapters and installments to finish what they’ve started.
In life, perspective only comes with years of hindsight. In books, it comes at the end of 400 pages, something that can be finished in one four-hour sitting. The post-reading high isn’t just about the words and the story; it’s about finishing something, too. In that blissed out moment I don’t just feel the emotions from the page, I feel the end of a journey and the satisfaction of seeing it through to the end.