Monday, March 7, 2016

The Book Binge

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Rhys has already reported to you
about Left Coast Crime 16, The Cactus Caper, the fan and writer conference held in Phoenix over the last weekend in February. This conference was a blast! I saw so many friends, and met new ones, both writers and fans. The panels were great. The weather was glorious--this is why people move to Phoenix, perfect 75 to 80 degree days in February. I got to see a good bit of downtown Phoenix, plus I got to visit my friend chef Sean Currid's new restaurant, The Blue Hound, in the Kimpton Palomar. To top it off, I came home with a great stack of new books.

AND, unfortunately, the flu.  As did at least a dozen other people that I know.
Now the upside to this is that I had a day, in the middle of last week, when I did not get out of my pajamas, which is very unusual for me. That day, I did something else I don't do very often. I allowed myself a book binge.

I tucked myself up on the chaise in my office (having quarantined myself from the bedroom for the duration) and I read the new Charles Todd Ian Rutledge novel, No Shred of Evidence, from cover to cover. The book is fabulous, and Caroline (assuming she is recovered enough from the flu) will be here to talk about it on Friday.

But the uninterrupted read was such a treat, such a luxury, that it made me realize how seldom I allow myself to do it. Usually, only when I'm confined-to-bed sick, and sometimes in London, when I have none of the ordinary household/family responsibilities and can take a rest/read day. In fact, the last time I read a book straight through was last year in London, when I curled up in front of the gas fire in my flat and read Laurie King's Dreaming Spies in one cold, rainy day.

I think we experience books differently when we are completely immersed and our imaginative experience is not interrupted by time and daily life. We live the characters and the story more intensely. And I think books that we read this way stay with us, are imprinted on our memory more deeply.

Reds, how often do you manage to read a book in an uninterrupted day? What was the last book you read on a "binge?" And do books read that way make a greater or more lasting impression on you?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  I completely think it's different. I manage to get through three or four pages in bed at night, before I fall asleep, and I often think about how unfair that is to the author. I will confess now, that back in 1980, I called in sick to work (!) because I knew all I wanted to do was stay home and read THE STAND.  Debs, I did the same thing with my first Rutledge, though I' m wracking my brains for the title, and I did the same thing more recently with Shannon Kirk's METHOD 15/30, and with Laura  DiSilverio's new thriller (coming soon)  CLOSE CALL.   Oh, and Gilly Macmillan's WHAT SHE KNEW. It helps to be on airplanes all the time. That is lovely enforced reading time. (Right now  I'm in the airport in St. Kitt's!)   Feel better, dear Debs!

HALLIE EPHRON: It rarely happens that I find a book that I CAN binge read as opposed to binge skim. Because the storytelling has to hook me and the writing has to be so good that I want to read every word. And I’m so happy when it happens. Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent. Michael Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer. Laurie R. King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X. When I’m sick my go-to drug is an audio book.

RHYS BOWEN: Oh, what a luxury to be able to read a book straight through. I rarely have the time and I can't read fiction while I'm writing. But on vacation I get through at least 4 books and I just read Kate Morton's The Lake House in about three sessions because I hated to put it down. I did the same with Louise Penny's The Nature of the Beast last year. Now I'm engrossed in a good book, can't wait to get back to it, and actually it's mine. I've never found myself reading one of my own books with expectation and pleasure like this before. I'm supposed to be doing edits but I want to keep reading - but I can't tell you what it is. You'll have to wait a while.

DEBS: Rhys, you are such a tease! Now we're going to be chewing our nails wondering about this mysterious book... And Hallie, how interesting about the audio books. Is it that listening rather than reading allows you to turn off your editor-brain and focus on the story? It never occurs to me to listen rather than read. Although with this bug, I'd have had to stop the story every time I started coughing...

Readers, do you treat yourself to reading a book cover-to-cover? And what was the last book you got to read straight through?


  1. Hope you're feeling better soon, Debs.

    For me, reading a book straight through depends on the day of the week. Since I am home the latter part of the week, I get to read to my heart's content. Otherwise, it often takes me a couple of days to read a book.

    The last books I read straight through? "Mr. Lemoncello's Library Olympics" by Chris Grabenstein, "The Darkest Corners" by Kara Thomas, "The Last Pilot" by Benjamin Johncock, and "The Secrets of Flight" by Maggie Leffler.

  2. Debs, when I had back surgery a few years ago I read a book a day for a couple of weeks. And one of the series I read straight through was yours! I'd started with one of the later books when I discovered your series (here, I expect) and wanted to go back to the beginning. That's an even greater luxury - to binge read an entire series from the start, watch the characters develop and change, and the writing, too. It was a real treat. Not that I recommend major surgery, mind you...

  3. Boys gone for the evening, work completed, chores all done, cats fed--No Shred of Evidence waiting--finished in one sitting. Waiting to do the same with a few Red authors, too!

  4. I'm reading The Goldfinch - loving it but not a book to read in a sitting. It's one to savor and spread out over a few weeks.

  5. Debs, I am so sorry you've been so sick. The flu stinks. Glad you're feeling better!

    I do love a good book binge! There are a couple of authors that I will do that with now. Just sweep the day clear and know when I get up on a particular morning that my day is going to be spent with that new book. And I love it. It's like a gift to myself from myself and that writer.

    Hank made me laugh about calling in sick to read. I did the same thing with Wouk's Winds of War. I told my boss, George Lumpkin at the Trust Company Bank in Atlanta, GA that I had been up all night reading and I wanted to finish the book. He said okay, just bring him the book to borrow the next day. I did that - he loved it too.

    Hallie, I loved The Goldfinch. Isn't it delicious??

  6. Thanks for mentioning CLOSE CALL, dear Hank!

    The last book I read practically in a sitting was Diane Setterfield's THE THIRTEENTH TALE. It was engrossing, but it also helped that I had a delayed and rerouted flight and spent almost twelve hours in airports or on airplanes this past Tuesday! As someone says, enforced reading time on planes is great.

  7. Hope you feel better soon, Debs.

    I so rarely get the opportunity to sit and just read for more than fifteen minutes at a time. Take the day job, plus the hectic nature of a house with two teenagers (neither of whom drive) and my reading time is limited to late at night. And like Hank, I often can't get through more than five or ten pages before I'm dropping off - of course then I try to go to sleep and can't. Thus begins the cycle.

    The last book I binged on was Hank's latest, What You See. I'm lucky I was away for the weekend because I didn't intend to binge read it, but once I started I just couldn't stop!

  8. We're back! And had a wonderful vacation in Nevis… More to come on that. First vacation in six years, I think! Whoa.

    Mary!! Thank you!!

  9. Kaye--I am so with you on Winds of War. I wonder if it is still good?

  10. It may have taken me a couple of sittings, but it was Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham. And it's not even available in the US until April!. When it came out in the UK I ordered it from Amazon UK because I could not handle waiting on the US pub. date.

    It's that good. He's that good.


  11. I try to allow myself a book binge at least once a month. Since I have the blog, I call it "work," but really it's just an excuse to spend the day reading.

    Every year, I set aside a day for Louise Penny's book. Fortunately, they often come out around my birthday, so I allow this to be a treat for myself.

    This weekend, I ended up binging on a book unexpectedly. Iain Reid has a book coming out in June called I'M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS. This is a very slim volume (200 pages) but I was totally consumed by this story. It's short length belies the fact that readers will be spending many hours afterwards thinking about and contemplating this story and it's meanings. Keep your eye out for this one, gang!

  12. Thanks, Kristopher! I'll look for it. And for Close Your Eyes, Nancy!

  13. There are so many good books these days. My husband and I were just talking about this. I suspect his feeling about this stems from the fact that he only reads books I've read first and raved about!

    One I recently could not put down--that he's reading now--is actually a YA that I picked up from the author at last year's Books by the Banks here in Cincinnati. It's called Girl on a Wire, by Gwenda Bond. Definitely a must-read. Funny, poignant, and with a strong main character who happens to be female. It takes place in a circus, and the descriptions of walking a tightrope are so real it's astonishing to know that Bond herself has never done it in real life.

    Charles Todd's A Fine Summer's Day was also a good read that I couldn't put down.

  14. The last time I read straight through was while I was in Nantucket this February. Like Debs in London, it's time without the usual responsibilities, so I was able to stay up late and re-read Stephen King's The Shining. I followed up with Doctor Sleep the next night. It was wonderful to immerse myself in the books, and reading them back-to-back was an education in how King has developed as an author and a human being.

    It's hard for me to lose myself in mysteries while I'm writing, so I tend to look for other genres. I've been on a bit of a "smart horror" kick - I read The Haunting of Hill House in one go around Christmas. I welcome any suggestions for subtly creepy reads like that!

  15. Wow. There were a lot of us sickies at LCC ... I cried the whole flight home from Arizona because I was so sick I couldn't cope. 103 temp, head about to explode. I'm just starting to function again today. And speaking of binge reading! Thank goodness for all the books I brought back with me! Carla Buckley's latest is great. (And she's so nice -- great to meet her at LCC!)

    And wonderful to see you too, Debs and Rhys (congrats again)! Hope you're on the mend, Debs.

  16. Oh, wow, Lisa! You, too! So sorry. It didn't really hit me until Monday. At first I thought it was asthma. Tight chest, difficultly breathing, little hacky cough. Then, Tuesday came the high temp, the splitting headache, and the really, really bad cough. I'm still coughing but am trying to get back to a normal routing for the first time today, too.

    So there are now about fifteen people I know who went home sick, and that's a very small sample. I wonder how many more?

    I've never seen anything like that happen at a conference before. Very scary!

  17. Oh, Edith, you took the very words right out of my mouth. The greatest pleasure in reading for me is a series binge read. It truly takes the sting out of discovering an author and series you love after several, or sometimes more, books are already out. In 2013, my first Bouchercon, I had the best series binge reading ever. It was the year that I discovered the Jungle Red authors and binged myself silly catching up. What a glorious reading time that was.

    My latest binge reading of a single book was The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie King. Laurie's first in this series, The Beekeeper's Apprentice, remains one of my favorite straight-through read, and this latest entry of Russell and Holmes is one of the best in the series in MHO.

    Now, I am on the most wonderful series binge reading. Kristi Belcamino writes the Gabriella Giovanni mystery/crime series, with four books currently out. I started #3 last night, after racing through the first two. I haven't been able to stop to write reviews because I simply want to keep reading. Of course, I will write the reviews and hope to have Kristi on my blog. If you've met Kristi, you know that she is one of the sweetest, loveliest people around, which is interesting, considering her background of a crime reporter. You might be expecting a hard-boiled, furrowed eyebrowed demeanor. Kristi is the opposite, joy and laughter. Yes, I get carried away praising an author when I am in the thrall of reading her/him.

    Karen, I bought Girl on a Wire for my teenage granddaughter last year, and she loved it. I told her I would be borrowing it sometime. I love sharing YA/teen books with her. Joan, Mr. Lemoncello series is one I so want to read.

    Rhys, you are indeed a tease, and I can't wait to hear the reveal. Debs, so sorry that you've been sick. Hope that you and the rest of those that came home sick are almost well at this point. Lisa, that must have been a horrible flight, and I agree that Carla Buckley is a delight. I met her when she had just come out with her first book, and she doesn't forget my early enthusiasm, something that I try to emulate, not forgetting those whom I met early in my book travels.

  18. Debs, I had something all last week, too, and I'm pretty sure I got it from n event we went to. Lots of hand shaking, followed by consumption of finger food. That is guaranteed recipe for communicating dread disease.

  19. I recently had insomnia (rare for me) and read "My Name Is Lucy Barton" all the way through. And on the way home from LCC I listened (I love audiobooks too, Hallie), uninterrupted except for potty stops, to Tim Hallinan's "Little Elvises." I try to set aside blocks of reading time each week - it's important to me, for my sanity. SO glad to spend time with you at the conference, Debs. Hope you feel better soon!

  20. Good for you for finding a silver lining to being sick. I love books that put the rest of the world on hold and let me blame others, like Rhys, Edith, Hank, for undone chores. Currently, Molly Murphy is calling loudly, and I'm already worried about getting to the end of the series. The increase in reading time is a definite perk to retirement, for which I had a little preview the year pneumonia kept me house-bound for all of November. While still teaching, despite piles of grading and planning to do, I still made a point of reading something short and good before bed, to turn off school and remind me of good writing. Now feels like those long summers of old, plenty of time to read and read. Thanks for so much good writing! <3

  21. I hardly ever get to read a book straight through, unless unusual circumstances give me some time. Last summer I devoured A Royal Pain in a couple of sittings--the tone was exactly what I needed right then. More recently I've zipped through Reed Farrell Coleman's Love and Fear (which is a short read anyway), and Dennis Lehane's final Coughlin book, World Gone By.

  22. For Julia - for your "smart horror" I suggest Peter Straub's Ghost Story if you haven't already read it. Or, even if you have. One of THE best, IMO.

  23. Binge reading is only one of the many joys of retirement. Since coming home from LCC I have read seven books and working on the eighth. But I usually finish one and start the next at bedtime, so I'm not sure I ever read a book in one sitting. Thumbs up to The Goldfinch. I took a while on that one, savoring each word. And The Thirteenth Tale is the first and last one that really scared me. Diane Setterfield, like so many authors I met last week, is a professor with a string of letters after her name. I think her field is something esoteric like French poetry translated into Spanish. ( I made that up. )

    When I grow up, I want to be Donna Tartt.

    Or Deborah Crombie.

    One of those anyway.

  24. I know that I'm helpless to resist some authors, and will carry their books around to sneak a page or two even when I'm supposed to be doing something else (like working). So when I get a new book from one of my favorites--Lois McMaster Bujold, Louise Penny, Jim Butcher, Nora Roberts, and, yes, Deborah Crombie--I just give in and save it for a weekend when I can read as much as I want without fear of any mundane interruptions. Book bingeing is actually one of the delights I have laid claim to, now that I live alone. Sometimes I think my bedroom, with its comfy pillow pile, good reading light, private TV, and generous supply of cuddly dogs and cats, is the adult incarnation of my 12-year-old dream tree house.

  25. Just finished reading Dan Brown's "Angels and Demons"-- impossible to skim. Too much in there! (So, except for watching Downton, one totally shot weekend binge reading that book!)

  26. I don't think since becoming an adult, I have been able to read a book at one sitting. I lack the attention span even if I found the time. I remember, however, marathon reading as a child and as a teenager. Two short stories that I read once a year (in single sittings) are "Many Moons" by James Thurber and "The Reluctant Dragon" by Kenneth Grahame. (That second work is also available as an audio book narrated by Boris Karloff.) I never tire of them and every now and then I will take a friend hostage and read to each other. They never fail to remind me of all that was good about my childhood.

  27. Nancy, I just finished reading an ARC of "Close Your Eyes" . . . it kept me on the edge of my seat and I would have read it straight through if I didn't have to stop reading and go to work. It definitely is that good . . . .

  28. Joan, Nancy, now I have to check out that book!

  29. I read three or four books a week. The last book I read was Sins of Our Fathers by Jeffrey Archer. It is book 2 of The Clifton Chronicles. Also since hearing of Pat Conroy's passing, I have been reading My Reading Life and his wonderful Lowcountry Cookbook. I chose a recipe to cook tomorrow, in honor of his funeral.

  30. Annette, how lovely. I'm such a foodie--I can't believe I haven't read Pat Conroy's cookbook. Or his memoir on reading. I intend to remedy both.