Over the last few weeks, as I flitted around to various holiday celebrations, I started to notice a trend. Often, I start my conversations with “I was listening to NPR the other day….” (I say this so much I’m shocked no one has printed it on a t-shirt and given it to me as a gift.) But at these various holiday get-togethers, I discovered something shocking. Most people do not start their conversations this way. (Yes, it’s true! Most people are not as obsessed with NPR as me!)
In fact, in my experience, possibly in an effort to avoid the landmines of nearly every other topic on the planet, other people begin their conversations with, “I just binge watched <<insert TV show name>>.”
Binging into 2018
There’s no denying it. We live in a world of instant gratification, “just one more” TV show bingers. (No judgment. I’m a binger too! Apologies to my husband who tries to stretch out an insta-on-demand show over several days or weeks and is met with my threats of death when I can’t watch back-to-back-to-back-to-back episodes until my eyes cross.)
However, knowing my proclivity for the binge, I tend to try to avoid starting any shows unless they’re of a short duration and certified awesome. I just can’t get sucked into 5+ seasons of The Wire. I’ll never get anything else done!
The Redemption of the Binge
Definition of “Binge”: a short period devoted to indulging in an activity to excess, especially drinking alcohol or eating.
Binging wasn’t always such a great and oft-discussed topic. Once upon a time, the word “binge” had some pretty negative connotations (binge drinking, binge eating, etc). Now, thanks to Netflix, binge has not just been redeemed, it’s been woven so tightly into the fabric of our consciousness the thread can’t be removed.
I could have binged TV over my holiday break and I did a little. Sticking to my requirements, I binged The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. (Note: it lives up to its name and the hype.) But most of my binging was done in another form. I binged on books.
The 10 Days of Binging
I had 10 glorious days of vacation and not the normal kind of vacation where I check-in at work daily, sift through email, jump in when I see a crisis brewing. Nope, my whole office was closed.
It was 10 days of an actual, real vacation.
Normally, in these rare circumstances of unencumbered time off, I pack in days full of activities, dragging my family from place to place, wanting to experience anything available. While I love these kinds of action-filled vacations, I must admit I don’t often feel rested when they are over.
Not this year. This year I decided to “turn off.” That meant I stayed off social media (mostly). I hung out with my family and friends. And I went on a book binge.
If I had to classify my binge, it would be a YA and poetry binge.
If I had to classify my binge, it would be a YA and poetry binge. I read 4 YA novels and 3 books of poetry over the 10 days. That’s 7 books in 10 days.
I know some people can read a book a day so this might not seem like such a feat. But between an editorial day job and YA novelist night job, and all that other life stuff, I don’t typically have that kind of time to devote to reading.
I am also not a particularly fast reader. I enjoy savoring my books, especially if they’re well written. Sometimes I’ll find myself re-reading a sentence I love or stopping to think about metaphor. (Translation: I’m a book super-dork.) If I really love a book, I may even start highlighting portions I enjoy (on the Kindle) or putting sticky notes in it (hard copy.) If I feel really crazy, I’ll make margin notes!
My Bingy Books of the Holiday Break
So 10 days and 7 books later, I think it was a vacation very well spent. I’m not sure I’d spend all my vacations this way. But when the temperature dips down to single digits and the only other options are ice skating, snowboarding or skiing, I’ll take sitting at home, under the blanket on my couch and reading. (I don’t get outdoor sports in the winter. When it’s cold outside people want to put on millions of layers and still freeze just to slide down a hill? Someone will have to explain the appeal to me someday.)
So want to know the 7 book I read while not freezing in the snow and if I liked them? OK, here it goes! (In the order I read them…)
Book 1: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
What’s it about? Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight.
What did I think? I loved this book. It was witty and charming. The plot moves quickly and even if you aren’t a young, lusty kid trying to navigate the trappings of high school, you can relate to the emotional connections and heartbreak. (If you have a heart, I think you’ll love this book.) The writing is snappy and well-done. (Also soon to be a movie. I can’t wait to see what they do with it! But #thebookisalwaysbetter.)
Book 2: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
What’s it about? Junior is a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.
What did I think? I like books that make me think in a new way and that I keep thinking about long after I have finished reading them. This book fits both of those categories. It’s a book about friendship and where you come from and where you go. It also shines a light on a topic that we often ignore in the US, Native American treatment and culture, both in the past and today.
Book 3: the princess saves herself in this one by Amanda Lovelace
What’s it about? A poetry collection in four parts: the princess, the damsel, the queen, and you. The first three sections piece together the life of the author while the final section serves as a note to the reader. This moving book explores love, loss, grief, healing, empowerment, and inspiration.
What did I think? I do not read a lot of books of poetry. I have read my share of classic poetry from the Whitmans and the Frosts of the world, which I love. But I’ve only recently delved into what I’ll call more “modern” poetry. To be honest, I didn’t expect to enjoy it so much. Not only do I love the theme of this book, the poems are efficient and packed with emotion and energy. I can’t wait to read it again.
Book 4: American Street by Izi Zoboi
What’s it about? A compilation of author and poet Maya Angelou’s four highly acclaimed poems that specifically celebrate women and their enduring strength and spirit, including Phenomenal Woman and Still I Rise.
What did I think? As I mentioned previously, I don’t read a lot of poetry, but Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise has been one of my favorite works for a very long time. It’s incredibly powerful and dusts my lashes with tears every time I read it. In addition to this poem, there are three other poems of hers, all of which I’d never read before. Like Still I Rise, the poems are heartbreaking and heart-building at the same time, something Angelou does so well. Nothing else fills me with the pain of the past, the hope for the future, and the fury to make it come true, like a poem by Maya Angelou.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
-Maya Angelou, Still I Rise
Book 6: A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver
What’s it about? In A Thousand Mornings, Mary Oliver transports us to the marshland and coastline of her beloved home, Provincetown, Massachusetts. Whether studying the leaves of a tree or mourning her treasured dog Percy, Oliver is open to the teachings contained in the smallest of moments and explores with startling clarity, humor, and kindness the mysteries of our daily experience.
What did I think? As I said, this was my binge of poetry and YA novels. And while it may seem like poetry can be a quick read, I don’t typically read a poem just once. I’ll read it, think about it, re-read it. I take my time with poetry. It’s meant to be sipped and savored, not devoured and discarded. This work was different from the other two books of poetry I read. This had an ethereal quality grounded in nature. It’s lessons on life and love and loss are a much more subtle commentary on the world. It’s as deep and visual and complex as the nature it describes.
[Book club side note: I got this book from my book club, the Nightlighters, annual book gift exchange and I couldn’t have been more thrilled to get it. Just another reason why I have the best book club ever. That and one of our members gave us all engraved bookmarks as part of the exchange, which says, “I like big books and I cannot lie.” See picture at the beginning of the blog. Yep, my book club ROCKS!!!]
Book 7: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments) by Cassandra Clare
What’s it about? When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. And she’s more than a little startled when the body disappears into thin air. Soon Clary is introduced to the world of the Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of warriors dedicated to driving demons out of our world and back to their own.
What did I think? After several deep and powerful poetry books, I was ready for a little bit of easy reading fun. My teen friends and readers have often recommended the Mortal Instruments series to me and I haven’t had a chance to read it before. It took me a while to unhook myself from the lyrical style of poetry and unwind into a more simple, straightforward prose style. At first, it was honestly disorienting. And I actually felt the beginning of the story was a little bit slow. But then about a third of the way through, the story hooked me. Jace + Clary! I’m a ‘shipper! I felt much of the book was predictable, including the ending and the plot twists. (Even the big one I’m guessing will end up exposed as fake in the next book. For those of you who’ve read it, you’ll know what I mean. But those who have not, I don’t want to spoil it. If you don’t have my prediction superpower it will be a great surprise!) Regardless, it’s an action-packed and fun read. The world building, powers, and backstories are great. Plus it’s set in NYC. That’s always extra credit in my book. (Pun intended.) I’m sure I’ll read the whole series.