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Reading 19 Books in Eight Weeks

From Kim: This is a guest post from my good friend Erin, a science writer, cat lover, and triathlete who lives in Madison. Erin is the kind of person who never does anything half-heartedly or halfway. For example, over a visit on Thanksgiving, she and I managed to watch two seasons of Downtown Abbey in two days. As it turns out, her reading is sometimes similarly single-minded. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did!

A friend of mine tried to help me swim laps more effectively by teaching me a flip turn. She successfully got me to execute the turn (and the flip), but I haven’t gotten effective yet. I get disoriented while I’m upside-down, so while I come up in the right position to continue, I am dizzy, and there is water up my nose.

That is how I felt in my brain after reading the entire Amelia Peabody series in 8 weeks.

Kim started it. She wrote a post in which she mentioned the series, and it sounded perfect. I was burned out on the genres I usually love and didn’t know how to find others I might like. I like adventure and epic-ness and happy endings. No, I am not going to finish the Game of Thrones series.

Plus, there were *nineteen* Peabody books. That should hold me for a while, I thought.


The morning I read that post I dispatched myself to the library.

They didn’t have the first book. Or the second. Or the third. They had the ninth book, and the 10th, and the 12th, 13th, and 14th. And some others.

I checked out books 9-14, minus 11.

My cat, Captain Morgan, assisted me with reading. He’s helpful that way.

I don’t even know at what point it happened, but suddenly it was less a leisure time activity and more a mission. Read. All. The. Books. Right now.

The books have really similar titles. I made a spreadsheet to know what order they were in. The titles had indicator symbols next to them showing which I had read, which I had checked out but not read, and which were neither read nor checked out. It also had a little summary line with a (usually plot-uninformative in retrospect) takeaway thought from each book (“Emerson has to give Ramses The Talk and it’s hilarious”).

I didn’t really feel that satisfied “Finished a book!” feeling I usually get when I finished each book. I got that feeling I get when I’m done with part of a bike ride. Five miles done! Fifteen more to go.

I got really critical about the characters. And the dialog. Peters uses the same description for Emerson in every book at least once. I tried to figure out whether the characters’ lack of significant evolution over the course of thirty book-years was pleasing (consistency makes delicious brain candy!) or annoying (unrealistic and lacking dramatic interest!).

The steady consistency in style started to seem weird. The characters made a big deal about how the world was changing but the essentials of the books stayed the same. I don’t think I would have noticed if I hadn’t read them so close together.

The mysteries began to bore me. I wondered why the characters didn’t seem to be learning as the book-years went by. And anyway, they had just solved two *other* mysteries YESTERDAY.

And then I just… ran out of book. I didn’t feel accomplished or satisfied when I finished: I felt confused and slightly stunned. I didn’t know what to read next, or even what to do. I had gotten used to not having to make free-time-related decisions beyond “read or train?”

[From Kim: At the time of her reading, Erin was training for a triathalon. I told you she didn’t do anything halfway.]

And all those Egyptian jewelry descriptions had made me irresistably attracted to turquoise beads.

As it happened, the next book I read was The Long Earth, by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett’s books for sixteen years, so it’s pretty much the complete opposite experience.

Have you ever tried to Read All The Books Right Now? What series or authors have you downed indiscriminately or to the point of ruining them for a little while?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jae @ Book Nympho July 27, 2012, 12:14 pm

    What a funny post! I don’t know that I’ve ever read quite that much in such a short amount of time. But a few years back when True Blood premiered I started reading all the Sookie Stackhouse books. Because I was quite behind, I checked them out from the library and read books 1-10 from August to December. I didn’t get burnt out on the series and it was really nice to read them back to back because I didn’t forget anything in between and have to get re-acquainted with the characters. But now I do want to read at least the first Amelia Peabody book!

    • Kim July 29, 2012, 8:17 pm

      I never read the Sookie Stackhouse books. One series I did do this with was the Stephanie Plum series, but I think when I started there were only like 10 books out? I liked it, but those got predictable fast and I haven’t gone back to read the later books.

  • Jenny July 27, 2012, 6:17 pm

    I don’t often have the opportunity to Read All the Books. I did binge on the Amelia Peabody books when I was in high school, and didn’t ruin them for myself at all. But there were six?ish? fewer of them then. They are a bit the same, I know, and I think she should have stopped after Children of the Storm. Still, I find the series, even its predictability, quite soothing, and every single scene between Amelia and Ramses cracks me up.

    • Kim July 29, 2012, 8:15 pm

      The series just keeps getting longer and longer and longer. I can’t remember which one was the last one when I was reading them all in high school, but I remember liking the later ones less than the few in the middle.

  • nrlymrtl July 28, 2012, 6:59 am

    I have been dipping in and out of this series for years. I really love it – but yeah – the characters remain pretty much the same. But that allows you to read them out of order with ease.

    The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher is another series that I dove into in the middle and then read the books as I could get them from the library or friends. However, the characters evolve in this series, and I must say the series is much better read in order.

    • Kim July 29, 2012, 8:13 pm

      That’s been my experience too, reading them out of order and over a span of several years. There’s something comforting about everything staying the same 🙂

  • jenn aka the picky girl August 4, 2012, 3:59 pm

    I did this with Ian Rankin’s Rebus series, the summer after I graduated from grad school. I was so tired of reading academic stuff that I wanted to READ ALL THE FUN BOOKS! And I became obsessed with Rebus. Great mysteries. Great arc. In fact, maybe next summer I’ll read them all over again.

    Oh, and the Miss Silver series by Patricia Wentworth. The only reason I haven’t finished every one of them is that they’re $10 a piece and only available by ebook. (They’re out of print).

  • Gwen August 6, 2012, 8:59 pm

    This was such a funny post!

    When you do a reading marathon like that it can be hard to enjoy the journey when that finish line seems to loom with (self-imposed) importance. I did something similar with Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series in December and enjoyed like the dickens. Then, there weren’t quite as many.

  • Christy August 11, 2012, 12:41 pm

    I just finished re-reading a series back-to-back (but only six books). But I had an experience like yours some years ago when I started reading a lot of Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon mysteries in close succession. I didn’t read them in order, just whatever the library had. And at a certain point, I was just burned out on them. They were good, but binging wasn’t good to them.