Breaking the Binge Reading Cycle


It was July 8th of the year 2000 and I had just got my hands on The Goblet of Fire. All 636 pages of it. It was summer and I had nothing but time. I read for nearly eight hours straight until I reached the final line “As Hagrid had said, what would come, would come . . . and he would have to meet it when it did”.

And that was how I always read; in one single sitting. I was the master of binge reading, sitting for hours at a time reading straight through a novel. It never occurred to me that you could put a book down once you started it. 

I read novels this way all through University with no problem. Then I became a “real adult”. My reading time was suddenly limited to lunch breaks, an hour here or there before bed, and my blissful weekends. I was at a loss for how to go about reading. I couldn’t possibly just read a few chapters at a time, I’d lose the flow of the story. And what if I had to stop at a really good part or on a cliffhanger? I couldn’t be that person who took a month to finish a single novel, people would think I’m a slow reader *gasp*. My solution was to sacrifice sleep. Start a book at 8pm and finish between 12 and 2am. It was great for a while, I was still getting in about three books a week but my 2am bedtime and 7:30am wake up call got old really fast. Back at the drawing board, I’m sure the solution seemed obvious. Instead I went through two years of only reading one book a month, maybe two if I had a particularly relaxing weekend. But at least I finished them in one sitting… so I was following my reading ethos at least. My TBR pile grew and grew. At 9 o’clock every night when I was ready to settle in with a book, I would talk myself out of it because I didn’t have “time” to finish the book before bed.

Finally I tried the obvious solution; read a chapter or two at a time. This was easier said than done. It required me to completely change how I spent 27 years thinking about reading. My whole reading philosophy had to change.

I was skeptical of my ability to enjoy a novel while reading a bit at a time. What is life without instant reward? The first time I purposefully picked up a book on my lunch break I thought I would end up hating it. Instead I had a blissful hour in Scotland while reading The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley. Did I want to keep reading? Obviously, a change in mindset wasn’t going to be a complete miracle cure. However, I did enjoy my hour and didn’t become an absolute grumpus when my reading flow had to be interrupted. I experimented with this new reading style for the rest of the week, reading for an hour here or there, and by the end of the week I had read two books. Shock and amazement followed. I could live a productive adult life, get enough sleep, read a good number of books, and still enjoy my reading time? Whhhaaatttt. Game changer.

I successfully broke my binge reading cycle, with binges reserved for the occasional weekend or holiday. Not only does it give me more time to read for business and pleasure but I’ve also learned to enjoy my reading breaks. It’s a little bit like having a nice flirtation with a novel before you get to the climax and inevitable end. And who doesn’t like a little flirtation now and again?

Until next time,