A long time ago when I still had summers off, I binge read.
For two weeks.
Binge reading during my summers wasn’t an uncommon thing. I lived out of town a large chunk of the time as a kid. Popping over to a friend’s house or going to a park weren’t exactly viable options. So I did what any shy, introverted kid would do:
I watched TV, I played video games, and I read. A lot. Each of these activities consumed great amounts of my time growing up, but reading gradually crept up in proportion as I got older. It helped that my parents read, and my mom was always handing me something to read.
It started with books like Animorphs, Goosebumps, and The Little House on the Prairie series. As I got older, I tended to grab was convenient. My mom was an English teacher when I was younger, so at one point I had copies of the most random assortment of books that predated me. Some were classics and some were things she thought kids would read. And some were just really random. One was about a kid who would go on to drive race cars (I couldn’t tell you the title to save my life; it got shipped off at some point when they cleaned out a lot of the books without my input). Another was The Comeback Year by Lawrence Keating. Even with the magic google machine, it’s almost impossible to find this book. I think this guy might be the only other person who’s read the book.
While this wasn’t the most ideal circumstance because it ate up a bunch of my closet space with books I never asked for (and mostly didn’t want), there were always treasures to find. Kind of like going to through old sports cards (a Tony Romo undrafted rookie card for instance), I would go through old books as I learned about more books, finding gems I hadn’t realized were there before.
Again, my mom was an English teacher, so a lot of these things were classics taught in classes, like A Tale of Two Cities (which I loved, but was a slow start and is the only book I’ve ever fallen asleep reading) and Wuthering Heights (which I did not love). It also is where I found The Hobbit a couple of years before The Lord of the Rings movies came out.
So what does all that have to do with the current story I’m telling? That’s exposition. This tells you that reading was a part of my life for as long as I can functionally remember (I can technically remember not being able to read; I just can’t remember it better than bits and pieces) and that books have always been readily accessible, including having one of the most awesome bookshelves a kid could have.
On one of my last free summers (possibly the last free summer), I read non-stop for 2 weeks. I reread all of my Animorphs books (I was clipping out 4-5 a day, though I never finished the series because I quit a few books short of the end without knowing it). I read all the Harry Potter books. I read who knows what else.
What I do know is that I was basically waking up, reading until well past midnight, going to sleep, and then doing it all again.
And then something happened.
After several days of this, I dreamed in print.
I rarely see words in my sleep. Usually, it’s just vague settings and vague actions. I don’t dream in specific details.
Until I dreamed in print.
For a good point of reference, think about Tom Riddle’s diary in The Chamber of Secrets. Imagine the print showing up letter by letter, word by word. And that’s what my dream was. Instead of following a visual story in my head, I was following a typed story.
And it freaked me out.
It freaked me out enough I stopped reading. I took 2-3 weeks off from reading entirely because of that little episode. I knew I was reading too much. That was my brain telling me to back off.
And it will almost certainly never happen again. I can’t imagine having the time, energy, or will to binge read for multiple days in a row. I read pretty solidly the past 3 days, and it was nothing compared to what I did as a teen.
Maybe I can binge so I can finish another series.