Our Reading Lives

Stress Binge-Reading

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It’s been an interesting year for books. We had books that broke barriers in both publishing and genre. We had books that have become viral sensations. Almost too many books that have become movies.

…And I have read almost none of them. Instead, for the past two months, I have been gorging myself on Erotic Romance Urban Fantasy books I can get through my my library’s ebook app because I am both cheap and despise the idea of leaving my house for anything outside of absolute necessity.

This isn’t an article about bad-mouthing sexy urban fantasy romance by the way, considering most internet critiques involving any romance are laced with sexist subtexts. Instead this is an article about stepping away from my own reading ambitions into make space for me to take comfort in something.

I’ve mentioned before that I am stressed. Well, I entered a slightly more stressful day job which has me performing a little more emotional labor. By the end of the day, I’ve had it with tragedy and conflict. I’m not going to read stories that bring me any emotional pain or make me think too hard or hey, have a load of unpredictability. Instead, I want something where I know the outcome is going to be easy to guess and with loads of…uh…tension release.

Do I feel guilty?

Yes. Yes I actually do.

There are literal lists of books I want to read. Books that were recommended to me or books I have read about. Books I have bought on impulse or gifts in good faith. Those books are gathering both real and digital dust. The worst is that those books were a promise to myself, to make time and to keep up with reader trends. A promise that has shown to be easily broken in light of a high-stress world.

Aside, from that, there is my guilt in betraying the reader communities I am a part of. Reader communities are great! The best ones strive for creating inclusive reading lists and a culture that is appreciative but intellectually critical. But there can also be the subtext of pressure to “keep up with the Joneses’ reading list” in terms of staying up to date. While that sort of community is good as it encourages people to expand their reading horizons, it’s not something I have been taking part in. Rather, I’ve largely read twenty-something books from the same three authors.

When it comes down to it, there are things I know I should be reading for myriad reasons. Things I should be reading because they have become pop culture phenomenons or because they will help to make me a better person, or a more informed person. But “should” and “able to” are two very different things, especially as my life become more complex and strained for time.

So no, I have not read Circe yet, or Little Fires Everywhere, or Hunger. Instead I have sacrificed that in favor of the predictable amorous exploits of a bionic wolf-shifter. Maybe reading doesn’t always have to be “good for me” or “keep me in the know,” maybe it just has to give me a little bit of comfort in a frightening world. Now I understand why people binge through Hallmark movies or re-watch old TV shows over and over again. Familiarity, consistency, a lack of surprise and a happy ending make for a comforting set of circumstances. If all that comes in a package that includes vampire princes, immortal CEOs and a tragic but manageable romance, then sign me up.