My sister loves reading, and we often swap book recommendations. But whenever she hasn’t heard of an author, she’ll hesitate, like so many of us will. She’ll ask if I’m sure about them, if I really think she’ll like them, as otherwise, it can feel like such a commitment to buy and dedicate yourself to their book. They’re currently a stranger, a stark contrast to the authors you have grown to know and love.
But once she tries an author, she’ll go through their entire written history, just like I will. Because once you’ve found an author you like in the sea of unknown voices, you feel fortunate and try to cling to that. If they’ve written one book you like, they’ll likely write another, as voice plays such a significant role in how you feel about a book, perhaps more than the specific plot itself.
And here’s why bingeing an author in that manner is the best thing you can do for yourself.
Do you ever feel a sense of dread when you begin to reach the end of a book? Do you ever delay those final pages, rationing it out to make the story last longer? A book is so magical because it gives you this extensive glimpse into someone’s life or another world, and the hours are spent diving deeper into it. So it’s unsurprising that we then start to feel a sense of loss when it’s over, as we have enjoyed the experience so thoroughly.
Trying to choose the next book to read is an exhausting task. It doesn’t matter how many books you’ve bought or have staring from your shelf with judgement; you’ll still doubt your next choice. Often this decision anxiety can be so great that we put it off by rereading an old favourite. And whilst there’s nothing wrong with returning to a loved classic, there are too many great books waiting out there to be read by you.
But when you enjoy a book so thoroughly, you have the joy of having your next read lined up. Because that author has likely written more novels, and so your to-read list is waiting for you on Goodreads or even the first pages of the book. You can dedicate yourself to their entire library of content and delay the need to find a new novel. By the time you’ve gotten through it, you may be lucky enough to find that they’ve released something new to be enjoyed!
The same can’t be easily said for a Netflix show, given that we often get limited series that leaves you craving more but never getting it. Once you’ve finished a show, you may get recommendations, you may look up what else the writers have worked on, but these will vary so heavily that it won’t be as similar an experience as you’d find with a novel.
Netflix shows usually get higher viewer counts than a book will have readers, there are exceptions, but this is the norm. So when you like a Netflix show, you’re likely not to be the only one. This can lead to great discussions with friends and plenty of meme content to enjoy, but it won’t say too much about your interests. Also, bingeing a show requires less dedication than a series of books, so it won’t highlight just how much you’ve enjoyed it but rather how aimless you felt at the time.
When you dedicate yourself to several books by an author, you’ll likely find similarities between the books, and in these similarities, you see what you like. What common theme are you clearly enjoying? What is about the characters that captures you? Whatever is recurring between the books you like will highlight a lot about yourself and your interests. If you’re a writer, it could show what you should be writing or what you could incorporate into your work. If you’re a reader, it shows the kind of books you should look for and the topics that interest you most.
I love reading several books by an author and noticing patterns. Often you’ll find a similar character type reappearing or even a place of interest. Authors reveal tiny snippets of themselves within their novels. How could you not? You have to pour so much energy and thought into each book, and you need to make it feel as real as possible by using your own experiences. When you read several books by an author, you begin to get to know them better.
I recently emerged from a Taylor Jenkins Reid binge, and I find her female characters so captivating and imperfect. Through a timeline of her novels, you can see where her style of writing adapted, starting with ‘The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo’. From that point, she became more adventurous, more trusting of her own style. Maybe her publisher allowed her to take more risks as she had built a fan base, and it clearly worked. I love the way she explores different time periods, and it reminds me that I’d like to write a novel set in another time as well.
Now more than ever, it can be a lonely time. Reading numerous books by an author could never replace social interactions. Still, it can be thrilling to further dive into the complexity of a writer and feel like you have a little glimpse into their wonderful mind.
When it comes to TV shows, this is less common as they vary greatly and have so many people influencing their tone and content. You can like an actress very much, but her works would differ so significantly. You can like a screenwriter, but the influence of the director, cinematographer and additional writers can cause such variation between their works.
I’m all for a good Netflix binge, so don’t let this convince you otherwise. Some days when I’m really struggling with my mental health, or I feel depleted socially, I need to just curl up on the sofa and spend a few hours watching a show to rest. There shouldn’t be such guilt to enjoying TV shows or films, as they’re also a form of content. But, unfortunately, we often feel guilty about it, and I guess it’s because of how easily it can become extreme. Everything about media content is designed to be addictive and keep you hooked, even the way an episode goes into the next one so quickly before you can get up and turn it off. And at that point, you’re like, “Oh, I may as well watch one more then!”
But reading a book feels like a form of self-care, like feeding your soul. So when you binge an author’s work, you get to feel proud about yourself for reading more. We all deserve to feel proud of ourselves, and this is more and more in need nowadays. So reading a book is an accomplishment and deserves recognition!
There is room for both bingeing shows and bingeing books in our life, and the key is to alternate between the two so you never tire of them! Too often, we try to add value to books and read ‘what we should’. The only thing you should read is something you want to, something you’ll enjoy! When you find a writer who resonates with you, immerse yourself entirely in their words and enjoy everything they have to offer. Take their bibliography as a challenge, one you’ll accomplish this year!
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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