Last night I finished my last Deborah Crombie novel.
I began the first book of her Duncan Kincaid/Gemma James British mystery series on November 25. I finished book #16 on February 2.
I haven’t added up how many pages that is. Honestly, I’m afraid to.
I’ve loved reading the series, but it has seriously disrupted my regular reading life.
As I’ve been blazing through these novels, my mind has kept returning to this post I originally wrote a year and a half ago, when I was hooked on a different series. I’m republishing it today: I hope you enjoy it, and I’d love to hear which camp YOU fall into. (Based on my present and past confessions, I’m sure you’re in no doubt about my readerly identity.)
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Many of you enthusiastically recommended the Outlander series to me, and I’d hesitantly added them to my To Be Read List. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything: that list is several hundred titles long.
But then my friend told me she had decided to read the series for herself.. When I was over at her house soon after, I saw the books—with their fat spines and beautiful covers—neatly arranged on her bookshelf. I grabbed book #1 off the shelf—I couldn’t help myself—and flipped it open. My friend had the 20th anniversary edition, which begins with a two-page forward in which author Diana Gabaldon explains how the books came into being.
I don’t own that edition myself; this is completely from memory. Gabaldon said she sat down to write her first novel, knowing it would be total crap, as first novels usually are, and she might as well get it over with as soon as possible. She started her story with 18th century Scottish Highlanders, because as a historian, she knew something about them.
A modern woman kept asserting herself into the antiquated story, and Gabaldon let her remain for the time being—it was hard enough to write; she’d edit her out later. But she never was edited out, and the story went to press as-is, with her publisher declaring “this has to be a word-of-mouth sales campaign, because this book is too weird for a marketer to describe.”
In short, Gabaldon won my nerdy writer’s heart with her terrific two-page intro, and I decided right there that I had to read this book.
(Silly me, I thought I was signing up for a three-book series, because my friend had three Outlander books on her shelf at the time. There are actually eight, for a total to date of 8,479 pages, with at least one more novel that pushes a thousand pages on the way.)
I read book #1 and now I am totally hooked.
I want to read the series—the whole shebang, 8+ books, 8,479 pages, 300+ hours on Audible—because I am completely hooked on the story. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
I have a history of burning through great series at an alarming pace. Give me a book with solid writing and irresistible narrative drive, and I’ll show you a book I’ll read in three days flat.
(I’m not a true speed reader—not the kind of speed reading you take courses for or anything—nor do I wish to be. But I am a naturally fast reader, and can speed it up a bit when I want to.)
I’ve torn through Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, the Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, the Starbridge Series and the Port William novels, Anne Shirley and Emily Starr and Betsy-Tacy, even Jane Austen’s oeuvre, at breakneck speed.
The stories are so good I want to finish them as quickly as possible.
This impulse leaves some fellow book-lovers aghast, because they believe great books are for savoring. They should be read slowly, to make them last longer. The reader should squeeze the maximum enjoyment out of every word, instead of skimming the surface with a hasty reading.
I appreciate the sentiment, but I can’t make myself read these books slowly. At least not the first time through.
The series I’ve devoured, listed above, (with one exception, I think—care to guess?) stand up to re-reading, even beg for it. By page 100 of Outlander, I knew I’d be reading it again. Many of you have told me you’ve read through the entire series four or five times. I can’t wait to find out what happens, but I’m not overly concerned with catching every nuance on the first reading.
I think the savorers have a point, but not so strong a point they’ll make a convert of me. Whether it’s my nature to read quickly or merely my choice, I just want to get to the end of the story.
But intelligent readers with excellent taste disagree, and so I’d love to hear:
Are you a savorer, or a speed reader?