by Dave Wheeler
Sometimes I’ll read a whole book in a sitting. Granted, many of these instances have occurred on transcontinental flights, but not always. If it’s gripping enough, or if it’s slim enough, I can devour something in mere hours.
Maybe it’s impressive. Probably it’s annoying, too, for me to make a claim like that. We don’t all have that kind of time or attention span. But like Justus says, it’s a bookseller’s superpower!
But it’s never really about getting through a book for me. I’m more concerned with what I’m getting out of the book, and sometimes you have to take it all at once for it to work right. Like half-shell oysters. Or tequila shots.
That’s my running theory, anyway.
But I’m sure you know what I mean. There’s sometimes that feeling that if you set the book down for even a moment, the spell will be broken and you’ll never return to it. Sometimes the enchantment is that fragile — not weak, not because the book is “bad” — it’s delicate. A lot of beautiful things I can think of are delicate: snowflakes, lace, stained glass. And there are books I could list among those. Saul Bellow’s The Actual, for one. Or John Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat.
Other things are specifically designed to be read in a single sitting, too, though. Many of the zines we carry are exactly that! Guillotine Press has been issuing some of the most delightful works of cultural criticism, with stunningly laid-out little pamphlets like Troubleshooting Silence in Arizona (Bojan Louis) and most recently Punk (Mimi Thi Nguyen & Golnar Nikpour).
The press is run by Sarah McCarry, whom you may know better as The Rejectionist. Incisive and provocative, Guillotine, I’d say, is putting out some of the best zines on the market. Each packs a wallop — intricately constructed (frequently collaborative) essays on violence, women’s health, racial and other prejudices, and more! — while gracious enough to readers not to add physical heft to already heavy subjects.
I like reading a whole work at once every now and then. Segmented reading feels like living inside the author’s mind for a long period, but single-sitting reading feels more like viewing the subject from above. Appreciating the story entirely. Full-immersion, which I’ve heard is the best way to learn a new language; in fact, I’m not convinced the two are all that different.
So, I wonder, what have you enjoyed reading all at once, beginning to end?