Thursday, June 25, 2009

Compulsive Reading Materials

I haven't changed my reading list on the side panel in quite awhile. Partly because I seem to be either( a) too lazy to keep it up to date or( c) too busy to do so. I am constantly striving for the middle ground, but fear (b) will always allude me.

However, the main reason I haven't updated it regularly is I am indulging in one of my periodic reading ruts. One of the banes of my existence is the series author. The authors that write two, thirty seven or sixty eight books all featuring the same cast of characters. If I come across them when only one or two books have been published, then I can usually control my addiction. By the time the next book in the series comes out I have moved on to other reading interests. But if I wait until five or six or even more books in the series are published, then I am lost. I become obsessed with reading each book in the series, reading them in the correct order and not stopping until I have read every frigging one of the damn things.

Occasionally this turns out OK. If the fifth book or the twelfth book in the series is as well written and entertaining as the first, I consider my obsession time well spent. Most of the Anne Rice Vampire Series were entertaining to read and at one time I eagerly awaited the publishing of the next book. I can't say the last book was as good as the first, but I read them all. Strangely, none of her other series ever captured my attention.

Most of the time, the series loses its creative energy after the first couple of books. But once I get started, if the next book is available, I am on a mission. I'm determined to get through them all. Regardless of how unreadable the sixth or twenty seventh book might be.

I'm sure this goes back to my early reading habits. I used to keep written lists of books in a series and cross each one off as I turned the last page. I worked my way through Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, Trixie Beldon, Donna Parker, Cherry Ames, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louisa May Alcott and the Anne of Green Gable series. I even read all of the Walt Disney- Annette series and the Lennon Sisters mysteries. (This last statement is one of the most humiliating confessions I have ever made.)

I also believe I inherited this quirk from my mom. When she died, in the back of her closet were three grocery bags full of Agatha Christi paperback mysteries. I am certain she read them all. Perhaps in one setting. Or at least on one year.

Now I am engrossed in the Anne Perry mysteries featuring Charlotte & Thomas Pitt. I should say I was engrossed when I was reading the third and fourth books in the series. The first couple were not particularly well written. They were her first published books and there was absolutely no development of the main characters. The next few improved steadily. I am now on book 12. I think there are 25 in the series. The improvement stalled around book 8. They are still readable, but not compelling. Regardless, whether I want to or not, I will probably get through them all. Fortunately, they are fast reads and several are audio-books, so my ipod can speed the process along.

A part of me realizes that reading a book because it is number 16 in a series rather than reading it for the pleasure of reading is not particularly noble. I assume authors that find commercial success with a particular set of characters or a particular narrative stick with their story not because they can't write about other subjects, but rather - why spoil a good thing? Or as my father-in-law used to say, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

And yet I persist. Even though I have a backlog of books I really want to read, they will wait until I have pushed my way through the Victorian world of Charlotte & Thomas Pitt. I still see little character development, but each book does touch on issues of the day - suffrage, class struggle, child labor, the impact of the industrial age on society. If it was an issue at the time the characters played their roles, Anne Perry weaves it into the story. That keeps them engaging. Plus, I have to admit Ms. Perry's own weird history also helps keeps me interested in the series.

I am actually a person of few compulsions. And this one seems fairly benign. I just hope Ms. Perry is done writing Pitt books. I can't take much more.

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