When I was a growing up, my favorite thing about summer was that I could read what I wanted, as much as I wanted. The perks of being a teen included devouring Gone with the Wind in three days – without having to a) talk to anyone or b) make anyone dinner. The headiest thrill was staying up into the wee hours of the night with my nose in a book, a book the was just too good to put down. I remember the delicious feeling of staying up until four a.m. with Emily’s Quest by L.M. Montgomery. If you’ve only read the Anne books, you’re missing out. I knew there was nothing else I’d rather be doing at that moment, and that my book was absolutely perfect.
But I also knew that I could sleep in as late as I wanted to next day. At the time, I don’t think I even had a part time job. As an adult, the decision to pull an all-nighter with a good book is very different. I’m not a great sleeper in the first place, and usually the “getting to sleep” part is the challenge. Most nights I have to read until I’m nodding off, or I’ll just toss and turn uselessly for hours. Books usually lull me to sleep, not keep me from it. But more than that, staying up has consequences. Do I really want to expose my co-workers to my glassy-eyed zombie look that no amount of coffee can truly dispel? Is the book really that good?
Sometimes. I planned ahead for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. My boss laughed when I took the day after its release off, but I knew perfectly well I intended to read all night long, and I did. And it was marvelous.
Last week, I did it again, but it was completely spontaneous. I had started The Hunger Games for book club, and though some of my friends had said it was really good, I was pretty sure I’d find it just okay. I’m not really that into YA fiction in the first place, and I often find post-apocalyptic fiction preachy and annoying (I’ll fess up: I really didn’t like The Handmaid’s Tale). But then I started reading. And reading. And not wanting to do anything else but read, because I had to know what was going to happen next. I kept thinking, “Okay, another half hour.” But at some point – probably around 1:30 – I made the call. I knew that even if I tried to sleep, I’d just be thinking about the book anyway. There are worse things than being mistaken for one of the undead at work, I reasoned. So I read into the night and went to sleep somewhere around 3:00.
On the whole, it was worth it. I loved the book, and loved the feeling that I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, even though I knew I’d pay the price later. Do I envy my teenage son who stayed up with the same book the next night? And slept until noon the next day? A little. What’s the last book that kept you up all night? Was it worth it?