Category Archives: Reading Community

The Inevitable #Readathon Come Down

It’s the day after the epic Dewey’s 24 Hr Readathon.  I am incredibly pleased with my progress this time.  I was able to finish 8 books!  I learned so much from the first time I jumped into the deep end by doing this event last year.

Here are the things I learned last year that helped me this time:

  • Keep a mix of short novellas and stories on hand to build some early progress and confidence that you will make your number goal. Anything under 200 pages is perfect for this purpose.
  • Add some graphic novels as palate cleansers to help you switch context and give your eyes and brain a little bit of a break.
  • Consider having some lighter than normal material included that you can fly through quickly.  To really put some numbers on your personal board, you may need to skim pages, and that is always easier with less intense or heavy reading material.
  • Read things you love.  If you have a favorite series or genre, lean into that instead of trying a lot of new stuff.  Or if you want to take a chance, then choose one option that’s new for you but otherwise, stay in your lane and read like the wind!
  • It’s crucial in a readathon to dump and run if a book isn’t hitting you in the right way early on.  You don’t have time to waste.  Set a limit as to the pages you will struggle with before shelving it for something you will like and breeze through. My advice would be 10-20 pages.
  • Audiobooks may allow you to be mobile, but for you to even possibly finish one, you have to speed it up to chipmunk speed or choose a super short one that is also sped up.  (Oliver Saks’ Gratitude is a great option!)  That’s pretty tough, so choose wisely or just assume that you may not finish it in the 24 hours allotted.
Here are some things that I learned this time for next year:
  • It’s important to go outside and walk.  I live in a very bustling neighborhood.  I should have forced myself outside for coffee at a cafe and to get a croissant or something while I was there.  But I got sucked into my first book and didn’t make it out until lunch.  By that time, I was wandering around indecisive with hunger and looking for a restaurant that was quiet enough to keep reading.  BAD PLANNING!  Next time I will get up a little before the readathon starts, shower and walk to a cafe to put some steps on the Fitbit and not stay on the couch all morning, afternoon and night.
  • Make sure I have slim but fun reads.  I have a lot of novellas and short works to read, but the subject matter isn’t really light.  And while I like a weird book every once and a while, I don’t enjoy reading them back to back.  A lot of what I have on hand are indie press works, which tend to be a bit more experimental, or works that were recommended because of their beautiful use of language.  For those books, I love nothing more than reading an amazing sentence or paragraph and just stopping to let it resonate and wash over me.  You really don’t have time to savor in a readathon.  So I will think this one through a bit more as I plan my pile for the next event.
  • I suggest having a to be read pile but don’t limit yourself to it.  I had a nice stack, but at one point kept looking at it and wasn’t very inspired.  Luckily, I was home and able to look at my shelves and pick something out on impulse which ended up being perfect.
  • Plan a fun outing for yourself where you can incorporate reading.  The first time I did the readathon I scheduled a reflexology appointment for the same day.  They let you take your Kindle in and while my feet are being rubbed and all pressure points attended to, I can make progress in the most decadent way possible.  I am kicking myself that I didn’t make my appointment ahead of time and got too wrapped up in the books I was reading to make plans, let alone leave the apartment.  It might not be as extreme as that, but maybe a stop at your favorite library, rose garden, cafe- something that will make the day a little more special.
  • Spend time checking in with the community on  Dewey’s site, Twitter, Litsy and Instagram.  I found that I could post something on Instagram, copy the verbiage for Litsy and send it automatically to Twitter.  That’s great for sharing out, but it was also important to encourage others on and keep a dialog going with everyone else doing the readathon.  I saw a great tip about creating a column on Tweetdeck to follow all the #readathon posts.  So every hour I would spend about 10 minutes posting, checking in and cheering or conversing.  It absolutely helped me feel like I was participating within a community.
  • Don’t stress yourself when you hit the inevitable wall.  I made it to hour 18 with solid reading and that was ok.  I could have had more coffee or taken a shower and pushed myself more, but I had reached my goal and my body was telling me I was done.

I will update more in a later post on my thoughts on what I read plus my finishing stats.

I hope you had a blast if  you did Dewey’s this year, and if not that you would consider doing the next one on April 29th, 2017!

Readathon Commencing in 5, 4, 3…

In exactly 7 minutes, Dewey’s 24 Hr Readathon will begin and I couldn’t be more excited. They say that the planning that takes place leading up to an event is time well spent. Daydreaming and thinking about how fun something will be can only help to intensify and prolong the enjoyment of said event. So I try to savor the planning process and draw out every pleasure from my trips and special events.

To that end, here is my proposed stack:

Happy readathon!
Here is my proposed stack of books for the readathon.

 

To that end, I have been in full daydream mode all week in anticipation. But the most fun has been when someone has asked me what my weekend plan are and I know they are seeing a smile of pure delight as I tell them about the readathon. I had two very great conversations with co-workers come out of the exchange. One was inspired by my passion for reading which is evident. He has a 3-year-old daughter and asked how can they instill such a love for books in her? I have so many thoughts that it will have to be another blog post. But I was delighted by that idea. Another co-worker asked me what I would be reading, so I showed him my proposed stack that I had posted on my Instagram account. Watching his eyebrows raise as he took in the types of books I selected was a blast! He admitted that he was impressed by the selection and we ended up having one of the best conversations about books I have ever had at work. We were taking notes on what to read based on each other’s suggestions, as he also is a big fan of works in translation and literary fiction. Thanks, Dewey for giving me the spark to have these types of conversations!

And now it’s time to start.  Let the reading begin!

Reading Challenges and Why I Love Them

I have just recently gotten excited about reading challenges.  To be perfectly honest with you, I had no idea such a thing even existed until a few years ago.  But now that I know about them, it’s hard for me to stop doing them.

You may ask- why would you do that to yourself?

I have always been someone who likes a challenge and wants to test my abilities.  About 2 + years ago I was doing fine with my reading.  I was keeping my Goodreads list going by documenting when I was done with a book and rating it.  I was reading an ok amount, but all of it was fairly rote and automatic.  There wasn’t a lot of forethought or planning involved in what I was doing.  And I think because of that, I didn’t enjoy my reading to the extent that I do now.

My favorite moment of the reading process is the one after I finished something I enjoyed reading, basking in its afterglow (hopefully) when I realize that there is another book out there that could hold an equal or better treasure.  In cruder terms, you could say that I chase the reading high, like an addict.  Being a mood reader, I want to be really present in that moment and pick something that will appeal to the feeling I am having.  Most often times it is a reaction to what I just finished.  If it was something really heavy, I may want a “palate cleanser” of a read that will help me transition out of that world and into something else. If it was a fluffy or light-hearted book, I may look for something with a bit more substance.  But all this bouncing around was random.  I wanted a bit more form to what I was doing.

Enter the reading challenge

The first one I heard about grabbed me instantaneously.  It was the Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge for 2015.  The way it works is that they have chosen 24 categories or tasks.  That equates to about 2 books a month.  I knew I could do that, without a problem.  They keep the categories (as they call tasks) broad enough for readers to research and interpret the task as they want.  There isn’t really any rules other than that.

Here was their list of tasks for the Read Harder Challenge 2015:

I loved almost every second of this process, even when the books I chose may have missed the mark with my personal tastes.  I loved doing the research to discover what I could like that would fit into these categories.  I enjoyed being pushed to think more diversely and in interesting ways about how I read without any guardrails.  I discovered new areas that I ended up loving.  And some things that I thought would be very easy for me, turned out to be surprisingly hard.

The good-

Through this process, I found that I really like science fiction. !!!  (I know– it was a surprise for me, too!)  My previous experience with sci-fi was Dune by Frank Herbert and not much else.  I often felt unmoored by some of the sci-fi stories I had read and was not comfortable just “going with the flow” in an unfamiliar world.  I was kind of uptight about it, I admit.  I spent a lot of time trying to find the perfect fit for me.  I scoured some of the suggestions people on Goodreads were throwing out there.  I asked friends, and I kept an ear out for new releases that might fit the bill.  I landed on Moxyland by Lauren Beukes.  It featured a female heroine, set in the future in Cape Town, with a technology/pharmaceutical backdrop.  It was edgy and fast paced and very exciting.  I really liked it.

Dune by Frank Herbert
Dune by Frank Herbert
Moxyland by Lauren Beukes
I will admit to being intrigued by this great cover for Moxyland by Lauren Beukes

For the book published before 1850, I was stumped for something that I wanted to read.  I landed upon Middlemarch by George Elliot.  I was really happy with this pick because a list had just been published about the top English novels ever written and of all the books out there, Middlemarch was considered the number 1 book.  Again- who knew?  I was a little intimidated by it, and afraid that I was going to end up getting bogged down in it, but I found it so readable and I really felt something for these characters.  It was such a nice surprise for me that I went ahead and bought one of the lovely hardcover editions for my personal collection.

Look at this lovely clothboundPenguin Classics hardcover edition of Middlemarch by George Elliot.
Look at this lovely clothboundPenguin Classics hardcover edition of Middlemarch by George Elliot.

 

I also discovered how vast and exciting the Young Adult (YA) side of publishing was.  It has really expanded into a massive genre of potential gems.  I am probably aging myself but the only things I had that could be considered YA when I was growing up was Sweet Valley High and a few other things like that.  Nothing with the breadth and depth of topics and content that exists now.  I enjoyed what I read, but it was in the research that I discovered many books that I ended up reading this year.

The bad-

I was disappointed with the book I picked for the task of a book written by someone under the age of 25 years old.  I chose Shoplifting from American Apparel by Tao Lin and it just didn’t work for me.  The voice, tone, and content were not good fits for what I was looking for or what I tend to enjoy.  It could be just a generational thing.  I finished it because of the challenge, otherwise, I would have put it down and moved on.

Shoplifting From American Apparel by Tao Lin
Shoplifting From American Apparel by Tao Lin

The Ugly-

As I entered into December of 2015, I had 2 tasks not yet done and it was stressing me out.  The Poetry and the Short Story tasks were so frustrating me to no end.  I went through SO MANY books, looking for a fit.  To be perfectly candid, I don’t really like poetry.  Now I can appreciate a poem, but an entire book of poetry was really a stretch for me.  I will admit to taking a bit of a short cut on this task and pulling out one collection I have that I know I like- The Portable Dorothy Parker.  She has been a voice that I have turned to through many a broken heart, so I could heal through sarcasm, snark, and witty barbs.

The Portable Dorothy Parker
The inestimable Dorothy Parker, in a collected form.

I was absolutely shocked at how hard it was for me to find a short story collection for my tastes.  I mean, I found a ton of short story collections, but I learned a lot about the genre through this process.  One of the things I learned is that a lot of the stories that win awards and people seem to love are strange, awkward or have a dramatic twist.  The Lottery by Shirley Jackson is a perfect example.  As with poetry, I might like a single short story that has those elements, but I don’t particularly care for an entire collection of that type of work.  I tried the Miranda July work, No One Belongs Here More Than You.  I couldn’t finish it.  It was making me feel so bleak and hollow like I was falling into a depression.  I was told that most people will use the collection as I do with palate cleanser novels- to transition from one book to another.  But since I didn’t have enough time to do that, I shelved it and started the search again.  And I am so glad that I did because I found a beautiful gem of a book- The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri.  From the first few paragraphs, I knew this was the right book for me.  The writing was lush and evocative.  I was pulled in immediately.  I loved it so much.  I am on the hunt for a first edition hardcover copy of it, so I can keep it near me always.

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
I wasn’t feeling this book- No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July.
The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
A lush and lovely book- The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

 

The results-

The year that I spent really thinking about what to read and searching for which books would be in that Venn Diagram of what I love and what the task required was wonderful.  I read so many books that I would never have even thought to look at the covers, let along crack them open and read them.  And it is only because of the challenge.

What’s on deck for 2016?

Well, since the Read Harder Challenge was such much fun for me last year, I jumped on it for this year as well. Here are the tasks for this year, in a handy PDF that you can print and fill out as you go through the year:

ReadHarderChallenge2016_checklist_web

I have also participated in a Readathon where a person designates a fixed amount of time- 24 hours, 48 hours, a week, etc. to try to read as many books as possible.  It sounds a little insane, but it is very fun to completely devote yourself to only reading.  Many times there are communities on Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram or Youtube that promote a readathon and readers will plan together, share progress, cheer each other on, and generally offer breaks to each other during that time period.  Some tips that I have heard and would like to share for how to survive a readathon would be to pick your books wisely, even if there is a theme to the readathon.  For example, your goal is to read a lot, so you may want to find shorter books that aren’t dense from a subject matter perspective, so you can feel the success of plowing through them and upping your numbers.  Readers are always talking about all the finger food they have available to nosh on so they don’t get distracted by having to stop and make dinner.  (It also seems like a really fun time to break any diets or rules you have and just indulge as you turn the pages as often as you can.)  I enjoyed myself immensely during that time so I will look for more opportunities to do that in the future, and will make a note of them here.  Maybe we can do one together!

There are other types of challenges.  I will investigate and bring some others to the blog.  But I am curious- do any of you participate in reader challenges? Why or why not?   Please leave us the answers in the comments.