Tag Archives: ABR

Living My Best Life: The Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon Wrap-Up

Well, that was a fantastic day, readers!

It’s the first day after the Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon and I am still feeling the afterglow.  I mean, I am a solid reader, with a capital R.  I tend to read at a minimum 2-3 books a week.  But even I was delighted and overwhelmed in the best ways possible about how fun it was to push everything aside to concentrate on the goal of reading as much as I could in 24 hours.

Here are my results:

  • Five books completed
  • Three physical books (one was a galley/ARC, and one was a library book), and two ebooks
  • A mix of genres:
    • One graphic novel
    • One African fiction
    • One thriller
    • One noir translated from Japanese
    • One gay YA romance
  • 943 pages finished
  • 17 hours completed before passing out cold
My Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon Experience
My Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon Experience


Things that I discovered-

  • I already read a lot, but a challenge put me into “beast mode”/hyper drive.
  • I love, love, love getting a reflexology session while I read.  It may be the most decadent luxury I can image (that is still productive). It was worth every single penny, and more.
  • Audiobooks aren’t good for readathons because they are so slow compared to how fast I can read.
  • I don’t like rules.  Even the ones I make myself.  I had a whole group of books that I thought I would limit myself to for the challenge.  HA! Nope.  I added the Anne Frank in at the last minute and didn’t feel bad for a moment about it.
The list of books that I am going to draw from in the 24 hour Dewey's Readathon.
The list of books that I am going to draw from in the 24 hour Dewey’s Readathon.


Here were the books I read:

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine by Alexander McCall Smith.

This is the 16th book in the endlessly charming No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, set in Botswana.  Mma Precious Ramotswe is the owner of the first detective agency run by a woman in the southern African nation.  She is aptly served by her extremely efficient secretary, Mma Makutsi, who is apt to remind people that she graduated secretarial school with 97% grades. They are very funny together as they solve cozy crimes.

What I love most about the series is the tiny glimpses into southern African life as it brings back the most poignant of memories from when I was raised in the area as a little girl.  Small references will create floods of memories, so these books are an exceptional joy to me.  (And I enjoyed the HBO version of the stories.  The casting was fantastic, as was the set.) So while the characters are wonderfully drawn, the setting has an equal weight in the story.

My husband had to ask me what I was reading because I would frequently let out a giggle or HA! while reading the story.

Good for: I would recommend this book to anyone who likes cozy mysteries, who wants to get a glimpse into daily life in Botswana, or anyone who likes humorous palate cleansers in their reading mix.

Anne Frank: the Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography by Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon.

I am of the mind that we cannot understand this story too deeply and that the multitude of formats (autobiography, play, movie, graphic novel, etc.) only helps us get to the heart of this tragedy.  Last year, my husband and I went to Amsterdam and one of our key moments was the tour of the Anne Frank House.  It affected us profoundly, as I noted in the previous post.

This graphic novel was wonderfully done.  I found the backstory of her maternal and paternal families and the political backdrop context very helpful to understanding the results and how it impacted the family.  And see the previous post for the surprise I found in the book.

Good for: anyone who wants a new way of approaching the Anne Frank story, history buffs, families that want a way to engage their middle grade and above kids into the story.

The Grown Up by Gillian Flynn

Few people are unaware of the name Gillian Flynn from her NYT bestseller and the subsequent movie for Gone Girl.  She has a gift for the fast paced and interesting thriller.  I wanted to take a completely different course for the read after the Anne Frank book, and thought this would be a good choice.  Plus it’s a novella so it would be a quick read.

This story was engaging from the very moment it opens- bawdy and seedy that let me know immediately this was no middle-grade book! We were back in the land of adults and all their foibles in search of solving the mysteries of what the fates held in store for them.   This had allusions to some of the eerie books of the past- The Woman in White by Wilke Collins, as an example. It was thrilling and perfect to get my blood racing.  If I had to do it again, I would have put it later in the readathon as I was starting to fade.

Good for: anyone who liked Girl Gone, fans of the spooky Victorian novel set up, those who like con artist themes, fans of noir

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

After getting my blood pressure up with The Grown Up, this book pushed the boundaries of how far my heart could expand before bursting.  It’s such a great example of how the YA genre being published today is rich, diverse and engaging.  Simon is a 17-year-old who is struggling to determine when and how he should come out to his friends and family.  He is involved in an email relationship with a boy who goes to his school, but they are anonymous to each other out of fear of public ridicule for being gay and also that the other will reject them.  But when they email, using secret email addresses, they can be honest and share the same struggles that they are having. Through these emails, they fall in love.  But because it’s a YA, things are never that uncomplicated, so there are the trials and tribulations as expected in a bildungsroman.

Good for: someone looking for a great gay romance story, anyone who likes YA or wants to see it done very well, those who love a good bildungsroman (as I do).

The Gun by Fuminori Nakamura

This was the last book I completed.  I could have just stopped after this one, and been perfectly happy with such a strong collection of books for my first readathon, but I pressed on anyway (unsuccessfully).

This was a stark, cold, distant Japanese noir telling of a young man who finds a gun.  The fact that it is next to a body of a dead man is of no concern to him.  The gun becomes his passion and obsession.  I won’t spoil anything except to say that I found this book similar in style to The Stranger by Albert Camus with it’s bleak, emotionless telling.  I thought it was fantastic and will probably read it again.

Good for: those who love the noir genre, readers of existentialism, anyone who likes Japanese novels in translation

Ultimately this was one of the most fun days I have had in a long time, and I cannot wait to do it again.  I may even try to get a small group of friends together for a weekend retreat to do something similar!

Thanks to the generous and amazing people who cheerleaded us through the hours, hosting mini-challenges and tweeted encouragement our way as we progressed through it all.  It was an absolute delight and a great way for me to bust through my TBR pile.

My Reading Philosophy- Always Be Reading (A.B.R.)

While I have always been an avid reader, I always read one book at a time, and I finished every single one.  Even when I was struggling with either the content or the tone, or hating the characters or the writing, I held on.  I wanted to be able to identify what I liked and also what I didn’t like, and I felt an obligation to the author (a little co-dependent, I know!) to see their work through.  I also think I was hoping that there would be a twist or a “magic moment” where it would come together for me.  As you can probably imagine, it rarely happened like that.  It was only when I let this simple axiom go, that I was able to read at a pace that was remarkable, even to me.  Now I will “drop it like it’s hot” if anything isn’t working for me.  I’m ruthless.  There is too much out there to focus my time on.

Building my library

While I read quickly, I wanted to be able to take in more content, and especially using the downtime in my day more efficiently.  The first step for me was the purchase of an eReader about 5 years ago.  I chose a Nook, from Barnes & Noble, when I read that it had apps that would integrate with the public library system. I come from a family of public library readers.  Some of my best early memories in childhood was being driven to the biggest and most modern library in our county and spending the afternoon in the stacks, marveling at all the stories we could take home. I have never lost that feeling of profound gratitude for the library system.

Before owning an eReader, I would frequent the semi-annual Friends of the Library sale that my town held and build my To Be Read pile for the year.  An old store was rented and converted into a massive book sale, and it was practically a holiday for me.  I would take the day off, get there early with my rolling cart and cash money in hand, lining up with the elderly, just chomping at the bit for the doors to be opened by the lovely volunteers.  I had a system which included a list of books I was searching for, and a method of navigating the endless tables of books laid out haphazardly.  (Hint- start in the furthest table back where the hardcovers start and move toward the door, quickly scanning and pulling, then do a second perusal for items that may not even be on your list.)

After owning the nook, I fell in love with the ability to have multiple books at my fingertips- a traveling library, as it were.  Then I fell quickly down the technology rabbit hole.  An upgraded iPhone, a Kindle paired with the Overdrive site and mobile app meant that I could truly borrow and download library books from my local libraries, something that I wasn’t able to configure well on the nook version I had.  And I didn’t have to carry a big or heavy book with me all the time.  Suddenly, I had amassed a strong library of both digital and physical books, just waiting for me to pick them up.

The evolutionary leap in my reading

So at this point I had a lot of tools, and access to many books, but my reading philosophy hadn’t changed.  The real shift happened when I was listening to a podcast and the host was extolling the virtues and benefits of listening to audiobooks as supplemental to reading books.  While this wasn’t a novel idea, something he mentioned clicked with me.  He talked about how he was always wary of mixing up the stories, but realized one day that he followed many TV series and never confused them, so why did he think he would confuse books if he read more than one at a time? (!!!) Eureka!

So I started to adapt by adding an audiobook to the rotation, with a novel.  At first I chose non-fiction audiobooks, in an effort to have a true differentiation between the books I read and books I listened to.  But I found that they required a larger amount of attention than I was always able to give.  Whereas a longer novel was something I could really enjoy, as long as there weren’t a large number of characters that were hard to differentiate in the narration.

Success with that experiment led me to push the boundaries a bit more- I decided to have a digital book going, an audiobook going AND a physical book.  And this is where I have had the biggest breakthrough.  I am now able to use little gaps in my schedule to A.B.R.- Always Be Reading!  Stuck in the waiting room at the doctor’s office- pop in the earbuds for the audiobook or open an app on my phone.  Standing in line at the bank- open the Kindle app and jump back in where you left off.  No one to lunch with at work- not a problem anymore since I always have access to a good story.  And I love using the Goodreads feature of tracking your progress on what you are currently reading.  Because I have the Goodreads app on my phone, when I do shop for physical books, I have my TBR pile at my fingertips at all times.

And the stats show just how successful this method has proven to be.  Another interesting aspect of this experiment is that I have less patience for books that I am not connecting with anymore.  I am not afraid to move it to the Did Not Finish shelf on Goodreads and move on.  Time is too precious to waste, and there are too many good books out there.

So tell me- have you changed your approach to reading and had success?  Or how do you like to read?  Any interesting failures in your reading plans?  Let me know your thoughts below in the comments.