April 2016

Warm-Up: Planning for the Readathon

Warm Up

The Readathon is just around the corner, and I absolutely cannot wait. To help take the edge off my excitement, I’ve been enjoying planning for the weekend. It occurred to me that the experience of past Readathons might make good advice for first-timers.

Set aside a space as well as a time, if at all possible. I’ve made plans to get out of town for my Dewey weekend, to be cozy at my parents’ house. I know that I’m lucky to be able to turn it into a mini-vacation getaway to immerse myself. And even luckier to have parents who are entertained by a daughter arriving and then almost immediately getting swallowed by books and blogs.

But, from my busier, grad-school years, I know that even stealing a few hours from my responsibilities felt even sweeter if I could physically set aside a cozy reading spot, well out of view of the paper that needed writing or the chores that needed doing. Whether it’s a comfy chair, bed, porch, library or coffee shop, setting aside a space that belongs to the Readathon for the day is a great plan.

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Plan for variety. And whims. This one is huge for me. Choosing what I want to read next is is always driven by whims. If I’m not in the mood for a particular book, it’s not going to grab me in a few chapters, and I’m likely to cast it aside in a grumpy huff. This is especially true during the Readathon. When a book isn’t fitting my mood, I get downright crabby.

During the October 2011 Readathon, a few hours in, I got into a vile mood and had a Terrible Horrible No Good Readathon Grump for a few hours.

Just because I hadn’t gotten engrossed in the first few chapters of Rick Riordan’s latest novel.

But, I rallied with a cozy mystery I hadn’t even put in my book prep pile. Whims!

I make sure to have books on hand for different moods. A good mix of genres and moods: cheerful, intense, cerebral, action-packed. When I was relying on paper books, this was a much bigger (heavier) project. With an e-reader, I can be loaded with a variety, and have library books just a click away if the need strikes.

That said, I will laugh at myself if I spend the day rereading old favorites, or binge-reading an already beloved series. There’s something great about a story that carries you along with the same characters through multiple books.

Some of my binge-read favorites are:

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  • The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane: YA fantasy that blends the contemporary world with magic. Start with So You Want to Be a Wizard. 10 books.
  • The Billy Boyle World War II Mysteries by James R. Benn: Mysteries set against really well-researched World War II action, getting really interesting in theaters I didn’t know about. Some scenes are dark, but Billy’s pragmatic, smartass narrative voice keeps them grounded. Start with Billy Boyle, 9 books.
  • The Phryne Fisher books by Kerry Greenwood. Here’s one for fans of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries! It started as a book series. With just as much intrigue (both romantic and mysterious) and fabulous clothes and lush life. Cocaine Blues is the first one, but you can jump in at any point in the series for a fast, fun read.

Plan for a variety of munchies. Is there anything nicer than a good book in one hand and a tasty snack in the other? The key is to find eats that won’t get gooey on your book, especially if library books are involved.

My favorite snacks are easy to prep the day before:

  • Cheese and crackers, or cheese and cucumber slices
  • Granola and trail mix
  • Yogurt smoothies (bottled or made ahead)
  • Hummus and veggies (a frequent after-midnight go-to for me)
  • Chocolate covered almonds and/or pretzels
  • Soup in a mug
  • Sandwiches cut in quarters

But the centerpiece of my Dewey eats has got to be dad’s spaghetti and sauce. This, more than any other reason, is why I decamp to my parents’ place for the Readathon weekend. Dad’s sauce simmering as I read. Getting up to stir it between chapters. Trying not to get tomato sauce on my book as I read into the night. It’s the best. Ugh, I’m making myself hungry writing this list. Moving on!

A note on caffeine: if you’re going for the all-nighter or close to it, change up your caffeine as you go. Switch it up between coffee, black and green tea. And water, of course.

Find a time and a reading pace that works for you: While the synchronized start time that joins readers in 24 hours of a big, zany international slumber party is a big part of the fun that is Dewey’s Readathon, 24 hours can be a lot to ask from most people’s weekends. While it feels like I’m rejoining the Readathon after a few years being swallowed up at school and work, I never entirely left. Even participating for a few pages or a few Tweets helped me feel part of the community. Some timing hacks that can help:

  • Stop by and say hi on Twitter whenever you can (hashtag #readathon). Dewey coincided with a huge term paper one semester, and having the camaraderie, plus lots of cheering from participants, and roughly the same amount of sleep as they did, made my hard work easier.
  • Start at a different time, or extend it through the week. If your Saturday is booked, so to speak, find a time that works. I’m planning to go to bed a little earlier in the days before and after, to spend some extra time reading for that great Dewey vibe. I’m looking forward to the week after the Readathon almost as much as the event itself, for catching up on participants’ blogs and book recommendations at a more leisurely, less sleep-deprived pace.
  • Give audiobooks a try when you’re out and about. Stories are stories, no matter the medium. (I have to be careful with this one, as a really engrossing tale can make me miss subway stops or walk into things. Your mileage, and coordination may vary.)

I’d also suggest making sure you have a cozy reading cardigan, but I think that might be my librarian bias showing.

However you prepare, and however long you decide to read, have fun with the Readathon!

Thank you sooo much to Elizabeth Willse from Surrounded by Books and @ewillse!

Surrounded By Books

7 thoughts on “Warm-Up: Planning for the Readathon”

  1. A few bonus tips I’m realizing I forgot to include:
    If you can time it right, start your Readathon by reading a book you’ve already been enjoying. It can be easier to continue reading than to start fresh.

    Short stories, essay collections and poetry anthologies are great to have on hand, as well as a good stack of other short, fast reads to change the pace between novels.

    And don’t forget graphic novels!

  2. Andi, I loved reading this! I am not able to do all nighters, but I do listen to audiobooks as much as I can on both days. Have fun this readathon. I have just finished writing in Camp NaNoWriMo and am looking forward to a break. The readathon is a great excuse for that. I need to catch up with what’s on my reading list.

  3. Love the Young Wizards series! I need to get my hands on the New Millenium editions sometime soon…

    Great tips! Thanks for the post!

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