April 2015

Warm Up: Reading on a Theme, a TBR Strategy

Readathon is my Superbowl (#nerdstatus). I’m not a big sports fan, but I can see my sport fanatic friends getting fired up for football weeks beforehand. I may not be planning tailgating, or parties, or placing bets with my buddies for readathon, but I do a fair amount of excited, nerdy prep for the Big Day.
There are two prep activities I enjoy most before the big Read Day: assembling my snackage and making my Readathon TBR. Snackage is an entirely different post, but let’s just say it is not a day for counting calories. Today I’m going to talk about my unique method for assembling my TBR.
Last October, with several Readathons under my belt, I was looking at a way to streamline choosing books for Readathon. I get overwhelmed with choices and end up spending more time flitting from book to book rather than getting my read on. I was at work and in the stacks pulling books for interlibrary loan when I stumbled across a children’s mystery novel illustrated by Edward Gorey (read about my inspiration here). A light switch clicked on in my brain and I decided to “theme” my Readathon and use Edward Gorey as my point of inspiration. It was my best Readathon yet. I read poetry, a classic sci-fi novel, and several of Edward Gorey’s books. It was awesome.
In March I decided to pick my theme for this year’s Readathon: Fairy Tales. My reading list is pretty bangin’.
YA Novels and Novels
Peter and Max by Bill Willingham
White as Snow by Tanith Lee
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Short Stories
The Virago Book of Fairy Tales, volume 1 

Graphic Novels
Fairest, vol 1: Wide Awake by Bill Willingham
Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland by Bill Willingham
The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
Frightful Fairy Tales by Dame Darcy
Below I’ve assembled a list of tips in case you’re interested in creating a “themed” Readathon TBR:
Not too broad
If you’re like me, then you get easily overwhelmed by choice. I want to read ALL THE THINGS. If you pick something too broad it can lead to getting overwhelmed. For example, last fall I could have chosen to read “horror” and had thousands of choices. Sure it will narrow the field a little bit, but be prepared to have some parsing to do.
Not too narrow
Initially I thought I’d spend the April Readathon reading Cinderella stories. I decided that I may get tired of the same narrative arc or worse, get plots confused. Broadening it to fairy tales in general (most of which contain princesses) allowed me have a focused list, but not so narrow as to breed boredom.
Format and Genre Switching
Don’t limit yourself to a particular format (like novels) or a genre (like sci-fi). I guess you can if you really want to, but it is such fun to switch gears throughout the day. My spring list contains fiction, short stories and graphic novels. In the fall I read spooky stuff, children’s books, science fiction and poetry. Mix up classics and contemporary things, shorter and longer works, and get creative. It makes for a really interesting reading experience.
Verb or Noun
My recommendation is to pick a verb or a noun and then go crazy with the interpretation of that word. Here are some examples to show what I mean.
— “Dream” – this could be a noun OR a verb. You could read Gaiman’s Sandman comic, Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingslover, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, and the poetry collection Dream Work by Mary Oliver.
— “Orphans” — Harry Potter (duh) and other children’s books like A Series of Unfortunate Events or Anne of Green Gables, classics such as Jane Eyre and Oliver Twist, and contemporary books like Orphan Train by Christina Baker Cline. Graphic novels? Batman or Spider-man, of course! Non-fiction? Pick a famous orphan to read about or read a book by an author who is also an orphan; it is really easy to Google a list of famous orphans.
Build off of Something you Love
If you like a particular author or book, now may be a great time to explore similar books. For example, if you really love Scout’s voice in To Kill a Mockingbird then look for books with precocious female children. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, the Flavia De Luce series, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, or Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl would all work.
These are just a few paths you can take and there are many more options. I’m seriously considering reading books with birds on the cover or in the title for one Readathon because I could work all the genres in that way. Have fun and let me know if you decide to do this, I’d love so see what themes people create!
Thanks to Amanda from Fig and Thistle for this GREAT idea!

6 thoughts on “Warm Up: Reading on a Theme, a TBR Strategy”

  1. I love this idea, Amanda! Skip that volume of Fables. It’s awful. 🙁 Peter and Max, Boy, Snow, Bird, and Through the Woods are fantastic reads. Now I want to figure out a theme for Saturday.

    Happy reading!

  2. I usually use the fall Readathon to get started on my Advent/ Christmas books. The timing is great to start getting me into the holiday spirit, it also gives me a head start on getting the books read, review and posted for my annual Advent Reads posts through December.

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