October 2014

Warm Up: The One-Book Read-a-Thon Stack

Whenever the Read-a-thon is on its way, I see people posting photos of their heaping stacks of books. I see reader advice telling people they must accumulate a pile of choices. And I feel a little out of step because more often than not, my Read-a-thon pile is small. Just one book.

I’ve always loved long, immersive novels. A book of seven hundred pages or more is no big deal. I can get lost in a book that long, and getting lost in a book is the very best reading experience. But how to find time to read these books when I’m snatching an hour here and an hour there? It can take weeks. What better way is there to make tremendous progress on a big book than to spend a day with it?

I’ve tried the more typical Read-a-thon approach of building a stack of books and getting through as many as possible, but it’s nowhere near as satisfying as spending the say immersed in one world. For me, it takes time to get absorbed in an author’s world, and making that transition several times during the day leaves me feeling scattered and unsettled.

Building a one-book Read-a-thon stack is not as simple as choosing a single book and sticking with it. You have to be thoughtful about your choices. So here are a few tips for choosing a good book to spend the day with.

  1. Stick with an author you like. Some of my best Read-a-thon experiences have been with favorite authors. Stephen King’s 11/22/63 was an especially good choice because he’s an author I almost always enjoy.
  2. Choose something with lots of plot. A long meandering character study may not have the forward momentum to keep you going. This is also probably not the time to finally get around to Infinite Jest.
  3. Be attentive to type size. The year I read The Count of Monte Cristo was tough because the book’s type was so small that my eyes tired out easily. Ever since, I’ve tried to select books with a nice large type and plenty of white space on the pages.
  4. Ignore “books read” totals. This is good advice for everyone, really. The first time I read a single book for the Read-a-thon, it was discouraging to see people knock out three short books when I’d barely read a fourth of mine. I had to constantly remind myself that my book 750-page classic with smallish type was the equivalent of 5 or 6 short YA novels with large type and generous white space.
  5. Have a back-up plan. Sometimes your one book just won’t work. Your eyes will get tired or your interest will flag. In that case, I generally avoid starting an entirely different novel, but I will sometimes take a break with a graphic novel or comic, a short story or essay, or perhaps a few poems. If the book is a total failure and I know I won’t finish it, then I feel free to start something else. So far, I haven’t had to do that, but I always have a back-up choice or two in mind.

Is there a nice, long book on your TBR list? Why not make it your Read-a-thon stack this year?

Thanks to Teresa from Shelf Love for this awesome post to kick us off! 

17 thoughts on “Warm Up: The One-Book Read-a-Thon Stack”

  1. This is really good advice. I’ve done the readathon for a few years now, and I almost always get discouraged about halfway through the day when I haven’t finished 1 book and see people plowing through four or five! My best readathon memory, honestly, is when I read most of Patrick Ness’s Monsters of Men, the last of his Chaos Walking trilogy. I was completely immersed, the hours flew by, and I remember emerging sometime around hour ten feeling blissfully drugged. ????

    I’ve been wanting to sit down and devote some time to The Golem and the Jinni — I think I’ll use the readathon as the chance to!

  2. That’s a good idea, but I’d have such a hard time finding this one good long book that will keep me interested hours at a time ! I’ll try to think of one for another time, for now the long books in my tbr are of the harder-to-read persuasion 🙂

  3. I think people should read exactly what they want and as many as they want. Last year I heard someone say “Oh I have been reading five books by now!” and we were only 4 hours in. And that does sound amazing but people often “forget” to tell which books. In this case it was four children books with a lot of pictures and one humor book with a little over 100 pages but very short stories, sometimes two on one site. It’s still books and reading but it’s just not as “impressive” as if the person have read 5 classics, can you follow me?

    I have tried being a part of this and read as much as possible. I read 4 YA books, about 1000-1200 pages in total I think. But it wasn’t the best way to read for me, it was just “too much”. Last time I only read one book and started a new one, but instead I talked a lot to other people and that worked way better for me. 🙂

  4. I love this. I have a smaller stack for myself than usual, but still a stack… but I am also about 200 pages into The Count of Monte Cristo, so may well just end up reading that all day if the mood strikes me.

    I keep the stack so I don’t get overwhelmed by ALL THE BOOKS, but so that I have something to suit my mood (I’m a chronic book polygamist), but often end up reading only one or two books all day, depending on length and difficulty. The advice to avoid comparing your total books read to others is excellent!

  5. As soon as I read your post I thought, oh yes, 11/22/63 would be a perfect one day read, it has the fast paced plot and the you could really get sucked in to the story, I read it in quite an intensive period because it was so hard to put down. I tend to have three or so, more because sometimes i start something and it doesn’t live up to expectations and I don’t want to have to slog through it, but I think too much choice just makes you drift from book to book. I have Americanah which I think I might save for the day.

  6. I get what you mean about having to immerse yourself in a new world very quickly when reading shorter books in succesion. I always think picking a gripping series would be great for readathon – same characters and world but still that sense of achievement from reading more than one book.

    I’m not sure there’s a single really long book I’ve felt absolutely needed all those pages though, so I’ll be sticking to my shorties. But I do think it’s important not to focus on what everyone else is doing but to have fun! 🙂

  7. I like the “make a giant stack” approach, but I think I did once dedicate the entire thon to just reading “The Stand” by Stephen King. The uncut version. That sucker is HUGE.

  8. Thanks for the advice, Theresa!
    It’s the second time I participate, so I think I’ll try to read only one long book and see if it works for me 🙂

  9. So interesting. I am, right this moment, writing up a post about how I love to have a lot of shorter books to read on readathon day. I take the opposite approach but I can see exactly why reading one big book is a great idea as well 😀

  10. This is a really neat idea. I have about four short books on my TBR pile next right now, but I may do this for the spring read-a-thon. I also like using the readathon to take car of kindle books I often neglect. Mostly because I don’t have an ereader so I read on my computer which is much slower than if I had an ereader I could just grab quick. I have jumped on board with the ebooks enough to own an ereader yet.

  11. I love the idea of the one book pile. Im sure for most there is a book out there that seems daunting to read over weeks and weeks without interesting waning. I have a couple that I might consider and may even go for the whole one book thing.

    Great post 😀

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *