A couple of weeks back, I blogged about the difficulty of finding sufficient time to read, to really sit down and get lost in a book for hours on end the way you might have as a kid, or as an adult on a lazy, beach vacation. Opportunities for more than a snatched half hour seem minimal, between work and family and all the other things populating our lives. And so, this past weekend, November 15-16, I participated in the 24 in 48 Readathon, the goal of which was to spend 24 hours reading over a 48-hour period.
I’ll admit I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull it off. Normally I spend part of my weekend working, so it took a bit of midnight oil over the week to get to a place where I felt I could take the time off, and ultimately I did sneak a couple of work tasks in on Saturday afternoon. As a result, I read for about 22 hours instead of 24, but I’m certainly not going to complain.
So how did I do it? First, I decided that despite living in California, I was going to do the challenge “live” on east coast time, since the organizers of the event were in New York. That way I could participate in all the challenges they set up and be more or less in sync with them as they blogged, Tweeted, etc. Also, that meant that I’d finish the challenge at 9pm Sunday my time, rather than midnight, and actually get to bed at a decent time (at least theoretically). Then I gave myself permission to ignore chores. Dishes got rinsed and shoved in the dishwasher, but beyond that I ordered take out instead of cooking, left the Sunday paper sitting outside my door all day, and so on.
Friday night I settled on the couch with a stack of pre-picked books on the coffee table, a glass of iced tea, my laptop (for Tweeting updates and checking challenges), and a notebook for tracking time started and stopped. Then I got down to reading.
Over the course of the weekend, I’m pleased to say I read three complete books, half of a fourth, a short story, and several essays. My “big read” was Tana French’s IN THE WOODS, the first title in her Dublin Murder Squad series, which I’ve had on the TBR list for ages and I knew, based on the recommendations of so many people, I would love. It’s not a hugely long book, but over 400 pages in trade, with smallish print, so I read it in chunks and broke it up with some nonfiction as the weekend progressed. In that way, I also read Peter Ackroyd’s LONDON UNDER: THE SECRET HISTORY BENEATH THE STREETS, a fairly short history of the city’s underpinnings, including relics from Roman times, the water and sewer systems, the building of the Underground, and the tunnels where the government lurked during WWII; and Peter Mendelsund’s WHAT WE SEE WHEN WE READ, which is all about how the words on the page translate to images in our mind, and includes some fabulous graphics and illustrations. My partial read was NEVER LET ME GO by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I look forward to finishing, but of course, having returned to the real, non-readathon world, I have not picked up since Sunday night. I also read the title short story in BOBCAT AND OTHER STORIES by Rebecca Lee, and the first several essays in Roxane Gay’s BAD FEMINIST.
The result of my reading binge? I feel human again. Like my truest self. I’ve always loved to read, and this weekend just served to remind me how important it is to my general well-being and happiness that I get some time periodically to read books purely for pleasure, of my own choosing, with absolutely no relation to the books I read for work purposes. It didn’t hurt that I knew a bunch of like-minded folk were busily reading at the same time, all over the globe, coming together periodically to announce they’d finished another book, or to take funny photos for the readathon challenges.
If you’re interested in the details of the readathon, do check out the Tumblr or check the #24in48 tag on Twitter. And I’ll leave you with my contribution to one of the weekend challenges — Spine Poetry. The idea was to choose several books and stack them so their titles read one after another became a short poem.