Friday Links

TGIF!! I hope you had a great week and that your plans for the weekend are even better. For those of you who haven’t heard, there’s a “Make Time to Read” Readathon taking place tomorrow, January 24th, in an effort to raise money for various educational programs through the National Book Foundation, encouraging children to read. People have been setting up to fundraise as individuals or teams for the past several weeks, but you can also make a straight-up donation if you wish, and of course all participants are welcome to read from noon to 4pm tomorrow for the official Readathon. It’s a wonderful cause, so please consider donating a few dollars if you can.

Now on to Friday Links! I’ve got a nice assortment this week, so I hope they inspire you to do a little reading and writing of your own. Enjoy!

Words You Didn’t Realize Come from Books – A fun collection of words and their literary origins.

How to Create a Killer Opening for Your Science Fiction Short Story – If you look carefully, you’ll see you can apply much of this to other types of stories as well.

The Bestselling Books of 2014 – By the numbers. Curious as to how many copies some of the most popular books have moved? This rundown will give you some perspective on the industry.

Cleaning the Dust from the Window – An interesting look at the history of poetry in Russia.

What Makes Jo Walton So Great? – In honor of the release of Walton’s latest book, a compilation of her reviews/literary musings from Tor.com, editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden discusses Walton and her approach to discussing books. A really great analysis of what makes for an intriguing, open ended literary conversation.

10 New Science Fiction and Fantasy Books to Read – A good assortment of stand-alone works that won’t hook you into yet another series.

A Readathon Recap

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.

SpinePoetry

 

Reading in a Busy World

Most bookworms complain at some point or another that there’s just not enough time to read. Lives are busy, work and home and friends and family all clamor for your attention, and many days it’s hard to find a half hour of personal time to devote to the book on your nightstand. Certainly it’s the rare Sunday afternoon when you can sprawl on the couch with a pile of books and a hot drink and while away the hours.

Of course, reading is like writing, in that if it’s a priority for you, you make the time. The hour before bed, the time spent commuting, a book stashed in your desk for your lunch break — these things become sacred and automatic. But what about scheduling a chunk of time for an all-out reading binge? If writers can devote November to writing a novel, can’t readers devote some quality hours to making a dent in their to-read pile?

Reading marathons seem to be popping up around the internet. I’ve spotted a few where readers pledge to read for 24 hours straight, but in my mind that seems too harsh a goal. After all, if you’re looking forward to reading the books, you want to be awake and alert for all of them, not just those you choose for the first hours of reading. But recently I ran across the 24 in 48 Readathon, and that sounds much more appealing — and reasonable — for someone looking to devote a chunk of time to reading.

The premise is pretty straightforward. You choose a 48-hour time period and pledge to read for 24 of those hours. The official 24 in 48 site is currently gearing up for a group readathon the weekend of November 15th and 16th, with the clock running from 12:01 a.m. on Saturday morning through 11:59 p.m. Sunday night (essentially midnight to midnight), and some participants are Tweeting or blogging about their reading as they go. However, you could just as easily pick a couple of days of your own based on your schedule and do a personal readathon.

Once you’ve carved out your 48 hours, curate a stack of books to read, allowing for changes in mood and energy, lay in a supply of snacks and drinks, and be sure you have all the extras that you might need over the course of your reading adventure. Extra light bulb for your favorite reading lamp? Box of tissues for the tear-jerker in the TBR? Fuzzy socks and the blanket your grandmother knitted for you to keep warm when the temperature drops? Then have at it.

Work has forced me to slow down my personal reading again the past few weeks, but of course new books keep showing up in my apartment, so the idea of a catch-up reading weekend really appeals. I’m hoping to clear the decks sufficiently so I can join the readathon on the 15th, and if I do, I’ll Tweet my experiences @NepheleTempest. I hope a few of you can join in, as well. Do check out the 24 in 48 site, especially their FAQ page, for all the details and added inspiration. And whether you have two days or twenty minutes to devote to your TBR, happy reading!