Monday, 7 April 2014

What happened when I took part in the #24in48 readathon

This weekend I took part in the #24in48 readathon, a challenge to read for 24 hours in a 48 hour period started by Rachel from A Home Between Pages.

Here's what I hoped to achieve and how I got on:

  • Finish The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – Nope, but I did read another 25% so I’m now 35% through. This isn't even a huge book, I don't know why it's taking so long!
  • Read one book from the Penguin Great Food collection – Nope, opted to read a few shorts from The Devil and Sherlock Holmes instead.
  • Read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell  – Finished! Loved this book so much.
  • Read the May issue of Red cover to cover – Done! And the April issue too, which I didn’t realise I hadn’t read.
  • Start The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and make some serious progress – I’ve started, but I’m only 5% in. Not gripped so far but looking forward to carrying on with it.

In total I read for 20 hours in the 48 hours timeframe, which I’m pretty amazed with. It’s the first time I’ve done anything like this, so I wanted to share some of the lessons learned from taking part.

Eat well – I stocked up on snacks and fruit loaf and cereal but on reflection my diet over the weekend was pretty lacking in nutrients. Reading requires a surprising amount of energy, so next time I’ll be making lots of meals to fill me up and keep me alert. Rachel put a stew in her slow cooker which is a smart thing to do!

Don't stay in bed – Reading in bed is lovely, but it’s not an environment that’s conducive to staying alert and as a result I had quite a lot of naps which made it hard to track my reading time accurately. Get up and find a comfy spot somewhere else in the house, or move around a lot when you start to feel sleepy.

People may not understand – I live with my sister and she did not seem to think that a readathon was an adequate excuse for not doing dishes, not going to the shop and not coming out of my room for hours on end. If you live with people, it might be a good idea to prep them in advance about what you’re doing and why. Get them on board from the start and they’ll hopefully respect your decision. To be fair to my sister, once I’d explained the readathon she was really supportive and even went to buy me snacks.

It's OK to switch books – I don’t normally like to have lots of books on the go at once, but that’s definitely the key to staying interested on a challenge like this. It’s a rare book that can hook you in from page 1 and keep you hooked until the end so if you feel like you’re getting bored try something else for a while. You can always come back!

You might cheat and watch TV – I read two magazines for part of this challenge, but I also watched The Good Wife at the same time so that reading period was really drawn out. I’m still going to count it though!

You will get a bit whiffy and feel like a slob – I didn’t shower because I thought it would take up important reading time but actually I think it would have perked me up a lot. Take a break, air your room out, have a good scrub, lotion up and then get back to the books – that will definitely be my plan next time. I also didn’t leave the house at all during the 48 hours and now that it’s Monday I've got that kind of weird feeling that I was in a bubble all weekend. Which I was. But y’know, taking 20 minutes to go for a walk and get some fresh would have done me the world of good. Also putting on clothes that weren’t PJs.

Don't compare yourself to others – Taking part in the community element of #24in48 was so much fun. I loved seeing tweets about how people were getting on and what books they were reading, but I can see how it could be disheartening to see people finishing books more quickly than you, or LOVING something when the best you can summon for the book in your hands is ‘meh’. Go at your own pace and read what works for you. The readathon isn't a competition, it's not about who can read the fastest and comparing yourself to other readers sucks all the fun out of it.

Don’t pick big books – If those are something you’re really into then go for it, but I got a bit disheartened on day 2 by my slow progress and I think I’d have felt differently if I’d opted to read something shorter. I’d have liked to finish a few books so next time I won't opt for an 800+ page  epic!

Give your brain time to adjust - One of the biggest things I learnt about myself is that I need to take a little break when I've finished reading a book, to digest it and process all of my feelings before moving on to the next thing. Next time I'll take a short break when switching between books so that I can give each one my full attention without thinking about what happened in the previous one.

We value reading more than TV or gaming or the internet – I feel pretty proud to say that I spent 20 hours reading over the weekend, and people have responded well. I don’t feel like there’d be such a positive reaction if I said I watched 20 hours of TV, or spent 20 hours on tumblr, or slept for 20 hours. In reality I’m in the same place, in the same clothes, still doing next to nothing. Just an observation really, but it pleases me greatly that we value books and the written word so much.

Giving yourself permission to do stuff is so refreshing – I really didn't have much of that ‘I’m wasting my weekend’ feeling or that niggle that says ‘You should be doing something productive’ and I think that’s because I gave myself permission to commit to this wholeheartedly. Now I’m wondering what else I could achieve if I regularly told myself ‘You are allowed to do this!’

You will feel a massive sense of achievement in finishing a book in one day – This doesn't happen often for me because I’m not a super-fast reader, so it felt great to pick up a book at lunchtime and finish it before bed. I’m definitely going to schedule more dedicated reading time into future weekends.

I absolutely loved taking part in this readathon, and I’m proud that I managed to clock up 20 hours. I really enjoyed giving myself the time and freedom to do something like this, and I definitely want to do #24in48 again. I also think I’d really enjoy applying the same format to some other activities, most notably writing my book, but also a board game-athon and perhaps even a 24 beers in 48 hours pub crawl.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Joining the #24in48 readathon

I can think of few things I enjoy more than weekends with no plans. I like waking up on the early side of a Saturday with nothing but hours and hours ahead of me which I can fill with reading and snoozing and grazing and possibly a long bath and then some more reading and definitely some more grazing. And mini-eggs. 'Tis the season and all that.

I'm a pretty busy lady, so weekends like this are few and far between but I'm eagerly about to head into one with a few big books on my pile and the desire to get a whole lot of reading done. So I was pretty excited to hear about a readathon challenge to read for 24 hours within a 48 period. The readathon was started by Rachel Manwill from Home Between Pages, and I was even more excited to discover that it happens this weekend. Perfect timing! 

The readathon starts at 12:01am on Saturday 5 April and finishes at 11:59pm on Sunday 6 April. It's up to participants to choose how they divide up the time, but I think I'm going to aim for 12 hours per day and will probably stay up late tonight to get an hour or two in before bed.

Here's what I hope to achieve:
  • Finish The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (currently about 10% in)
  • Read one book from the Penguin Great Food collection (nice and short!)
  • Read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (Obsessed with this author after reading Fangirl last week)
  • Read the May issue of Red cover to cover (I'm not 100% sure if magazines are allowed but I'm going to include it anyway)
  • Start The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and make some serious progress (this is my book club's choice for April)
The closer it gets, the crazier this challenge seems, but I'm pretty determined. I plan to stock up on healthy snacks and tasty treats to keep cooking time to a minimum, turn off my computer and reduce my social media time over the weekend which will really help make this a doable challenge. I've got an exercise bike at home so if I feel antsy I can always cycle (gently!) and read at the same time, or I might even head to the park if the sun comes out.

What do you think? Is this nuts? Will I actually manage 24 hours of reading in 48 hours? Have you ever done a readathon? Will you bring me snacks?

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

My top Longreads in March

Oh hello there longreads lovers! I haven't forgotten about you, but I have been spending a lot of time with my face in books lately. However, every now and then I do manage to digest a few articles, nary enough to justify a round-up post, but with a few weekends away in March I've racked up a hefty selection and so here are my favourites.

Snapshots from a rock ‘n’ roll marriage - Written by the ex wife of Black Keys singer Patrick Carney, this is a heartbreaking look at the little things that are left when two people fall apart.

When “Life Hacking” Is Really White Privilege - HELL YES. This is a very important read if you buy into the whole life-hacking philosophy.

My Life as a Retail Worker: Nasty, Brutish, and Poor - If you've ever worked in retail this will resonate hard. Here one reporter describes his fresh start from the bottom when he loses his job following a scandal.

Meet the seven people who hold the keys to worldwide internet security - This was SO FASCINATING and I couldn't put it better than the writer himself; sounds like sci-fi, actually more like The Office.

The Engineering of the Chain Restaurant Menu - A lovely little look at the user experience of menu design, it's a lot more complicated than you might think!

TV's Crowning Moment of Awesome - In 2008, one man guessed the exact total on Price Is Right. It had never been done before. Was he a fraud, or a genius?

Jennifer Lawrence And The History Of Cool Girls - This was shared a lot but if you missed it please do check it out, lots of useful stuff on the history of women in Hollywood, plus copious J-Law GIFs.

Animal Instinct: How Cat-Loving Sleuths Found an Accused Killer Sadist - Warning, this article contains graphic descriptions of animal cruelty, but it's also a fascinating look at how much a group of concerned citizens can achieve where the police will go no further.

Uber Cab Confessions - One GQ writer goes undercover to discover what's really at the heart of the clients using the popular taxi service. Fair warning for douche bags.

Uber driver accused of assault had done prison time for a felony, passed background check anyways - More scandal around Uber and their lack of action on dodgy drivers.

One-Percent Jokes and Plutocrats in Drag: What I Saw When I Crashed a Wall Street Secret Society - I love gatecrashing pieces. Fair warning for more douche bags.

Live Storytelling Packs a Powerful Punch - I listen to a few storytelling podcasts so this was a great read, which includes the brilliant story of a contest to find Morocco's best storyteller. I'm determined to find some storytelling events to go to in London so if you know of any please let me know.

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators - Some frankly AMAZING stuff in here about fear and imposter syndrome. So, so, so, so true. And again, apologies for the delay in collating this post :)

The Ghostwriting Business - If you have strong feelings about ghost-written books, as I did, I highly recommend this piece which has completely changed my opinion of the practice.

Who Killed the Jeff Davis 8? - Cops, prostitutes, cover-ups - this has all the makings of a best-selling crime novel, except it's real life, and remains unsolved.

In the Beginning, There Was a Nipple - We all remember Janet Jackson's infamous 'wardrobe malfunction', but as it happened on the cusp of the social media boom, it was handled in a very different manner to how it would be today. I don't remember being very interested in the story at the time but this is a really great look at the impact, the outrage and ultimately the injustice of how a moment that lastest nine-sixteenths of a second ruined Jackson's career while boosting Justin Timberlake's.

On Breaking One’s Neck - Er, this is exactly what you'd think, but from the perspective of a physician with six decades of experience, so somewhat enlightening.

Jon Gosselin in the Wilderness - You may or may not remember the reality TV show Jon & Kate Plus 8, but it didn't end well for Jon, who now lives in the woods and works in a restaurant. Or perhaps that's a better thing, I'm not so sure.

Surviving Anxiety - A look at one man's debilitating anxiety and his mission to overcome America's most common mental illness.

Not Here To Make Friends - I shared this recently and I'm sharing it again because this article about unlikeable women in fiction is so great. A nightmare protagonist doesn't make a terrible book, and this has really changed the way I've thought about some of the books I've read.

Wilderness Women - The women in this piece are great and feisty and HARDCORE, taking on Alaska's wildest competition.

The internet mystery that has the world baffled - A mysterious organisation has been settling code-breakers around the world cryptic challenges for the past two years. A duck is involved. Nobody seems to know the truth. ACE.

So there we go, that should keep your non-fiction fans topped up for a while. See you next month!