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.


  1. Well done - I managed about 20 minutes this weekend, so 20 hours sounds amazing! In my defence we were away with extended family so were doing lots of quality family time type stuff, so I didn't feel too bad at my lack of weekend reading!

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