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12 Things That Happen When You Read for 24 Hours Straight

Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon is–well, self-explanatory for the most part. It takes place every April and October, and it is a huge internet book party! I love it! (Unsurprisingly, because I’ve written about it a bunch.) There is a misconception about the readathon I’d like to address, though. For some reason–who knows why!–people seem to think you have to read 24 hours during the 24 hour readathon. You can, of course! But you can also just read as much as you want to. I’ve stayed up the full 24 hours before, though I did take breaks during a few of the hours. I usually regret it, though. Here is my experience of reading for 24 hours:


1) I Wake up exhausted

And promptly have Tegan and Sara stuck in my head. The readathon in my time zone starts at 5 am, which is perfect, I think. 5 am is still a “morning” time to wake up at, and going to sleep at 5 am feels like just a very late night. I don’t know how the readathoners who end up with afternoon to afternoon readathons do it. But despite how excited I am the night before, I can be excited about nothing at 5 am, and I instantly begin to grumble about having to be awake while reaching for my book.

2) I become, temporarily, a morning person

It’s surprisingly easy to settle into my book once I get up. (I like to have a book already on the go so I’m not trying to learn new names while half asleep.) Then, after a little while, I watch the sun rise while everything is so peaceful, and I wonder why I don’t wake up early and read every morning.


3) I revel in snacking

After the uncomfortably early part of the morning has passed, it’s time to really dig into the snack supply. I get to rediscover all the tasty treats I’ve squirreled away for the day!

4) I become aware that reading for 6 hours straight feels totally normal

Once I get into the groove of the readathon, I’m amazed at how easy it is to just keep reading for hours. In my general life, I sneak in a hour or two of reading when I can (if I can) in the day, but I rarely binge read. By the quarter mark of the readathon, though, it doesn’t even feel like a challenge.

5) i can read forever

By somewhere around the halfway mark of the readathon, I am convinced I can read forever. This is not a challenge. 24 hours? Ha! I’m not beginning to slow down! If I didn’t have to work, I’d read 24 hours every couple days! I’m a reading machine!!


Whenever I start to feel like I’m slowing down on the reading front, I throw myself into the online component of the readathon! It’s so fun to see a celebration of reading happening all over the internet! I like to cheer people on, both on twitter and tumblr, and follow some blogs that are participating. Everyone shares pictures of their snacks and books, and we all compare notes on our book choices! So much fun!

7) I get nauseated

My snacking enthusiasm always get out of hand eventually. Pair that with any combination of: sleep deprivation, too much caffeine, and failure to eat an actual meal between snacks, and I start to feel pretty sick getting into the 3 quarter mark of the readathon. I can usually stave this off with some bland food and or a snack break, but it’s at this point that the sleepiness catches up with me.

8) I’ll just take a quick nap

Once the sleepiness begins in earnest, I start to bargain with myself. If I’m really going to make the full 24 hours, I can’t push through if I’m going to feel this tired. I’ll just take a quick, 20 minute nap, and then I’ll be ready to read the next 4 hours.

9) I wake up groggier than Ever

The nap was a terrible idea. I wake up even sleepier, somehow, and feeling somehow resentful about getting up, even though I’m only doing to myself.

10) I get super picky with books

(Yes, obviously Picard is my readathon patronus.) Though I’ve been racking up a stack of finished books by this time in the readathon, all carefully selected beforehand, no books seem to capture my attention at this point in the readathon. I start tossing books aside after a few pages, looking for one that will stick.

11) I begin to maybe hallucinate?

One fun thing to do in the late hours of the readathon is to read something really weird. At that sleep-deprived state, it starts to feel way too real. At this point, I enter into a strange trance-like reading state. I’m still super sleepy, but I’ve lost any annoyance with staying awake. This is my life now. Sometimes I pace the room while reading to stay awake.

12) I collapse into bed And resolve to only read 18 hours next time

The first thing I do at the 24 hour mark is celebrate my page count and books finished, and then I collapse into bed (my new favorite place in the world). I haven’t had a time where I stayed up 24 hours that I didn’t think “This was fun, but I wish I stopped a little sooner.” Everyone’s limits are different! Some people can pull all-nighters no problem, but I just can’t do it at this point.

If you want to participate in the 24 hour readathon, don’t stress about staying awake the whole time! Just do what makes it fun for you, whether that’s only squeezing in a few hours around the rest of your schedule, taking breaks for naps, making it a 12 hour readathon, or lasting the whole 24 hours! As much as I usually regret it, I’m planning on lasting the full 24 again this year. (Maybe with some naps.) My partner wants to make it to the finish line, so I’ll be joining him–sleep-deprived, nauseated, and bizarrely proud of my accomplishment. (If you’d like to follow my journey through these 12 stages, I’ll be live tweeting @DanikaEllis!)

Have you read for 24 hours straight before? What did you think of it? (Or is that just a regular Saturday?)