I Tried A Read-A-Thon And It Didn’t Work For Me

Every once in awhile you get a glimmer of excitement and hope that you can accomplish something far greater than you. You see other people do it and the motivation it gives you makes you want to jump right into their shoes and try to conquer those same hurdles. You’re hearing the soundtrack to Chariots of Fire and you go and you make a plan.

What is this great plan, you may ask? How about trying to read as many books as you can in a two-week span.

Recently, I noticed that my reading time has been getting faster and faster. With a fast reading time means that you can get more done in the spare moments you have to pick up a book. I decided that I would challenge myself to a little read-a-thon.

Read-a-thons are usually a 24-48 hour time period set for pure reading. You don’t run errands and you don’t cook yourself a proper meal. You try and read as much as you can in the time allotted. Some people go for big goals with five or six books in the short period. Others go for a more casual jog across books. The pace is up to you but the objective is the same; read as much as you can in 24-48 hours.

I decided to approach this differently. Since I don’t normally have time to sequester myself to my bedroom and read until the sores on my back keep me from getting up, I decided I would challenge myself differently. In mid-October, I noticed that I had two more weeks and three more books to get through. I knew my challenge would be to read those three books in the two-week time span.

Because I work a full time job and have other reading/writing obligations on the side, finding time to read is super hard for me. I read when I’m on the train commuting to work and I can’t be bothered on weekend mornings until I’ve read at least for two hours. The little bits of time I had available never added up to 24 hours, so I decided I was going to use every single moment I’m not on my phone or at work or writing up a piece to read.

It was two weeks away from the end of October. I had The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I wanted Neil Gaiman’s book to be my Halloween read; the one that would celebrate the spooky holiday. I was prepared to do everything in my power to make the most of my read-a-thon. I even announced it on my Instagram to keep me accountable. I was so hopeful.

Sadly, it didn’t turn out that way.

It took me six days to finish The Rules of Magic. I felt like I had some good momentum and it took me a little longer than I would have liked to finish this book. I then started reading Beloved, which was a reread and a scary one for me. However, I found myself struggling through the story because it wasn’t really grabbing my attention this time. It ended up taking five days to finish this book.

By October 28, I was ready for my final book of the month. I would read Neverwhere right through Halloween and give me the spooky feeling every Neil Gaiman novel gave it. It’s a spookiness that was also a little magical. However, I didn’t expect then changing moods of the season to affect me.

My hours getting longer and I was spending more time at work before heading home. Work was getting stressful leaving me with little motivation to do anything on the train other than listen to music and decompress. Let’s not even get into how the days were getting shorter and shorter. I found myself waking up before the sun rise and trying to keep my poor eyes open while Door took Richard on epic adventures in London Below.

As my eyes shuttered closed on my mornings and evenings home from work, I almost feel like I disrespected Neil Gaiman for not giving his first novel the devotion that any other reader would have given it. Even before I finished the book I told myself I would try and read it again. I felt like Neil Gaiman deserved that much. When I woke up and finally finished his book, it was already November 4th.

Any other person might consider this time span to be enough time to read these books. I gave it the two weeks before the end of the month to try and read three books. It may not seem like a big deal, but it kind of was. I’m the kind of person who gets upset if I miss a deadline and worry my brains out when I’m almost there and not quite ready to be done.

While I wish this experience was fun, what I found was an obligation I wasn’t willing to fill. This is a huge issue because being forced to read a book when I don’t feel like it almost felt I was back in high school. I’m obligated to read and write a report about this book, but I really want to have a snack and watch the rest of a show I was interested in.

Another issue I found with read-a-thons was that I’m reading as much as I can in a little time period. I’ve read 800-page novels in nine hours because the story captured me and took me along for the ride. I couldn’t stop myself from reading those books, but when you’re putting goals on reading, it almost feels like the goal is to beat your time, not read your book.

Also, what happens to the story after it’s been shoved into your head? Without time to digest my novels and reflect on what I read, I felt like I was just dumping info in and then dumping it back out. I found it hard to discern what I read and which book I read it from. “Oh, the girls who can do magic were kidnapped and forced to fight a magical boar in London’s underground.” That’s definitely not any of the stories I read those weeks.

For fiction, it’s an immersive experience. Like watching a movie in a dark theater, your immersion into a novel is on par with feeling like you’re inside a dream. The book hangover is a direct result of this as you find it difficult to try and discern what is your imagination and what is your reality. It’s a treat when you read something and it makes you reflect. It means that the book did something for you.

I know that some people are able to read a ton of books and remember every detail. However, for me, I found the read-a-thon to be a pretty difficult task. This goes double for someone who finds a ton of enjoyment and escapism in reading a book. I wish that I could remember more or digest books quickly, but I guess I’m not that kind of reader.

What are your thoughts on read-a-thons? Have you done one? What did you think?

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Simone Jung: Simone is a reader and a writer of all things bookish. When she's not working at her day job, she spending her nights following the rabbit hole of good reads. She's an advocate for diverse reads, but she also loves a good thriller, a romantic meet cute, a coming-of-age story, a historical drama, and the everyday mishaps of life.