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Beginner Mistakes to Avoid During a 24 Hour Readathon

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Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

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

I love Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon. It’s been around since 2007, and I’ve participating every April and October for nine of those years. It’s a great way to get to those books that have been gathering dust on your bedside table — and to join in on a worldwide reading party happening on every social media platform! I wax poetic about it every chance I get, but there are some misconceptions about what a 24 hour readathon looks like that I would like to address. I also want to save you some of the mistakes I made in my first few, so here are some beginner mistakes to avoid in your next 24 hour readathon. Might I suggest joining the next Dewey’s on April 24th?

1. An All-or-Nothing Mentality

The number one thing I hear from people when I talk about Dewey’s is: “I couldn’t read for 24 hours!” Whether you work on the weekend, have kids, or just value your sleep, many people — most people — can’t sit still for 24 hours to read. Luckily, you don’t have to! The majority of participants don’t read 24 hours straight. Instead, they prioritize reading during that day. Maybe that means sneaking a few pages on your lunch break, listening to an audiobook together while playing with the kids, or waking up a half hour early to curl up with a book and a mug of tea.

Don’t feel like if you can’t block the whole day off, you can’t participate at all. Also, make sure you take breaks when you need them. In the early years of my readathoning, I used to stay up all 24 hours. It was a fun challenge, and I did get a lot of reading done, but I felt like garbage the next day. The older I get, the worse the next morning feels. So now, I just stay up a few hours later than I usually would, and I let myself sleep when I’m exhausted. I have just as much fun during the readathon! (Psst: most people are asleep in the last hours anyways, so it gets a lot quieter online.)

2. Being Too Ambitious

This one connects to #1: give yourself some flexibility in your readathon day. It’s great to have goals, but don’t be disappointed if you can’t get though War and Peace. Especially for your first few readathons, accept that you might need more breaks or you might read slower than you expected. Also, sometimes life gets in the way, and you unexpectedly have to go on an errand or otherwise interrupt your reading time. Remember: it’s not all or nothing! Enjoy the reading time you do have and the progress you’re able to make, and don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t go exactly as planned.

3. Not Enough Options

Some people read one giant tome the entire readathon. You do you, but that sounds excruciating to me. In my experience, the best strategy is to have a lot of short books to choose from. Even if you’re not usually a mood reader, allow yourself lots of different choices. You feel differently about reading when you’re eight hours into a readathon, and especially if you’re reading when you’d usually be asleep.

I also highly recommend having some different genres and formats at your fingertips. Audiobooks are great when you have to take your dog for a walk to just want to rest your eyes for a minute. Comics can be easier when your eyes are tired of reading just print. Mix up the tone and genre so that you always have something you’re in the mood to read.

4. Not Planning Ahead

It’s definitely possible to have an impromptu readathon, but I really enjoy preparing for one. By planning ahead, I have time to put library books on hold (especially comics) that will be in by the time the readathon starts. I can build my TBR stack with a variety of formats, genres, and styles. Some people make meals ahead of time so that they just have to heat them up on the day. I can also schedule chores and errands around both the readathon day itself and the sleep-in day afterwards. Most importantly, though, my partner and I can go for a snack run the day before, carefully selecting our beverages and munchies for the next day. Which brings us to the next big mistake you can make during a 24 hour readathon.

5. Too Much Caffeine and/or Sugar

Most people’s first instinct when having a 24 hour readathon is to reach for the caffeine. There is definitely a place for that, but it’s easy to get carried away. The biggest thing I try to remember during a readathon is to make sure I’m eating real meals, including some healthy stuff mixed in with the junk food. Snacks are essential for a good readathon, but staying up late mixed with too much caffeine and sugar has left me with a headache and nausea more times than I would like to admit. Especially if you plan to stay up late, make sure you aren’t make yourself sick!

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