The October 17th Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon offers a great opportunity to block off large portions of time to devote to flipping as many pages as possible (and avoid housework). Sure, you could dig your heels into some great doorstopper and read something huge and epic and awesome like Man Booker Prize winner A Brief History of Seven Killings or that-book-everyone’s-talking-about, A Little Life.
But the Readathon also offers you a 24-hour window to read as many books as possible. You could read one book in 24 hours. Or you could read two. Or three. Or six. Or more. Racking up numbers of “read” books onto your Goodreads annual reading challenge is one benefit, and there’s also nothing like the momentum of accomplishment to propel you through the rest of your reading year.
With the quest to finish as many books in mind as possible, check out these four types of books you can read in a short amount of time, along with some recommendations of what to add to your TBR list for the October 17th Readathon. I find it’s best to vary up your choices, so pick and choose amongst these categories as you like.
Read Shorter Books
Perhaps this goes without saying, but shorter books are an obvious strategy if you’re goal is to read as many books as you can. The novella—a work of fiction longer than a short story but shorter than a novel—is a good place to start, as are books under 200 or preferably 175 pages.
Some recent favorites include:
Neil Gaiman’s Coraline: Though designed for a younger audience, Gaiman’s novel is complex, following a curious and bored young girl down the proverbial rabbit hole and into an alternate universe in which she has another set of parents and creepy, delightfully fantastical things happen. It’s a bit like Alice in Wonderland mixed with Gaiman’s macabre magic, and you’ll never look at buttons the same way again. There is also a graphic novel version. 162 pages.
Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic: Otskua’s novel, told in first person plural perspective, follows Japanese women who were shipped over to America in the early 20th century to be wives to Japanese Americans. Otsuka’s powerful prose is lyrical and detached, describing the immigrant experience and how these women coped with marrying husbands sight unseen, assimilated into American culture and society, and raised children of their own. 144 pages
Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation: VanderMeer’s Annihilation won the 2015 Nebula Award and the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award. The first novel in the Southern Reach trilogy, Annihilation introduces an all-female team of scientists and explorers trying to study the isolated Area X. All efforts to explore this area have ended in failure, or worse, as other teams have never returned. In sparse prose, VanderMeer describes the bare minimum with his unreliable narrator, the botanist, offering a very selective account of what happens when everything goes to hell. This creeping, understated technique lets you make up your own mind about what’s real and what’s not. 195 pages.
Read Graphic Novels and Comics
A couple times a year I binge-read graphic novels and comics. Especially if you’ve been reading straight prose for a while, graphic novels are a nice way to mix things up, and, for the purposes of a timed reading challenge, rack up numbers on your “read” tally.
Here are a few of my favorites:
Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods: These interconnected vignettes about the supernatural are all set in the forest, and the woods creeps into the narrative in some way. Carroll’s comics collection is atmospheric, her lines bold and messy but controlled chaos. I usually describe this graphic novel, perfect for a cold day in October, as a cross between Brothers Grimm and Tim Burton but with a health dose of Scary Stories horror. 208 pages.
Mariko and Jillian Tamaki’s Skim: Skim follows Kimberley “Skim” Keiko Cameron and her life as a Goth teen at an all-girls private school. Tamaki’s novel perfectly encapsulates teenage ennui, boredom, and self-conscious attempts at individuality and romantic pursuits. Skim’s disaffected voice sounds as if she’s trying on being jaded and cynical, but it also is poignant and laced with a dark humor. 143 pages.
Joelle Jones’ Lady Killer: Jones’ Lady Killer was my top pick for September 2015, and it is one hell of a trip. Protagonist Josie Schuller lives as two different women: housewife and devoted mother by day and lady assassin by night. When her employer tries to take her out, Josie assembles other assassins and tries to outsmart him. With a retro art style and a biting wit, Lady Killer is a new feminist comic getting lots of attention. 138 pages.
Read Verse Novels
I definitely underestimated the first novels in verse that I read, not believing that they could stand up to traditional prose novels. Well, I’m happy to say I was wrong. Not only are verse novels generally a quick read, they are also just as valid a way to tell a story.
Here are three verse novels that I feel do a particularly good job at telling a story in verse form.
Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming: National Book Award and Newbery Honor winning Brown Girl Dreaming is a beautiful coming-of-age memoir in verse that follows Woodson’s childhood split between the Jim Crow South and the North. As Woodson grows up alongside the Civil Rights Movement, we get to see it through her eyes. The memoir also traces her early ventures into writing poetry and the people who encouraged her along the way. 337 pages.
Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth: Many verse novels are written for or marketed to younger audiences, so it is not very common to get one that is strictly for adults. Barlow’s novel in verse is definitely for an adult audience. Tracking a werewolf outbreak in L.A., Sharp Teeth focuses on a dogcatcher and the female werewolf he is infatuated with, and it also touches on drug war culture and urban crime. 312 pages.
Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover: This Newbery Award-winning verse novel is told in 12-year-old Josh Bell voice as he and his twin brother navigate life on and off the court as the two best basketball players at their school. What I love about Alexander’s novel is how visual the verse is, with text that mimics the action in a basketball game. The internal rhythms of Bell’s play-by-play of the distance growing between him and his brother, his reaction to his female classmates, and the alarming health crises his family faces build for a gripping read. 240 pages.