Readathons and Me: Retro- and Prospective

One could say, fairly, that my life has been a continuous readathon, where “readathon” simply means “I spend as much time as possible reading.”

Since official definitions vary, though: for the purposes of this piece, I’m referring to hosted internet events, sometimes themed, that invite readers from across the globe to set aside a specific period of time—anywhere from 24 hours to a month to a year—during which they strive to read as much as possible. They are about encouraging reading and providing support for readers, whether through discussions, book recommendations, or reading parties (virtually or in person).

Participating in readathons reminds me how many of us avid readers there are around the world. It lifts me up and makes me feel joyful, so I’ve been trying to participate in as many of them as possible this summer. In the process, I have, as always, learned about myself, others, and myself in relation to others. Let’s discuss:

Book Junkie Trials

This month-long readathon is organized like a quest, with its own map, a high queen, and three sub-queens. The four hosts oversee teams, goals, and competitions (individual and team-based). I’m still in awe of the organizational effort involved, but it was a little too intense for me.

In the course of participating in this readathon, I realized that I feel inherently uncomfortable with reading being framed as a competitive sport, especially when that competition is team-based, meaning you have no “out,” where you can decide for yourself how seriously you want to take the competitive aspect. Basically, if competition is baked into the architecture of a readathon, it’s probably not for me. I realize competition is a normal part of life, but I don’t find it fun. I find it stressful, and it makes me sad. Especially in a team setting, because if I fail, I take others down with me. That said, if you enjoy competition and creativity, this one will be a real treat for you.

24 in 48

This one is straightforward: Try to read for 24 hours within a 48 period. I’ve not yet managed it, but I’ll keep trying!

Reading Rush

Formerly known as BookTubeAThon, this is a week-long readathon that features a massive organizational effort. It has its own website where you can set up a profile to connect with other participants (and buy merchandise). Though the hosts provide seven prompts, with challenges, winners, and prizes, it’s possible to participate for the community and connection, without getting caught up in the competitive aspect.

The prompts and challenges are fun in themselves. For instance, one asked readers to draw a book character in 30 seconds. I can’t manage much more than a stick figure, but the prompt itself was an interesting exercise, another way of engaging with a book and inviting me to visualize a character. Plus it was inspiring to see others' renderings on social media.

Even though I didn’t get through as many of the prompts as I’d hoped, participating encouraged me to stretch myself creatively. I liked it a lot. Maybe next year, I’ll even sign up on the website.
 
Reverseathon

This is a companion to Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, where you try to read for 24 hours straight, usually beginning at 8 a.m. EST. It’s held in October and April. Reverseathon was at the beginning of August and began at 8 p.m., hence the “reverse.”

I’ve not yet managed 24 hours straight, but that’s never been the point. The hosts do an amazing job cheering readers on, providing fun, thoughtful prompts and personal challenges, and building community across social media platforms. Dewey’s was the first official readathon I ever participated in and is still my sentimental favorite.

MythTake

Now this—THIS—is a readathon after my heart. The focus is on mythology, folklore & fairy tale retellings in fantasy books. The hosts also run a monthly book club, but the readathon began on Aug. 5 and runs through Sunday. A bingo board provides some structure, but again, it’s overall low pressure. Participants are encouraged to do what works for them.

Participating in this one is showing me how much I appreciate loose structure. As with the Reading Rush’s prompts, MythTake’s bingo board provides suggestions without making participants feel like failures if they end up going their own way. So what I’m just realizing is, I’m not looking for my hobbies and social activities to involve lots of rules.

Bout of Books

This is another low-key readathon that runs three times a year for a week. Daily personal challenges invite you to reflect, share, and be enriched. I love it.

NEWTs

Perhaps you caught the Harry Potter reference in the title? Organized and hosted by G of YouTube channel Book Roast, it’s patterned after the wizarding tests at Hogwart’s, with part one (the OWLs) held earlier this year. Participants pick wizarding careers they might like to pursue and then read books according to certain prompts assigned to each class (e.g. Transfiguration, Charms, Care of Magical Creatures, etc.).

Though I’ve not participated in this readathon, I’m mightily impressed with it. G has created pamphlets in the Ministry of Magic style describing various professions, courses “students” would have to pass to enter it, and created prompts to suit each course. I get overwhelmed just imagining participating. Maybe someday, though!

How about you? Do you participate in readathons or want to? If yes to one or both, check out this handy month-by-month readathon calendar!