Readathons were something I participated in quite excessively when I first began to dabble in book blogging and making book-related YouTube videos. It is an excellent way for newbie biblio content creators to get more involved for various reasons. However, since I began my shift into multi-topic content (adding anime, mental health, and Asian cinema), my interests in readathons sort of dwindled away. I became far too busy to be able to devote my time to them in the ways that I used to. Nevertheless, recently with the rise of some really fun monthly reading challenges coming along (like the BOTM Summer Challenge I’m currently partying out with) I started to ponder the specifics behind my step away from these community-based activities. My random musings have made their way into this ridiculously long post because I was curious about how y’all feel about readathons.
When it comes to readathons there are a few things that can make them somewhat off-putting, yet the more that I contemplated it, the more I began to wonder: do those frightening or somewhat anxiety-inducing factors supersede the benefits of joining a readathon?
The first readathon that I ever participated in was Genrethon, followed very closely by Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon in 2016. I was a fresh-off-the-computer blogger who was trying to find their passion for reading again, as well as searching for meaning in life after some closing some tough personal chapters. Genrethon felt like a great place to begin because it was hosted by a POC content creator, and I thought it would help me get more acquainted with genres I had never read, or had felt indifferent towards until then. Truth be told, I didn’t read nearly as many books as I had anticipated, but I had so much fun participating, and it helped me start an open-minded journey towards reading from genres that don’t typically interest me (young adult contemporaries, for example).
After I participated in Genrethon, I chronicled my experiences in a rather rookie post where I chatted about the books that I finished and five bits of advice for other people interested in doing something like this in the future. As I read this post now (ah, how far I’ve come with prettying things up), I feel that the vast majority of it is still surprisingly relevant! I’m also shocked at the passion and excitement that I exude while talking about these experiences. Where the hell did that go?
Passion and excitement are one of the main reasons to join a readathon. Whether your interest in reading has been fading in and out, if you’re struggling with slumps and ruts, or if you’re in overdrive with the reading shenanigans. Seeing other people feel as thrilled and pumped about reading books as you are can create all sorts of energetic vibes, which then help us feel happier. If the only point of doing a readathon is to obtain followers or to market yourself—which there is absolutely nothing wrong with that—it can sometimes have some adverse effects, like a poor experience, lead to ruts, or become a negative association if you’re not getting the numbers that you’re anticipating.
A sense of community is another reason to participate. When I began, readathons were super exhilarating to me because of the prospect of content creators who all come together for this event. It didn’t matter if they had 50 followers, 500, or 5,000. For this challenge, we were all equal in our biblio-love. Additionally, it’s an excellent way to build community connections to last a long time.
I know I mentioned above that joining for numbers may not necessarily leave you feeling validated in the readathon experience, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do some networking to make connections that go beyond those numbers. For example, there is comfort that comes from building camaraderie with other creators that can lead to getting advice and guidance when you’re working on discussion posts (more so if discussions make you feel really intimidated); people to do collaborations with (such as creating your own readathon!); and making a friend that is just that: a great friend.
Another way to get a strong sense of community is the engagement that authors take with these sorts of events. For the Ramadan Readathon, the host was able to conduct interviews with many fantastic authors to raise awareness for Muslims, Muslim writers, and Islamic literature. When working with authors, you build more professional-level connections that may help you with establishing yourself as an entrepreneur of the community in some shape or form, if that is what you’re aspiration is (i.e.: sensitivity reading, becoming an author yourself, becoming a literary agent, finding work in publishing, etc.).
Improving reading skills is another marvellous benefit to readathons! A few of the skills you can improve are reading speed, ability to comprehend what you’re reading with more ease, critical thinking, and reading for extended periods of time.
One of the comments that I get a lot on most of my monthly reading wrap-up posts is that I read a shite ton of books. But you want to know a secret? My reading speed is probably average to slow, at best. For some books, I have to mentally translate things into Hindi before I can process them completely, which takes a lot of fucking time, more so if the books are dense. However, if I have extra time, I’ll allow myself to completely get lost in the book and that helps me to focus solely on the act of reading and whatever I am face-deep in. Night-time is when I tend to do this the most as I’m best friends with Insomnia and get sleep very little to begin with.
The reason that I can consume so many books in four to five weeks is because readathons have helped me get better at absorbing the things that I read without the need to translate them all of the time. Just seeing the words and even reading them out loud helped me associate meanings and context to them in English.
Focused reading where I sit still and read for an hour, or even three or four hours, at a time is an ability that came to me with Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon. When you have ADHD, reading for twenty minutes can be challenging, let alone reading for a handful of hours. But this event really motivated me to work through my ADHD so that I can let my body become a whole bookworm without regret. Thanks to these readathon experiences, I can now read for extended periods of time before I get restless or require a change of activity (this has even helped me with writing for a few hours straight).
Supporting important movements and voices, such as the need for diversity in literature. The Ramadan Readathon was an excellent event that helped raise awareness for Muslims in literature, while also providing a platform for Muslims to discuss their struggles in the current social and political climate, and how understanding them as people and individuals is extremely important now more than ever. Another excellent year-long readathon that is going on right now is Year of the Asian Reading Challenge, which is devoted to reading #OwnVoices Asian books, and this is hosted by Asian content creators, all of whom are absolutely wonderful and kind people.
The hardest part about supporting causes that are near-and-dear to my heart is the fact that I don’t have a lot of money. Our household makes enough to survive, but nothing much beyond that. Support doesn’t always have to come in monetary means, though. Sometimes the best way to support something is to talk about it and to uplift others fighting for the same cause. Specialised readathons, like the ones mentioned above, are a wonderful way to do just that, and they aren’t limited to online communities either.
Another more local one that I’m currently participating in isn’t held by content creators at all, but by my local library organisation. The goal is for adults to read as many books as possible during the Summer as a way to inspire and encourage children and kids to find joy in reading with the ultimate hope of decreasing illiteracy within local communities. Adults can also volunteer to read to kids during Summer vacation, donate books, and much more.
Lastly, there is the very simple yet always relevant reason of conquering the towering to-be-read stacks. My TBR stack is taller than Tokyo Tower, and it hasn’t been decreasing due to my recent obsession for checking out library books (something I shall be remedying in July). As bibliophiles, it can be so easy and rejuvenating to get caught up in buying all the books, occasionally even when we can’t afford them. Or, if you’re like me, when you can’t afford to buy them, you maintain a master list that you can refer to for your next trip to the library, bookshop, or book website. Yet, when that list grows like a weed, it can become outrageously overwhelming.
The BOTM Summer Slam has allowed me to tap into my unread Book of the Month mountain. While I’ve only read two BOTM novels so far, it is still two more than I probably would have tackled otherwise. In July, there is another readathon coming up that I hope shall help me dominate my unread fantasy hoard.
So, we have so many great reasons to join readathons, but what about the ones that may prevent you for taking that plunge, or the things that have made you take a step back from them?
The first one that came to mind is that it can be awfully intimidating, more so when you see many people doing it “better than you.” For example, if they have rather ambitious TBRs for those challenges versus your own, and they are blowing through that list faster than you. I remember that I had started to feel a bit daunted by so many fantastic creators who had this ability to read fifteen books in a two-week period, or even a span of seven days when all I managed was four or five. People who read in such quantities also tended to get more engagement on their platforms, which further made me feel as an inadequate member of the community.
Maybe it’s not the volume of books that are being consumed by others, but the challenges themselves. It may require you to read from genres you don’t like. Or—one I still struggle with today—you simply don’t have the books to meet those challenges, so you feel pressured into purchasing them, especially if you don’t have access to local libraries. Whenever I couldn’t purchase something, it caused those already inadequate emotions to heighten further.
Another thing that I have experienced with readathons is excessive burnout. Reading so much can feel quite extraordinary and accomplishing, but it can just as much make us burn the heck out, and not want to look at another book for a few days to even a few weeks, which can then lead to extensive reading ruts to last months at a time.
While it hasn’t occurred for me to that extreme since mid-to-late 2017, maybe early 2018, it’s still something that makes me feel very nervous and anxious about partaking in readathons. Reading ruts also come with their own plethora of frustrations that I would love to avoid if at all possible. If the readathon is a month-long gig, and the burnout occurs early on, it makes me feel depressed for the rest of the challenge. Seeing other people’s updates and their communications can make me feel left out and only further augments those feelings of fatigue and slumping.
Something else that goes hand-in-hand with burnouts (as well as being intimidated) is feeling overwhelmed once you’ve started. I’ve only encountered one readathon, quite possibly the last one that I did back in 2018, where I felt so overwhelmed by the challenges that I stopped less than halfway through it. I knew that if I kept up with it, I’d fall into the worst biblio dry-spell of my life.
Tome Topple is a gig that revolves around conquering 500+ page books in the span of two weeks. That is the only goal for it, but when most of my books already span that length, it can make me feel quite overwhelmed. As a slow reader, it’s a discouraging and depressing notion.
Additionally, you can feel overwhelmed when the hosts of the readathon are less than kind and wholly judgmental with the people who take time to participate (I won’t name the host or the readathon; don’t need to cause unnecessary drama). In these scenarios, the reason I get overwhelmed is because I get caught between my love of reading and wanting to do a community-based event, and getting called out for being agoraphobic (in this instance) or for explaining that diverse books is not a genre (which led to the host blocking me on social media).
The last reason that comes to mind for not doing readathons is another simple one: boredom. Sporadically, I get bored with readathons. The idea of certain ones will appeal to me and make me giddy and enthralled to jump right in, yet after a while the challenges may seem too simple, or too few. Or, very few people are actually engaging with the community via sprints and chats and more. I’ll keep an eye on announcements and TBR posts to see how many people are planning on partying it up. If there’s a decent amount, and if my friends are doing it, I’m more likely to take part because I know I won’t be bored, or the only one tweeting/Instagramming my updates and progress. Being the loner in a gig like this is supremely boring.
To Readathon or Not to Readathon?
I’m sure there are plenty more reasons for both sides that I haven’t touched, but given what you’ve seen thus far, how do you feel? Are you more or less likely to participate in readathon events? Or are you simply indifferent?
As a moody reader and someone that struggles with massive amounts of anxiety on a daily basis, I have learned to take it on a case-by-case basis. I’ll take a look at whatever biblio-challenge is coming up and weigh in on whether I feel it’s worth my time and energy. Who I was in 2016 and 2017 is also vastly different than who I am now in 2019 and because of that my reasonings for setting time aside for readathons requires a lot more consideration. For starters, I’m a lot more fucking busy with being a full-time student and full-time aspiring author (and blogger and cat lover). Also, I’m old and impatient and occasionally prone to random bouts of napping mid-reading sessions. Readathons aren’t always going to be comrades-in-pages, you know?
My personal advice when it comes to readathons is to try it once, if you’ve never done it. It’s an experience that is worth having, and I’m sure on some level you will have mild enjoyment at the very least. Aside from that, make it your own. Don’t let other people’s progresses or notoriety prevent you from doing a thing that sounds like fun. Choose books you want to read and read them at your own, comfortable pace. Also, don’t feel obligated to share you progress. Being a silent partaker is perfectly, 100% okay, and honestly speaking, it’s probably how I shall be handling readathons moving forward. Besides, who can tweet or photogram when you’ve got a book in one hand and a handful of kitty belly in the other? I sure as hell can’t, and I’ll take the cat over that every time. 😉