Jo Talks Books: Why Read-A-Thons Don’t Work For Me

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all been doing well since my last one of these. I’ve made it through week one of Stirling’s local lockdown, so just two more to go and then hopefully we’ll be back down to Tier 3 once it’s over!

Today’s topic is something I planned to talk about for a while, but I’ve never got around to it and that is read-a-thons. A staple of the Book Twitter community, it feels like every few months or so, some new read-a-thon challenge is announced where book bloggers aim to read as many books as they can over a certain period, from 24 hours, to a weekend, to a week sometimes.

I certainly get the appeal of this idea, it always looks like a lot of fun and I do love the sense of community that comes from everyone reading for a specific goal at the same time. I also get it from a logical perspective: we all have massive TBRs, a lot of book bloggers have pretty large challenge goals as well and being able to tick a load of books off both things is certainly appealing.

However, I’ve found that for me personally, read-a-thons do not work. I tried the Bout-of-Books Read-A-Thon back in 2015, where you were supposed to read as much as you could during a week. I deliberately put my goal very low and said I just wanted to finish my current book, or if I didn’t, then make it halfway through. I did get over halfway through the book, and the read-a-thon was meant to be low pressure, but even so, you certainly find yourself feeling a little bad when you don’t even manage to finish one book for a read-a-thon and other people have read like five books in a week.

Later in 2015, I tried again. This time it was the Make Me Read Read-a-thon, another week long read-a-thon where the aim was to read as many books as possible. I had a list of eight books to potentially get through (knowing I would probably only make it through one) but alas, I was going through a pretty major reading slump in 2015 (it was my worst reading year ever between A-Levels and starting Uni) so I didn’t even make it to the end of the first book I was reading (A Court of Thorns and Roses).

I came to the conclusion after this, that I just wasn’t the type of reader that read-a-thons worked for. Yes there were extenuating circumstances in 2015 that meant I didn’t read as much as I would have done in any other year (exams, starting a new job, going to Uni), but I’ve also realised over the years that I am not the kind of reader that read-a-thons work for.

For one thing, I am a slow reader. It has taken a while to accept this, I was always a pretty speedy reader when I was young, but over the years, my pace has definitely slowed. It takes me an average of about two weeks to finish a book, and could be anywhere up to a month if the book is long or I’m not really into it. This can be less if I’ve got a lot of time or the book is very short, but in general, it’s quite rare for me to finish a book within a week. It’s unheard of for me to finish a book in one sitting, no matter how short it is, I think my shortest read time was maybe 3 days for a less than 300 page book? This is fine, I’ve accepted that I’m never going to be the finish a book in a day kind of reader, but it does mean that the whole concept of read-a-thons in general are kind of lost on me, as read as much as you can in a week or a weekend, will probably just be a few chapters!

I’m also super competitive. Now this shouldn’t really matter for a read-a-thon, as you’re not competing against anyone, just reading as much as you personally can, but even so, watching other people read a lot more than me in that kind of situation makes me put a lot of pressure on myself to try and read more and that makes reading less fun for me? I don’t want reading to be a pressurised thing and for me, personally, I have found read-a-thons in the past to be quite a lot of pressure. I mean potentially a month long read-a-thon might be better for me in that respect, but generally I don’t like there being any kind of timeline put on when I finish a book because I tend to find I rush then and don’t enjoy it as much. This is why yearlong challenges like the Goodreads Challenge, or the #RockMyTBR Challenge which I do every year work better for me, there’s a certain level of competitiveness with myself which I enjoy as I obviously want to work to meet my challenge goal, but it’s over a longer period of time, I don’t feel like I have to rush to squeeze all my reading into a short window and I can put my challenge up and down as I see fit. It’s relatively low level pressure and that kind of longer, lower stress challenge works much better for me.

Granted, the only year I tried doing read-a-thons was a year when I was feeling slumpy so I might feel differently if I tried one again, but that brings me to another point why read-a-thons don’t work for me. I wouldn’t call myself a mood-reader in that I need to be in the mood for certain books and I can’t pre-plan my reading at all, but my mood definitely impacts how much I read. Read-a-thons don’t necessarily allow for that flexibility, so if a read-a-thon happens to fall on a week, or a month where for whatever reason, you’re not in the mood to read, then you’re automatically not going to do particularly well.

Read-a-thons mean that everything feels kind of scheduled, and I just don’t personally like that? I do like having some structure built into my reading, that’s why I do my #RockMyTBR Challenge every year, but I also like some flexibility if that makes sense? I want to be able to put down a book if I’m not feeling it, I don’t want to say I’m finishing this book at this particular time and doing a read-a-thon makes everything feel kind of rigid and stuck, like you have to stick to a plan and I’m just not that kind of reader, I like things to be a bit more flexible.

I’m also not the kind of person that will sit down and read for a whole day? Don’t get me wrong, I love reading, and I can sit and read for hours, but generally I do like to break things up and go and do something else as well. In general (ie not this year because my reading patterns for this year don’t reflect my usual reading patterns!), I read in the evenings before I go to bed for about an hour, and then also whenever I’m on public transport, which is usually quite a lot as I used to get the bus into work. So I wouldn’t necessarily sit and read and do nothing else for the whole day and it feels like to do well at read-a-thons that’s what you kind of have to do? I could be wrong about that, but generally that seems to be the expectation and I don’t want to feel guilty if I’m doing things other than reading.

I do love the creativity of read-a-thons, I love how many different themes there are and you can really tell how much effort goes into running them and I love seeing all the different discussions that people have about them. I also love seeing the whole book community coming together for a common goal. However I’ve learned for me that read-a-thons are better appreciated from the outside than within!

What do you think? Any big read-a-thon fans out there? What do you like about them? Anyone else like me and find that read-a-thons don’t work for them? Let me know in the comments!

Next month’s post will be my round up of year 3 of my Bechdel Test reading experiment. In the meantime, my next post will be my regularly scheduled Top Ten Tuesday post.

6 thoughts on “Jo Talks Books: Why Read-A-Thons Don’t Work For Me

  1. Kristin @ Kristin Kraves Books 30/11/2020 / 5:03 pm

    I love the idea of readathons and I do like to participate in them. In fact, I am doing one that starts tomorrow and ends on Christmas day. That said, I am terrible at them. I am such a mood reader that any sort of pressure to read gets to me.

    Loved this discussion!

    • iloveheartlandx 03/12/2020 / 5:59 pm

      Thank you! Good luck, I hope your readathon goes well 🙂

  2. tabularasablog 01/12/2020 / 6:42 am

    I love this post. I’ve had hit or miss experiences with readathons. Like you, I feel worse when I see others reading a lot more than me – and I can’t pre-plan my reads either. I’ve had “personal readathons” though where I read a set of books within say 24 or 48 hours [and only read for most of those hours] – it doesn’t have the community feeling to it. It’s more like a very mini Goodreads challenge, competing only with myself.

    • iloveheartlandx 03/12/2020 / 5:58 pm

      Thank you! That sounds like something I could probably do too, I don’t mind doing reading challenges, I just like to only be competing with myself. I do a little pre-planning of my reads, but I generally try to be quite flexible and if I’m not feeling something I will absolutely switch it out for something else and readathons don’t really allow for that.

  3. Samantha D. 04/12/2020 / 11:58 pm

    I am the exact same actually. I have tried a few and always “failed” or felt like I failed because I didn’t complete as much as everyone else. Where I think we can strive however are reading CHALLENGES. They can be month long to even year long events which is certainly much more attainable than reading for a bunch of prompts in one week…

    Kayla from Booksandlala has adapted her read-a-thon, Buzzword-a-thon into an optional CHALLENGE format that I am very much looking forward to trying out for the first time. It sounds fun anyway 🙂

    • iloveheartlandx 08/12/2020 / 1:10 pm

      I’m glad I’m not the only one! Yes, I definitely find challenges much better, they feel much more low stress and I can do them over a much longer period of time. Ah that’s cool, I hope you enjoy it 🙂

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