This weekend I participated in the #24in48 Readathon. Basically, it’s a challenge to read for 24 hours over 2 days (48 hours). There were even prizes. In fact, I won a doorprize during hour 27. When I told Steve about my plans at supper Friday evening, he told me I totally made it up just so I could have a quiet weekend. Then Joey and Caroline said they wanted to do it too, which made the weekend that much quieter.
People often wonder how bookworms find so much time to read. 24in48 was quite a challenge so I tracked not only how much I read but how I did it.
Ben is detaselling this month, and I have been the one to get up and drive him to the bus every morning. So my reading began around 4 a.m. Saturday with an audiobook. Steve was also leaving early to inspect fields, and he cooks breakfast before he leaves, which takes a bit longer. Thus my first reading chunk was the last 45 minutes of the audiobook Moonglow by Michael Chabon (finished it) and the beginning of The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson. I listened to both via Overdrive which divides the book into files so you only know how much time you have left in the current file vs the entire book as with Audible. So I listened to the last file of Moonglow and the first file of The Almost Sisters for a total of 1:15.
At that point, I had a quiet house all to myself so I switched gears to deep reading per my usual morning routine. I’m currently working on Ambleside Online Year 9 (my oldest is in year 8 so I’m reading ahead). The Charlotte Mason approach to education emphasizes reading in small chunks and going through books slowly in order to digest them properly (vs inhaling them as can be done with lighter works). I read a chapter in The God Who Is There by Francis Shaeffer, a couple chapters in Are You a Liberal? Conservative? or Confused? by Richard Mayberry, and then a bit of Battle of the Books by Jonathan Swift. That took about 45 minutes.
I decided I was hungry and ready to make breakfast so I moved on to Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, which I listened to on the Audible app on my iPhone with my bluetooth earbuds. I’m reading this along with the Close Reads podcast. I read the next chapter so I was ready to listen to the next podcast. But alas! the podcast had to wait until the #24in48 challenge was over. Another 45 minutes tallied.
After that it was time for a shower. I listened to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty on the Audible app with the little speaker Steve brought home from one of his work conferences (the best gift ever!) while I dressed and made the bed. That chapter took about 25 minutes, after which I stopped reading to blow dry my hair.
At this point, Joey and Caroline were up and eating breakfast so I returned to The Almost Sisters with my earbuds while they made pancakes. I had flute choir rehearsal at 9 a.m. Joey and Caroline (ages 10 and 7) had to go along, and since they were doing the challenge with me, we all listened to audiobooks in the car with headphones. It made for a very quiet ride. On the way to rehearsal, I finished one file of The Almost Sisters – another 60 minutes tallied – and switched back to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. I popped my earbuds out right as I walked into the rehearsal room, and then I finished that chapter on the way home for another 30 minutes logged.
Now the only thing that might be worse than getting up at 4 a.m. to get your kid off for detasseling is having to keep checking Facebook to see when they are returning. Each field is different, so they come back at a different time every day, usually somewhere between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. I ate lunch and did some knitting and spinning while listening to three files from The Almost Sisters. Once the return time was posted, I removed my earbuds and read Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge for 20 minutes, bringing up my total so far to 7 hours 35 minutes.
When I left to get Ben, I started another chapter in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. One 25 minute chapter was perfect for driving to get him, waiting for him (return time is always approximate) and then driving back home. After that, I took advantage of a very quiet house to read Green Dolphin Street for an hour and twenty minutes.
At this point, I was starting to tire so I changed to something much lighter – Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris. Each chapter covers one type of error but has many examples, some of them quite humorous. The principles aren’t anything new – like cognitive dissonance – but thinking of them in light of current events makes for good reading. It would soon be time to start supper but it was still quiet so I squeezed in a short chapter from Minds More Awake by Anne White (definitely more serious) to add 15 more minutes to my tally before heading to the kitchen.
I popped my earbuds back in and made supper while listening to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, listening to a second chapter from the same while the kids cleaned the kitchen. That brought my total to 11 hours shortly before 7 p.m. I got ready for bed and read for an hour before turning out the light at 8 p.m. (a necessary hour when rising so early). Since it was quiet, I returned to heavier reading with a couple selections from Ambleside Online Year 9 – a couple chapters from History of English Literature by H. E. Marshall on my Kindle for a half hour followed by listening to a half hour chapter from How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler via Audible.
Stats for the first day: 12 hours with 12 books, of which 8 hours were logged listening to audiobooks. Top three books: The Almost Sisters (about 4 hours) followed by Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Green Dolphin Street (about 2 hours each).
Once again I arose around 4 a.m. and started with an audiobook. I listened to half of a file from The Almost Sisters (30 min) but decided the reading was too light for that hour so switched Ambleside Online readings, beginning with How to Read a Book for about 15 minutes. Then I got really serious and listened to the headache-enducing Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift for 25 minutes. At that point, Ben was gone and Steve wasn’t working so he was still sleeping, meaning I had a quiet house to myself once again. I removed my earbuds and read Battle of the Books for 20 minutes, Minds More Awake for 15 minutes, and made another attempt at Tale of a Tub (this time on my Kindle) for 15 minutes.
I really am not enjoying Tale of a Tub. So I made a dramatic switch and read a 35-minute chapter of the highly entertaining Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me). Just one chapter provided lots of fodder for thought so I stopped and took a shower. I listened to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes while making and eating breakfast then stopped reading to dry my hair. After that, it was listening to The Almost Sisters during the chaos of everyone else eating breakfast and getting ready for church.
Once we returned home, I listened to Smoke Gets in Your Eyes while making and eating lunch. Then I listened to The Almost Sisters on my little speaker next to my spinning wheel while waiting for Ben. I picked Ben up, switched from spinning to plying then back to spinning. I made supper. I stopped listening during supper, at which point I knew I could take a 20 minute break and finish my 24 hours of reading by 8 p.m. while simultaneously finishing The Almost Sisters, which is exactly what I did.
Stats for the second day: 12 hours with 8 books, of which over 10 hours were logged listening to audiobooks. Top book was The Almost Sisters (almost 9 hours) with Smoke Gets in Your Eyes trailing far behind with just a little over an hour.
So how do I find time to read so many books every month? A few key observations.
I tackle the tough books first thing in the morning while I’m at my best (yup, morning person here). As the day progresses and my ability to focus wanes (both to fatigue and the amount of chaos in a home with three kids), I switch to lighter books. Even then, there are times when the house is quiet and I can read slower, deeper books like Green Dolphin Street. There are also times when I’m just tired and need something light and entertaining, such as Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) [that title makes me laugh every time I see it]. I also read more serious books during the week and lighter books on the weekend just to keep things fresh.
I love reading books on my Kindle. I love that I have all my books at my fingertips which means I don’t have to remember where I left a book, much less get up to retrieve it. I love that I can just close it and it remembers right where I stopped (which can lead to problems when reading hard copies…). I love that I can read in bed without doing acrobatics to hold the book open so I can see it. And I so love that it tells much how much time I have left in a chapter (this really helps me stay focused rather than counting – and recounting – how many more pages are left in the chapter and calculating – and re-calculating – how much more time it should take to finish).
My Kindle also tells me how much time I have left in a book (not just the current chapter) as well as how long the typical reader spends reading a given book. I’ve learned that it takes me about 80% as long as the typical reader to read a book while audiobooks take 2 to 3 times as long to listen to as to read. Therefore I only listen to audiobooks which I think make a book better than it would be if I just read it myself. It goes without saying that I do not bump up the speed on audiobooks just to get through them. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Also, if I really want to pay attention to a book or if it is particularly challenging, the perfect combination is often audiobook with spinning or knitting.
Audiobooks make it possible for me to read when I otherwise couldn’t be reading, thus greatly extending my reading time. Audiobooks (and podcasts) are great during mundane tasks such as cooking, driving, doing things around the house, exercising, and even running errands. For this challenge, had I not had audiobooks, I might have read for 8 hours a day but that would have been about it.
Some books are better read fast, others are better read slow; some books I read over the course of a month, others I’ll read in a couple of days. Sometimes I just get tired of one book and want to read something else. I usually have 4-6 more challenging slow reads that I hit first thing in the morning. Then I have 1 or 2 lighter books/quick reads I can pick up at other times. I have at least two audiobooks going at any time – one more serious and one lighter. I keep a short list of books in each category that I might want to read next, but the decision of what to read next is always made on a whim.
I also set aside regular time for reading. Normally I get up at 5:30 a.m. in order to read for an hour while it is quiet and I am fresh. When I am home in the evening, I usually read for an hour before bed; even if I’m out for the evening, I still read for 10-15 minutes before turning out the light as it helps me wind down. On average, I listen to about 10 hours of audiobooks per week. I often listen to audiobooks while I make supper, and then I read after supper while trying not to hover while the kids clean up the kitchen. I listen to audiobooks while I knit or spin. Sometimes I even listen while running errands (and if the kids are with me, they listen, too). The key is knowing where books fit well into my day and making good use of those times.
What I don’t do? Watch tv. At all. Nothing against it – just not my cuppa. Nor do I read just one book at a time and complain that I’m too tired to read or can’t concentrate (hello! try a different book). When I leave the house, I always have my Kindle with me and my iPhone and my earbuds. I have good sources ideas of what to read next so I rarely come across a book I don’t like or struggle to finish. Though I tend to read more serious books, I read across a wide spectrum of books – everything from classics to history, biography, science, business, and literary fiction (with a few Westerns, mysteries and thrillers thrown in).
Bottom line: There is no single strategy for reading a lot. It’s just a matter of figuring out what works best for you and making a point to do it.