My #24in48 Readathon Wrap-Up

Thoughts on my July 2019 #24in48 Readathon experience.

I like the idea of an online readthon. So what if I can rarely read the volume of words/books that are generally the goals of these events? I can still appreciate how they make me focus more on reading and, at the very least, encourage me to fill any available gaps in a busy schedule with… reading!

There are other readathons which are more in the tradition of the “Cultural -athon Phenomenon” and by this I mean literally reading for “24 hours straight” for example. This is why I prefer the “more sensible” 24in48 Readathon. You have two whole days to try to hit a goal of 24 hours of reading.

Of course, that’s still too hardcore for me 🙂 , and for the past few years I’ve tried to read 24 stories in 48 hours (probably more like 12 hours of reading – still a healthy increase over my normal amount, though)

So Friday night I took out some of my short story anthologies and collections and picked nine of them to use to populate a reading roster. You can see my list below. And yes, naturally, as the host of the Deal Me In Challenge, I can’t “play it straight” and have to assign the stories to playing cards and draw one card at a time to randomize my reading order.

And below the stack of ACTUAL books (no e-reading this time!) that my 24 stories were collected from.

Did YOU participate in the #24in48 readathon this go-round?  What were some of the favorite things that you read?  How many hours of reading did you get in?I must report that I didn’t succeed in reading 24 stories, finishing at 18 or 19, but here are some thoughts on my reading and a few of my favorites.

Sadly, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t encounter – or discover – more great new to me stories during the Readathon, but I did revisit some old favorite authors (M.R. James, Ray Bradbury and Thomas Hardy) And finally cracked open an anthology that I was once excited to dive into but has lain neglected on my shelf for years (The My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me anthology of fairy tale re-tellings, which includes some “heavyweight” authors among its story contributors). From this last anthology, I really enjoyed Neil Gaiman’s “Orange” which is told in the unique format of an interview with a ‘survivor’ of an event, with the catch being only the interviewee’s answers are given. I couldn’t resist the challenge of trying to guess what the questions were (some were obvious, some less so, but I guess the reader could also come up with his own that “fit” and that would still be okay). I’m not usually a fan of ‘gimmicks,’ but this one worked for me.

Maybe my big surprise was how much I liked the two John Updike stories that I read (“Poker Night” – about the hours immediately following a man’s cancer diagnosis and “The Other” an interesting psychological study of the impact of a man marrying a woman who has an identical twin sister. Maybe I’d been unfairly biased against Updike in recent times. He edited the “Greatest American Short Stories of the Century” anthology, which my ‘after work short story “book” club’ used as source material for over a year, and which also became the subject of good-natured ridicule for so many of the stories being downers.

Two of the Thomas Hardy stories I read were re-reads (if you can even call them that after a gap of twenty-six(!) years) and were ones that I had tagged as ‘recommended’ back in the day. Based on that recommendation, I was a little disappointed in both, but I did certainly enjoy Hardy’s writing style after not having read anything by him in many years. I’m guessing “Two on a Tower” was my last foray into his mastery.

The deck of cards I used was one I picked up during my January vacation in Gibraltar. Turned out it was a great place to be when the temps here at home went sub-zero at the same time!

Let’s see, what else… Oh, I was actually disappointed in the Ray Bradbury story, “The Concrete Mixer” though from a social commentary standpoint one could certainly appreciate it as prescient. The other Bradbury story I got to, “The Highway,” was more consistent with what I’ve come to expect from him, and I did like it much more. Both stories are part of his generally wonderful collection, “The Illustrated Man.” Love that cover!

I also read a couple of Robert Howard’s Conan stories, which were probably the hardest of my reading during the weekend. I had a volume of his work gifted to me 4-5 years ago.  Each of his stories runs about 30 pages or so and I’ve begun to feel them a bit formulaic, with certain elements always seeming to repeat. I had the idea of creating a Conan the Cimmerian reading drinking game to fit all the recurring elements (e.g., mention of cleaving a skull: finish your drink!) but that will have to wait for a future blog post or reading challenge…

I read four stories from “Tales for the Not Nervous” (some text pictured below from “River of Riches”) an Alfred Hitchcock anthology I first heard about via The Writerly Reader blog. More than anything else, this anthology made me realize how badly I need reading glasses! My arms were almost not long enough for me to hold this away from my eyes so I could focus. *sigh* getting old, I guess. I also noted that the story “Dune Runner” was in this anthology, which is one that I didn’t read for the readathon, but it has been recommended to me by several people over the years.

I only got to one of my Sherman Alexie stories, and it (“Catechism”) wasn’t really even a story in the traditional sense. I must go on and finally read this collection, though, as it has also been languishing on my shelf for awhile.

I find it impossible to do a readathon without taking some walking breaks. Saturday morning, before the sun blazed through the morning haze and made being outside intolerable, I walked over to White River State Park and paused for a moment to take a picture looking back east toward downtown Indianapolis, where I actually live now (a little beyond and to the right of that tallest building in the background.