What’s a Readathon, anyway?

I’ve written one self-indulgent feeeeelings post about aspects of book blogging culture this year, so forgive me for going on about one more: readathons. I didn’t write about them before because I didn’t know what to say. I don’t get them.

I know what they are. This one in particular, Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon, involves everyone around the world reading for the same 24 hour block, documenting progress online, and cheering each other one through mini-challenges, blog-hopping, and literal (but virtual) cheerleaders.

I kind of get why readathons exist. Community building. Blog discovery. Blog motivation/mojo-getting-back incentive.

It’s the “24 hour” thing I can’t reconcile: the rules are lax, but the name kind of implies that it’s about reading as much as possible for 24 hours. Some people take this very seriously and block off parts or all of their days. Some actually stay awake for 24 hours. I just feel like, I already read as much as I can. I already fit reading in to small pockets of time and read at times when I really shouldn’t (the bathroom comes to mind) and ignore my children when I’m on a roll and stay up till my eyes cross. I’m supposed to do more? Why?

A lot of the “fun” of readathons seems to be figuring out how to avoid those pesky things that get in the way of reading time. Readathoners discuss cook-ahead meals, so as to avoid cooking on the day. Snacks are purchased and kept in arms reach. Cozy clothing is laid out. TBR stacks are arranged.

Brock of Let’s Read helped me understand the disconnect a little better with this video from a previous readathon. He’s got a couple of young kids and demonstrates how he fits reading in between feeding and playing and bedtime – things you can’t reschedule.

I can’t reschedule the things that interrupt my reading time. I can cook ahead as much as I like, but only my four year old knows what specific item of food he will demand at a to-be-determined time loosely associated with “lunch.” I could throw my kids in front of screens all day while I read, but I would rue the day (or part of the day?) come bedtime. If you’ve had to put two pent up, bug-eyed, overstimulated-with-Minecraft kids to bed, you know it’s not worth it.  I could stay up till the MST end time, 6:00am Sunday, which would give me an hour or so till breakfast. And if you’ve ever spent, oh, give or take, three years of your life not sleeping through the night, you know there is nothing worth missing a night’s sleep.

Giving in my my cynical side: If I actually wanted to get rid of something that impedes my reading, it would be my phone; but then how would I document my reading/snacking progress across multiple social media channels? Also, aren’t -athons usually for charity or something?

Anyhoo, I clearly don’t understand the appeal but I’m going to try and find it. I’m officially doing Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon! Here are the deets:




  • The Liar by Nora Roberts: My personal challenge is to start and finish my first Nora Roberts book during the readathon. For details on why, see ebookclassics on popular books. My mom is reading along with me and she’s 125 pages in already!
  • The Diviners by Margaret Laurence: My current read, and I’ll switch to it if The Liar becomes tiresome.
  • The Wizard of Oz: Benjamin’s current read.
  • Stupid Ninjago book: Henry’s current obsession. You know, it’s bad enough when kid’s books are thinly-veiled marketing material, but this is literally a catalog.

Snacks and meals

  • Mini Eggs. Not nearly enough were consumed at Easter.
  • We’re going out for lunch and having frozen pizza for supper. Yep, phoning it in on the meal front.

Book-related activitieseventhispage

  • I’m taking the boys to their first comic book store in the morning. We’re going to Happy Harbor Comics downtown. I hope they have Lumberjanes in stock…
  • Later, I’m attending the Edmonton launch of Even This Page is White, the new poetry collection by Vivek Shraya. I got a babysitter, as I don’t think the kids are ready for their first poetry reading.

Impediments/family members

  • Benjamin, 6
  • Henry, 4
  • Did I mention Jason’s in the States, and I’m solo-parenting?
  • Jason gets home around 10pm. I may have to look up from my book, as I have’t seen him in a week.

Good luck, readathoners. I shall document my progress in all the usual spots, look for (or temporarily block) @lauratfrey.

*Imagine the title of this post sung of the tune of that part of “Writing to Reach You” by Travis in which they acknowledge their debt to an even bigger Britpop band. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, uh, brush up on your late 90s Britpop?


  1. ebookclassics

    I guess the appeal to me is the challenge of seeing how much I can read, as well as the fun of participating in such a big community event. Since I know many hours of the day will be devoted to family, my expectations are never very high. Also social media can be very distracting during the readathon. Have fun and good luck with your reading!

  2. Brie @ A Slice of Brie

    Ah I get it now (the Nora Roberts dare). I don’t get readathons either, although in another world, one where I was single, had no adult commitments and sleep the next day away, I’d be all over something like this 😉

    Good luck!

  3. Naomi

    This is how I feel about the readathons! They sound like fun, but they don’t make any sense for me. I already read as much as I can everyday, and I already stay up too late every night to fit more reading in. What more can I do?
    Today, for example, it’s 4:40 here, and this is the first time today I’ve gone on-line for any reason, and I only have a few minutes because I need to walk the dog before getting supper ready. I also haven’t had a chance to pick up my book. I hope you’re having better luck than I am! 🙂

  4. Rebecca Foster

    I don’t know how you manage to get ANY reading done with two small children, let alone a whole day’s worth! I’ve never participated in a readathon, and I’m not sure I would really want to; I read quite enough (too much?) as it is, and if I tried to cram any more in it might just not be fun anymore. Hope you enjoy what reading you do get to do today 🙂

  5. Elle

    I love the idea of a readathon but I would have found them much easier when single. As ’tis, my partner works evenings fairly often and weekends almost all the time, so when he’s around, I hang out with him as much as I can! Granted, this often means “reading in the same room as him”, but it’s a flexible arrangement – we went for a walk today and spent quite a lot of time cooking. (Also, I’m totally with you on the “I already read loads” front. I thought a readathon might provide a good excuse to spend literally one whole Saturday reading, but as it turns out, I generally don’t need one anyway.)

  6. The Paperback Princess

    I’ve kind of been wondering the same thing but I always get intense FOMO around this time and get sad that I didn’t end up participating. I’m curious about how this all went for you in the end. I don’t have kids – I literally spent all day sunday reading (except when my husband made me leave the house to get a storage locker) so the readathon seems to enforce what I already do? I dunno. Maybe in October I will finally take the plunge.

  7. Carolyn O

    Allllll of this. And I only have one child, but between errands and everyday life detritus, I think I read for a grand total of an hour on Saturday night. Le sigh.

  8. Pingback: Edmonton blog roundup: April 26, 2016 – Seen and Heard in Edmonton
  9. Kristilyn

    Prior to kids, read-a-thons were so much fun! I almost stayed up 24 hours one year (petered out at 23 hours. figures.) and it was fun to cheer other people on and get a ton read. These days I can’t even imagine participating, maybe if the husband was home, but even then, I’d say I’d get maybe two hours of reading. And probably one hour of that would be kids books. lol. Hope you got some reading done!

  10. Jennifer | Desert Rose Gaming (@DesertRoseGames)

    I’m with you. I’ve never really understood the point of readathons. Especially the ones with other challenges included (like eating certain things or instagramming certain things – isn’t a readathon supposed to be about reading?). I’ve never actually done one but I suppose it’s main purpose would be to motivate you. Still, given that you’re basically doing it by yourself, I’m not sure how motivating that would really be (unless you glue yourself to twitter to watch everyone else’s progress… which would cut out of your reading time). Yeah I don’t really get it either. 😂

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