As I plan out my irrationally tall stack of books to be gobbled during this Saturday’s Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon, it got me thinking about some of the books I enjoyed the most during past ‘thons — See, it can be surprisingly hard to pick the right books for a 24 hour binge reading session. You want something relatively fast-paced and high interest, especially when it’s late at night and sleep is calling. You don’t want to get bogged down with a slog of a book — sure, books with long paragraphs of dense, lyrical prose can be fun and fulfilling to read, but are they the best for a readathon? Nah. You want books that keep you turning pages. Books that grab you and don’t let go. Books that are meant to be devoured in a single sitting.
So, here are some of my suggestions for books you won’t want to put down — first are books I’ve consumed during past readathons, followed by couple books I remember were so addictive that I plowed through them in a single sitting.
My Favorite Books I’ve Read During the 24 Hour Readathon
1. The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett.
This is a charming little thimble of a book — at 124 pages long, it shouldn’t take you more than two hours to chew up, and those will be two hours spent delighting in the world of addictive literature. The whole idea is that the Queen of England becomes a patron of a traveling mobile library that parks outside of the palace, and as she discovers new authors and new genres and so many books to read she begins to neglect her other Queen-ly duties.
Any book that celebrates books and reading is perfect for a readathon. It’s a fun, funny little story that’ll make you want to snatch all the books off your shelves and hug them close.
2. Any Book By Brian Selznick.
While I didn’t read The Invention of Hugo Cabret or Wonderstruck during 24 Hour Readathons, I did devour The Marvels during last October’s ‘thon — what a ridiculously surreal experience it is to be sitting outside at 9 in the morning sobbing into a book.
What makes Selznick’s books perfect for readathons? Not only are the stories beautiful and powerful, but the books are told primarily through pencil illustrations — much like graphic novels with bursts of prose between the pictures. So, these tomes might look daunting, but they can usually be read in just a couple hours — great for a readathon. And you’ll be getting a heartfelt story to boot.
3. More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera
This is another book I read during last October’s readathon. A sci-fi LGBT mashup of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Memento, More Than This tells the story of a boy living in a slummy, intolerant neighborhood, who develops feelings for another boy — and decides the best thing he could do is a risky medical procedure to erase his unwanted feelings right out of his brain. The story is fast-paced, addictive, and suspenseful. This book kept me wide awake during the later hours of the readathon. (Especially because I paired it with The Marvels and Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, so I was having a delightfully LGBT-themed day.)
4. Matilda, Roald Dahl
Children’s books are a great idea for a readathon! They’re usually very short, easy to read, high interest (though they sometimes pack a wallop of emotional trauma that leaves you thinking, I read this when I was ten?) Matilda isn’t a sad story, though — it’s a delightfully nasty and comedic tale of a clever young girl who’s unchallenged mental acuity channels itself into actual powers. At its heart, it’s a love story to the bookworm, and just like The Uncommon Reader, it’s that celebration of books, reading, and learning that make it a cozy pick for a reading binge.
Now that we’ve exhausted the best books I’ve read during actual readathons, here’s a couple books I binged in a single sitting that are worth keeping in mind when you’re planning your stacks…
Books I’ve Devoured In Single Sittings
5. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson
This creepy, elegantly written Shirley Jackson story is under 150 pages, perfect to read in a single sitting. It’s about two sisters who live in almost total isolation on the fringe of a city that fears them, because everyone in town thinks the eldest sister is responsible for the terrible poisoning that killed their entire family.
Jackson is a brilliant writer. Every sentence of Castle feels purposeful, not a word wasted or set out of place. Check out the first paragraph:
“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenent, andAmanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.”
If you want something subtly chilling that’s going to be a quick, suspenseful read, you can’t go wrong here.
6. The Chaos Walking Trilogy, by Patrick Ness
I’m pretty sure I didn’t blink the first time I read The Knife of Never Letting Go. Patrick Ness is a great writer, and he really created something different and original. Here’s the GoodReads description:
“Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.”
A riveting story, and so suspenseful with so many surprises it’s sure to keep you awake. The whole trilogy really dives into themes like the cost of war, sexism, terrorism, and even has LGBT representation. A high recommendation from me.
7. Bird Box by Josh Malerman
So, it’s the middle of the night, maybe Hour 18 or 20, it’s past midnight and you’re struggling to keep your eyes open? How about scaring the pants off yourself? Think that’ll keep you awake???
Like I said in my review of Bird Box, I read this book in a single sitting one gloomy, overcast morning while sitting on my front porch — and jumping at every small noise. The story is simple: something’s happening outside, across the world, and whoever sees it goes nuts. Brutally maims and murders, ends up killing themselves. So people stop looking outside. They blind themselves, board up the windows, they don’t go outside without keeping their eyes firmly shut. How do you live in a world that’s fallen apart like this? The main character lives in an abandoned house with her two daughters, and they’re running out of food and supplies. The only solution is to go out into the world and try to forge her way down a nearby river — only, she’s going to have to do this while making sure neither she nor her small children ever once open their eyes.
This book is so scary. If you like scaring yourself and want a book you won’t be able to close, definitely consider this for the readathon.
8. And finally, Any Book By Rainbow Rowell
If you’ve ever read a Rainbow Rowell book, you already know what I mean. Her writing is inherently readable — and it’s also, at its core, positive. Happy. There’s always something to smile about. Like if Kelly Kapoor from The Office started writing novels about “basically anything that is awesome.” My favorites of Rowell’s are Fangirl and Attachments, the first about a fanfic writing introverted freshman trying to navigate her first year of college, the latter about an I.T. security guy whose job is to monitor employee emails — and develops a crush on one of the employee’s whose emails keep getting flagged as inappropriate.
Basically, Rowell’s books are addictive, they’re fast-paced, and they’re fun. That’s the point of a readathon, right? To have FUN? You can’t go wrong here.
So, there you have it! Some of my picks for books to pile onto your readathon plates. Whatever you choose to read on Saturday, I hope you love it. Here’s a pic of the stack I’ve selected for this round:
Have you ever participated in Dewey’s readathon? What was your favorite book you ever read? Or, what was the last book so un-put-down-able you gobbled it up in a single sitting? I’m ravenous over here people, leave a comment, tell me your favorite books for binge-reading!