April 2016

6 Perfect Picks for a Readathon

BOTM and Dewey’s 24 Hour Readathon go together like 3am and a triple espresso


This weekend, Book of the Month is excited to partner with Dewey’s to give away 25 three-month memberships. That’s right – three months of your next favorite hardcover new releases, delivered for free, straight to your door. Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? We’re adding these six Book of the Month selections to our Readathon stacks. We think they make for perfect 24-hour reading material. Which will you be picking up on Saturday?

Dear Mr. You by Mary Louise Parker (Dec ‘15) – Broken up into short essays, Parker’s collection of letters to men both real and imagined is the best cure for readathon blues. If you’re reading something longer and need breaks, the letters make for good palate cleansers between chapters, or if you need a fast read and can’t put it down, the whole book is less than 250 pages. Whether you consume it in bite-sized pieces or all at once, it’s a great readathon choice.

Hammerhead: The Making of a Carpenter by Nina MacLaughlin (April ’15) – You might think that a memoir about a woman learning how to become a carpenter would be a snooze-fest, particularly when it’s 1am and you’re trying not doze off. Au contraire! MacLaughlin’s journey is fascinating and funny, and when it’s over, you’ll be super sad there’s not more to read.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (Feb ‘16) – Short memoirs are a theme here, and for good reason. Kalanithi’s posthumous book is an engaging, heart-felt look at a doctor’s battle with mortality – both his own and his patients’ – and it will completely suck you in, grab on and not let go. Plus, it’s short enough that any feels you have will not subsume your whole readathon.

The Verdict by Nick Stone (Jan ’16) – While short books are great for the readathon – you can get through them quickly and they tend not to drag – there are some edge-of-your-seat mysteries that can’t be beat for their ability to generate sheer awakeness. The Verdict is one such book, and even at 512 pages, you’ll be flipping pages so fast, the end will sneak up on you. Just watch out for paper cuts!

A Thousand Naked Strangers by Kevin Hazzard (March ’16) – What’s the perfect book for that 4am push when you’re sure you’re going to fall asleep and you need something to prop your eyelids open? Hazzard’s memoir about his decade as a paramedic in Atlanta’s most notorious neighborhoods will have you gaping. Too-insane-to-be-real stories are the bread-and-butter of this fast-paced adrenaline thrillride. You’ll want a seat belt on your armchair for this one!

What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan (Dec ‘15) – As this domestic thriller ramps up, alternating chapters between the mother of a missing boy and the detective on the case, you’ll be astounded at how white your knuckles can get. Macmillan’s mystery is what Judge Kim Hubbard called “an up-til-3-am kind of read” — perfect for readathon!

Which will you add to your next Book of the Month box?


April 2016

Warm-Up: Planning for the Readathon

Warm Up

The Readathon is just around the corner, and I absolutely cannot wait. To help take the edge off my excitement, I’ve been enjoying planning for the weekend. It occurred to me that the experience of past Readathons might make good advice for first-timers.

Set aside a space as well as a time, if at all possible. I’ve made plans to get out of town for my Dewey weekend, to be cozy at my parents’ house. I know that I’m lucky to be able to turn it into a mini-vacation getaway to immerse myself. And even luckier to have parents who are entertained by a daughter arriving and then almost immediately getting swallowed by books and blogs.

But, from my busier, grad-school years, I know that even stealing a few hours from my responsibilities felt even sweeter if I could physically set aside a cozy reading spot, well out of view of the paper that needed writing or the chores that needed doing. Whether it’s a comfy chair, bed, porch, library or coffee shop, setting aside a space that belongs to the Readathon for the day is a great plan.


Plan for variety. And whims. This one is huge for me. Choosing what I want to read next is is always driven by whims. If I’m not in the mood for a particular book, it’s not going to grab me in a few chapters, and I’m likely to cast it aside in a grumpy huff. This is especially true during the Readathon. When a book isn’t fitting my mood, I get downright crabby.

During the October 2011 Readathon, a few hours in, I got into a vile mood and had a Terrible Horrible No Good Readathon Grump for a few hours.

Just because I hadn’t gotten engrossed in the first few chapters of Rick Riordan’s latest novel.

But, I rallied with a cozy mystery I hadn’t even put in my book prep pile. Whims!

I make sure to have books on hand for different moods. A good mix of genres and moods: cheerful, intense, cerebral, action-packed. When I was relying on paper books, this was a much bigger (heavier) project. With an e-reader, I can be loaded with a variety, and have library books just a click away if the need strikes.

That said, I will laugh at myself if I spend the day rereading old favorites, or binge-reading an already beloved series. There’s something great about a story that carries you along with the same characters through multiple books.

Some of my binge-read favorites are:


  • The Young Wizards series by Diane Duane: YA fantasy that blends the contemporary world with magic. Start with So You Want to Be a Wizard. 10 books.
  • The Billy Boyle World War II Mysteries by James R. Benn: Mysteries set against really well-researched World War II action, getting really interesting in theaters I didn’t know about. Some scenes are dark, but Billy’s pragmatic, smartass narrative voice keeps them grounded. Start with Billy Boyle, 9 books.
  • The Phryne Fisher books by Kerry Greenwood. Here’s one for fans of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries! It started as a book series. With just as much intrigue (both romantic and mysterious) and fabulous clothes and lush life. Cocaine Blues is the first one, but you can jump in at any point in the series for a fast, fun read.

Plan for a variety of munchies. Is there anything nicer than a good book in one hand and a tasty snack in the other? The key is to find eats that won’t get gooey on your book, especially if library books are involved.

My favorite snacks are easy to prep the day before:

  • Cheese and crackers, or cheese and cucumber slices
  • Granola and trail mix
  • Yogurt smoothies (bottled or made ahead)
  • Hummus and veggies (a frequent after-midnight go-to for me)
  • Chocolate covered almonds and/or pretzels
  • Soup in a mug
  • Sandwiches cut in quarters

But the centerpiece of my Dewey eats has got to be dad’s spaghetti and sauce. This, more than any other reason, is why I decamp to my parents’ place for the Readathon weekend. Dad’s sauce simmering as I read. Getting up to stir it between chapters. Trying not to get tomato sauce on my book as I read into the night. It’s the best. Ugh, I’m making myself hungry writing this list. Moving on!

A note on caffeine: if you’re going for the all-nighter or close to it, change up your caffeine as you go. Switch it up between coffee, black and green tea. And water, of course.

Find a time and a reading pace that works for you: While the synchronized start time that joins readers in 24 hours of a big, zany international slumber party is a big part of the fun that is Dewey’s Readathon, 24 hours can be a lot to ask from most people’s weekends. While it feels like I’m rejoining the Readathon after a few years being swallowed up at school and work, I never entirely left. Even participating for a few pages or a few Tweets helped me feel part of the community. Some timing hacks that can help:

  • Stop by and say hi on Twitter whenever you can (hashtag #readathon). Dewey coincided with a huge term paper one semester, and having the camaraderie, plus lots of cheering from participants, and roughly the same amount of sleep as they did, made my hard work easier.
  • Start at a different time, or extend it through the week. If your Saturday is booked, so to speak, find a time that works. I’m planning to go to bed a little earlier in the days before and after, to spend some extra time reading for that great Dewey vibe. I’m looking forward to the week after the Readathon almost as much as the event itself, for catching up on participants’ blogs and book recommendations at a more leisurely, less sleep-deprived pace.
  • Give audiobooks a try when you’re out and about. Stories are stories, no matter the medium. (I have to be careful with this one, as a really engrossing tale can make me miss subway stops or walk into things. Your mileage, and coordination may vary.)

I’d also suggest making sure you have a cozy reading cardigan, but I think that might be my librarian bias showing.

However you prepare, and however long you decide to read, have fun with the Readathon!

Thank you sooo much to Elizabeth Willse from Surrounded by Books and @ewillse!

Surrounded By Books