How to Visit 21 Bookstores in 14 Hours – Planning Tips for Independent Bookstore Day

My completed passport

The last Saturday in April is Independent Bookstore Day. To celebrate, bookstores across the country hold special events, give out free swag, and offer discounts. In the Pacific Northwest, they have a passport you can pick up at any location. Get your passport stamped at any three stores and you get a coupon for 30% off your next purchase. This year, my friends and I decided to take on the ultimate Indie Bookstore Challenge: visit all 21 of the participating indie bookstores in a single day. Winners receive 25% off at all stores for an entire year, and more importantly, bragging rights. Here’s how we did it.

The Team

There were five in our group, each with a separate job:

  1. Driver – who gave us use of her car and her parking skills
  2. Documenter – in charge of Instagram/Twitter posts and tracking who bought what in each store
  3. Concierge – booked our hotel, created the playlist, made reservations for dinner
  4. Craft Services – planned and purchased all road snacks
  5. Scheduler – created the route and kept us on schedule

Our team outside Eagle Harbor, the first bookstore of the day. Not Pictured: Me.

If you wanted to do this with a three or four person team, I recommend combining either the concierge or craft service roles with another role (or with each other), since the other three tend to be very busy day-of.

It will come as no surprise to people who know me that I was the Scheduler, in charge of creating the most beautiful spreadsheet I could.

Factors to Consider

  1. The number of participating bookstores seems to grow every year, but for 2019 there were 21 stores. For the four stores with multiple locations, you only needed to visit one of their locations (there were 26 total locations to consider).
  2. Not all stores have the same hours. The earliest stores opened at 7AM and the latest ones closed at 11PM. On the flip side, some stores didn’t open until 11AM and others were closed by 5PM.
  3. Four of the store locations were on islands or peninsulas in puget sound, meaning multiple ferry rides were needed.
  4. Your plan is totally different if you want to spend any real time in the stores. It is possible to do this by running in, getting a stamp on your passport, and running out. However our group felt strongly that we wanted to have time to actually look around every store we visited, and that at least one person in our group should buy something at each store.

Step One: Build your list

The store names, addresses, phone numbers, and hours are posted on the official Seattle Bookstore Day website (https://www.seattlebookstoreday.com/). Many stores have extended hours for this day, so make sure you’ve got the right info. I also recommend checking back the day before the event, as the site may be updated with different hours. Unfortunately this first step is pretty tedious because it’s a lot of copy and pasting from the website (it can be made slightly easier by utilizing the Paste Special > Paste Transposed feature, which pastes your list sideways).

My much-adjusted plan for the day

This is also when I started to add additional columns to my sheet. I had: Store Name, Address, Open Time, Close Time, Travel Time, Arrival Time, Duration of Stay, Departure Time, Margin before store closure, Website, and Phone. I also put conditional formatting on the Open and Close columns, so the sheet would automatically highlight any store that opened after 10AM or closed before 6PM, since that’s where we’d be most likely to run into trouble.

Step Two: Build your map

For some reason Google Maps has started limiting the number of locations you can have on a single map to 10 addresses. This is really frustrating, especially with exactly one more location than can fit on two maps. I found this video that allows you to combine two maps into one to get past this problem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlmUJ8-KQ5o. It’s still a little annoying, but at least you end up with a full map.

I recommend putting in the store names rather than just addresses, as it makes it way easier to keep track of what you’re doing. You can use the addresses you have on your spreadsheet to confirm Google is finding the right store.

For this first map, all you’re doing is rearranging the stores until you find a logical order. I got the feeling most people default to doing a big circle of all the outer stores, then hit all the Seattle stores.

The Logical Route

Step Three: Test your map against the list

Google should be able to give you approximate drive times to get between each location. Once you have the times, you can use that to calculate when you’d arrive at each location. You can do this manually, but using formulas will take away a huge amount of work. Your basic math here is Arrival Time + Duration = Departure Time, then Departure Time + Drive Time = Arrival Time. Keep in mind that ferries operate on their own schedule, so no matter how early you get to the dock, you’ll still land at the scheduled time (so you probably want to replace the formula with a manual entry for that line).

This is also when I started to calculate my margin of error, which was a column that told me the difference between when we were scheduled to arrive and when the store closed. I put conditional formatting on the margin column to turn red if the number went below 2.5 hours. This made it incredibly easy to see instantly where our biggest problems would be if we got off schedule.

Step Four: Recalibrate

If your plan is just to run in and back out at each store, you’re probably done planning already. If you want to spend time in the stores and give yourself plenty of buffer, you may run into the same problem I did: store hours.

My original, most efficient driving route would have theoretically worked, but it would have had us rushing through the first stores in order to catch an early ferry, then cutting it fairly close on some of the later locations – showing up at one of the later stores only an hour before it was supposed to close. An hour may seem like enough buffer, but if we missed that first ferry we’d be an hour behind our schedule before we even hit the forth store. So, I decided to try a different tactic that I knew would be less efficient in terms of miles and drive time, but might buy us a little extra time buffer.

Rather than doing a big circle of outer stores and ending in Seattle, I did a half circle of outer stores, went through Seattle to hit all the early closers, went back out of the city to finish the circle, then ended with the remaining Seattle stores.

This is what good plans look like

Amazingly, this only added about 10 miles and 20 minutes to our drive. But we gained the freedom to slow down the morning to a reasonable pace, gave ourselves a 90 minute buffer before store closings, and put us on a more favorable ferry schedule where missing the boat would have only set us back 45 minutes. The reason this worked was that when you plan to spend 20 minutes at each store, every store you visit pushes everything else back at least a half hour. So by moving late-closing stores later, you free up whole hours of you day.

Something worth mentioning is that I chose not to include separate buffers for parking or traffic. My logic here was that those numbers would be so impossible to predict, I would just be adding complication to the schedule without much benefit. Instead I looked at the 20 minutes per store as the overall time allotted for that store, and any amount of time needed for traffic or parking would be pulling from that. As a result, our actual time in-store was closer to 13 minutes on average.

Step Five: Print and Prepare

I printed a hard copy of the final plan, which was very helpful on the day. It was faster to reference when our driver needed to know the next location, and it was a static representation of where we should be at any given moment. Since the times on the sheet were auto-calculating, it would always be changing as I added the real data of when we were leaving or arriving places. This is great for knowing if your margin is growing or shrinking, but can also be a bit crazy-making since the goal posts are always changing.

Step Six: Re-Route

The reason you build a 90 minute buffer into your schedule is that you never know what can happen. Around 3:30PM, when we were just over halfway through our list of stores, a construction crane collapsed in Seattle. The disaster killed four people and completely shut down a major street in the middle of the city for the rest of the day – a street we were supposed to be using to get to our next store. A friend texted me the news in time for me to take a look at our plans and make the last minute call to switch the next two stores. Later that evening, right around store #16, our driver was feeling so sick we had to drop her off at home and switch cars. But none of this sent us into a panic, because we had that 90 minute buffer to work with. By the end of the day we were only 36 minutes behind the original schedule, with plenty of buffer to spare.

This is what the plan looked like by the end of the day. All the Arrival and departures times are hard coded.

Planning Improvements

No spreadsheet can be perfect until you use it. Over the course of the day I learned a few things I could have done differently to make it easier to use:

  1. Rearrange/hide columns – On the day of the event I really only needed to see the store names, arrival and departure times, and the margin for error. I ended up hiding the other columns to make it easier to scroll on my phone, but were I to do it again I would probably just rearrange the columns so the most important stuff is first.
  2. Add floating buffer for lunch – I didn’t write a lunch into the schedule because I didn’t know when the group would want to eat, and therefore where to put it or where to even look for restaurants. I figured that was part of what the buffer was for. But without a specific time set aside for lunch, we felt compelled to just keep going all the time, only stopping for car snacks when we knew we were ten minutes ahead. In hindsight I should have just added a line for lunch in the schedule in the middle of the day, knowing that we would probably want lunch around that time and that we could adjust everything else based on it.
  3. Plan a low-key dinner – We thought ahead enough to book reservations for dinner, knowing that we’d end on Capitol Hill on a Saturday night and restaurants were sure to be full. In hindsight, I think we should have found a restaurant away from Capitol Hill and nearer to where all our cars were. Specifically, somewhere fairly quiet that we wouldn’t need reservations for. Because while getting reservations was generally a good idea, it just meant one more thing on the schedule that could be messed up. So in addition to worrying about store closures and parking times, we also couldn’t end the day early or late.

Pro Tips

During dinner I asked the other women in my group what advice they’d give to anyone trying this in the future. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Drink lots of water – you’re going to get really dehydrated

    The printed plan, my bag, and my custom shirt

  • Wear good shoes – we walked a total of five miles over the course of the day. Even though our parking luck was generally pretty good, the act of going in and out of 21 stores is a lot of steps.
  • Wear layers – April is a real mystery month for Seattle weather. The day was deceptively bright and sunny but also pretty cold, and many of us wished we had something thicker to put on.
  • Wear your best book swag – I wore a Harry Potter shirt and carried a tote that said “I’d Rather Be Reading,” and I got a lot of compliments on both. As you go through the day, you’ll see tons of other participants that you’ll recognize by their swag. Not just in the stores, but while you’re parking, on the ferry, in the coffee shop, everywhere. You’re on Team Books, so wear your team colors if you got ‘em!
  • Make dinner & lunch plans – like I said, I wished I’d had a more proactive plan for lunch, and a more easy-going plan for dinner.
  • Bring both healthy and junky car snacks – healthy snacks are good for your body, junk food is good for your moral. Make sure to have both in the car.
  • Bring something for motion sickness – You’re going to be in the car a lot, possibly looking at your phone the whole time, not to mention at least an hour on boats. Even if no one in your group is normally susceptible to motion sickness, this is a good investment.
  • Be prepared to move with the crowd – For the first three stores of the day, we were clearly part of a massive crowd all going to the same places in the same order. This doesn’t last all day, but it’s likely to happen at the very beginning and maybe very end. Be prepared to stand in line, to hunt for parking, etc. Don’t stress out over the crowd – you’ll naturally disperse to different directions soon. And remember: it’s not a competition. Everyone can win.
  • Try to buy something – These stores don’t have to do this. Even if your group doesn’t have the cash to buy things at every store, try to find at least one or two places you can support with your dollars.
  • Know what you want to buy – If you choose the “buy something at every store” plan like our group did, you might want to think ahead about the kinds of things you want to look for so it doesn’t feel like you’re choosing from the entire world at every store. Examples: one new release, one staff recommendation, one journal, one non-book item, etc.
  • Remember the other costs – ferry rides, toll bridges, parking fees, car snacks – all this stuff adds up. If you’re in a  group, consider having one person front the cost for each category and paying them back later via PayPal, Venmo, Cash App, etc.
  • Prepare for Sensory and Decision Fatigue – Bookstores are inherently engaging and stimulating places, plus you’re running around, you’re talking to strangers, you’re looking for stuff to buy. It’s really exhausting and over-stimulating. I don’t have a cure for this, but I think if you and your group mates are aware of it you’re likely to be kinder on yourself and others.
  • Know what game you’re playing – Everyone has a different approach to this challenge. Some people were trying to go super fast, some people got a really late start, some were buying things as they went. Whatever version of this challenge you’ve decided to do, just make sure you know what it is and everyone in your car is on board with playing that same game.

    I asked this employee at Third Place Books if I could take a picture of the cool alterations she made to her t-shirt, and somehow ended up with the most delightful photo of anyone ever

  • BE NICE – I can’t stress this enough, not only for the impact you have on others but for the impact you have on yourself. This is a long day, especially for a store owner watching people run in and out of their store just to get a stamp without so much as a hello. At the early morning stores I thanked them for helping use start the day, at the late night stores I thanked them for being open so late. I thanked people for extending their hours for the event, for the snacks they provided, for the cool stuff they were handing out, for having great parking. It made me feel good to focus on gratitude so much, and I could tell the staff appreciated it as well.

If you’re planning to do this challenge in 2020 or beyond, good luck! I’ll be over here, reading the seven books I managed to buy…

 

Our Documenter, Kristina Horner, will be doing her own write up that you can check out on her website: http://kristinahorner.com/

Looking for more? Here are the articles and blogs I used to help plan my day:
https://www.seattlebookstoreday.com/
https://catherinebull.com/2016/05/01/seabookstoreday2016/
https://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/books/19-bookstores-in-a-day-sure-how-to-celebrate-seattle-independent-bookstore-day/
https://www.thirdplacebooks.com/event/independent-bookstore-day-0
http://www.surpriseslikespringrain.com/slsr/2018/5/12/seattle-independent-bookstore-day-challenge-tips-for-success

I Read 50 Books in a Year

So, I read 50 books in 2018.

I set a goal last January to read 50 books in one year, while also giving myself an out that if trying to hit such a high number was making reading less fun then I could stop. It turns out reading is still fun, and I made it to my 50, finishing my last book on December 30th, 2018. To see the full list of what I read, check out my Goodreads page: here

What surprised me was how easy it turned out to be. I’m not saying that it wasn’t work or that I didn’t have to try, just that I expected reading 50 books in a year to feel more like climbing a mountain and less like a series of day hikes.

It also had a weird side effect: I’m more inclined to quit a book mid-way through. This really threw me off, because I figured that needing to hit such a big goal would make my total book count feel more sacred, each completed book more valuable. But reading so many books back-to-back just taught me that certain books aren’t worth my time, and that if I’m not into something I shouldn’t even bother. This means that going forward I’m more likely to set smaller goals for the number of books to read in the year. Not because I won’t read a lot, but because I have a feeling I’ll want to abandon so many.

There was a second layer to my 2018 reading goal, and that was a list of challenges I set for myself. There was a lot of overlap between books and challenges, with some books fulfilling as many as five challenges at once (Bark and The New Jim Crow), and certain challenges applying to almost half of what I read (“Check out and read a library book”). Here are my official designees, with explanations where needed:

Read a book you’ve already read

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Read a political or religious book you think you may disagree with

The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Listen to an audiobook

A is for Alibi, 168 Hours, Deep Work, The Princess Diarist, Fly on the Wall, Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Tiny Beautiful Things, and many more…

Read a book that’s over 500 pages

How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson

Read a book your audience or friend group won’t be interested in

Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna

Read something by Stephen King

See below.

Quit a book before you’ve finished (or at least skim the rest)

Adventures in Human Being by Gavin Frances

This was a difficult and perfect book to quit early, because there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s a fine book and interesting enough, but after a few chapters I realized that with a TBR that’s four years long, there’s really no reason to read anything that’s just “interesting enough” unless there’s some outside reason to read it. And there was no outside reason to finish this book.

Read a book you were given as a gift (and didn’t specifically ask for)

Autumn by Ali Smith

Read a book about (or with heavy themes on) race

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Read a book about (or with heavy themes on) mental illness

Depression and Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

Check out and read a library book

Vagabonding, The Vile Village, The Hostile Hospital, The Carnivourous Carnival, The Slippery Slope, The One Thing, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Grim Grotto, Mooncop, Fight Club, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Penultimate Peril, Work Clean, The End, Adulthood is a Myth, A Christmas Memory, The Wicked + The Divine, and many more…

Read a non-fiction book about your career/hobby (or a career/hobby you are hoping to get into someday)

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

I’ve always wished I was the kind of person who went running for fun. Additionally, this book is secretly about writing.

Get rid of a book immediately after reading it

Secret Lives of Men and Women by Frank Warren

Read a book you “should” read

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This was recommended to me by nearly everyone I met on my solo road trip around the United States – “Have you heard of Wild? You should really read it.”

Read a book you “shouldn’t” waste your time on

Extras by Scott Westerfeld

The forth book in the Uglies series is a real departure from the previous three, so it got mixed reviews. People were expecting a continuation of the same story with the same people, and instead they got a new protagonist, new characters, and new tech. But I already knew all that going in and couldn’t be disappointed in the same way, so as far as I’m concerned this book is just as good as the first three.

Read a book immediately after acquiring it or hearing about it (before it even makes it to the shelf or TBR)

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

I picked up this book at an author event in Seattle. I got to meet Maureen and have her personalize my copy. I took it home and started reading it the very next day. Ironically, I would have done better to let this particular book sit on my shelf for a few years. I didn’t realize it was meant to be Book One of a series, and my only complaint is that it ends on such a cliffhanger that I wish she had waited to publish until she had the whole thing done so I could keep going immediately.

Read a book you think might make you a better person

The Meaning of Freedom by Angela Davis

Read the second biggest book on your shelf (or TBR)

How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson

Read The Princess Bride (yes, literally that specific book)

Done. For the fifth time.

Read a book you’ve been “really meaning to read” for way too long

Jesus for the Non-Religious by John Shelby Spong

I actually started this book years ago, really loved it, but somehow never finished. In finally finishing it I realized that the reason I probably quit was the elements that interested me most started to disappear after the first few chapters.

Read a book of short stories

Bark by Lorrie Moore

Read a book with a cover that bothers you

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson

Because there’s a bear on it and they never actually encounter a bear. Also I don’t think the quality of the combined images is very good.

Get rid of a book without reading it

Indian for Everyone by Anupy Singla

This was a cookbook that I got as a gift. I’ve found that I just don’t use cookbooks as much anymore, preferring to cultivate my own as I find new recipes. I briefly considered getting rid of all my cookbooks in the same moment, but most of what I have holds sentimental value. Plus I still enjoy having a couple classics around like The Joy of Cooking, Better Home and Gardens, and Betty Crocker.

Get at least 2 books behind or ahead of schedule at some point in the year

Managed to do this pretty early, as I was already two books behind by February. I got all the way up to five books ahead of schedule right after BookTubeAThon in August.

Decide not to do one of the challenges on this list

I never got around to reading any Stephen King.

A friend asked if I had a top three recommendations from my year, which is difficult both because I read so many great ones, and because each book fulfills a slightly different need.

So here are three books that are beautiful and heartbreaking and sad and hopeful:

  1. The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
  2. Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
  3. Mooncop by Tom Gauld

Three books that are important and well-crafted and teach you things about the world that will make you a better, more informed human:

  1. The Autobiography of an Execution by David R. Dow
  2. Sex at Dawn by Cacilda Jethá and Christopher Ryan
  3. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? By Roz Chast

And one book that is just the best and always has been:

  1. The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I set a comparatively low goal for 2019 (just 25 books), but hope to overtake it by quite a ways. Whatever your reading goals are for 2019, I hope they make you happy and I wish you the best of luck!

BookTubeAThon 2018 Wrap-Up

This year I experienced a BookTubeAThon miracle. I read eight books in seven days.

Longtime readers of this blog will know that every year I create a spreadsheet outlining which books I plan to read and how many pages they all are. I use that to plan out my week. I do this because if I don’t have a clear number goal in mind, I will always give up early and decide I’ve already done enough work for the day (this is true for more than just reading marathons). So I use my spreadsheet to figure out the number of pages I need to read each day, then I make a plan for what I’ll read when.

Everything was going according to plan until Wednesday, when I stayed extra long at a work party and completely missed my daily goal. I figured I would just make it up in the second half of the week (I tend to front-load my plan for just this reason), and set to work reading on Thursday. And then, somehow, it was Saturday afternoon and I realized I would easily finish the last two books on my list before I needed to go to bed. While I suppose I could have taken this as a sign that I should slow down and do something other than read for a little while, I instead decided it would be exceptionally satisfying to say that I once read seven books in six days. And then I realized that there was a copy of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories on my desk, which was intended to be the book I read after the challenge was over. But it’s only 142 pages – well below the number of pages I’d been averaging. So on Sunday morning I picked it up, and even with going to church and watching a movie, I was still done by 11PM.

I’m calling it a miracle because I still don’t totally understand how it happened. I have a spreadsheet detailing my original plan as well as the actual pages read every day, and I still don’t get it. There’s math and yet I can’t really tell you what happened. The numbers of course clearly illustrate how I read 1553 pages in seven days, and yet somehow it doesn’t add up.

I just read. A lot.

A few quick recaps of the books I read:

The Underground Railroad was about as cheerful as you would guess an American slavery story to be, but it was also extremely well-written and imaginative. But I suppose if you win a Pulitzer Prize you don’t need the stamp of approval from people like me.

The Princess Diarist was lovely. Half of it is Carrie Fisher casually telling you stories abut her life, and half of it is excerpts from the personal journals she kept as a 19-year-old working on the set of Star Wars. The journal entries are about as angsty as a teenager’s journal ought to be, but they are also beautiful and poetic. It’s like every line is your favorite Death Cab for Cutie lyric. I listened to it on audiobook from the library but I want a copy for my home, so this book is definitely going on my Christmas list.

Mooncop is a wonderful and bittersweet little graphic novel about the last police officer on an out-of-vogue moon colony. It probably took me all of ten minutes to read and I loved it. This was my only “cheat” book of the week.

Fly on the Wall is about a teenage girl who wishes she could be a fly on the wall of the boys locker room and then literally becomes one. It’s a fun little book and has some nice messaging when it comes to race, sexuality, and body image. Recommended for readers under 15 or anyone who just wants to feel good about life for a little while.

A is For Alibi was a little disappointing, but since disappointment is a direct result of expectations that may have been my fault. I think I was expecting something a little more complicated and thrilling. I do agree that the detective character, Kinsey Millhone, is a great personality to build a series on. So I understand how Sue Grafton was able to write 25 books about her.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running was an audiobook I had on hold with the library that finally became available in the middle of the week. I decided it could be my book about “something you’ve always wanted to do.” I’ve always wanted to be a runner. I don’t really want to run exactly; I actually hate running. I’ve just always wished I was that type of person, the type of person who trained for marathons and got intense zen satisfaction from a two-hour run. I’m not that person. But I am a writer just like the book’s author, Haruki Murakami. He talked about writing and running interchangeably, and it was interesting hearing how he viewed each.

Fight Club was a strange experience. I read the book and then re-watched the movie to compare the two. Most of the movie was an extremely faithful adaptation of the book, something that is very difficult because of the intentionally chaotic way the book is written. I found myself seeing the movie scenes in my head as I read, and by the end I actually questioned how the movie ended, because I could see Edward Norton so clearly in the book’s ending. I never really liked the ending of the Fight Club movie, and I think the original is far superior. But somehow reading the book gave me a better understanding and appreciation of the movie, including its ending.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a different experience. The parts of the movie that are faithful to the book are almost word-for-word readings. But then there are entire plots added and dropped along the way. The truly shocking thing is that not only does the book not end as a happy romantic comedy, it’s not a romance at all. Holly and the narrator never have any sort of love affair. He’s clearly infatuated with her, but nothing ever comes of it and in the end she leaves him, and New York, forever. What was even more surprising is how small the character of Yunioshi is in the book, and how racially progressive. In contrast to Mickey Rooney’s racist caricature in the movie, when Yunioshi is described by a bartender in the book as a photographer “from Japan,” the narrator corrects him to say, “from California.” It’s hard to say how racially progressive the rest of the book is, because it suffers from some dated racial language that is hard for the modern reader to separate from prejudice. It’s certainly sexually progressive, with Holly Golightly being a self-described bisexual and suggesting that everyone is bi to some degree.

Because of my BookTubeAThon miracle I ended up five books ahead in my goal to read 50 books this year. I’ve been behind since February, so it feels good to not only be on track, but to have some wiggle room. Since I can’t attribute this year’s success to anything in particular, I’m not sure if I should build on it or not. Since I only had one tiny book and I ended up reading an extra one, it means that for the first time my seven books were really, truly, books. Yes, books like Fight Club and Fly on the Wall are short. But The Underground Railroad and A is for Alibi are not. Do I try for seven real books again next year? I’m not sure.

I will say that on par with reading eight books in seven days was getting BOTH of my parents and a family friend to participate in BookTubeAThon. Which means no matter what I do next year, for 2018 I can take credit for 29 books read in a single week.

BookTubeAThon 2018 – My TBR List

BookTubeAThon 2018 is almost here! For those of you who don’t know, BookTubeAThon is an annual reading challenge where participants attempt to read seven books in seven days. Anyone can participate, including you. All kinds of books count: children’s books, graphic novels, audiobooks, whatever you want. And there are seven challenges that everyone tries to accomplish. Watch the full challenge video here.

This year’s challenges:

  1. Let a coin toss decide your first read.
  2. Read a book about something you want to do.
  3. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation.
  4. Read a book with green on the cover.
  5. Read a book while wearing the same hat the whole time.
  6. Read a book with a beautiful spine.
  7. Read seven books.

Here are my picks:

  1. Let a coin toss decide your first read.
    • The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fischer
  2. Read a book about something you want to do.
    • Either The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell or Long Way Round by Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman
  3. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation.
    • Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
  4. Read a book with green on the cover.
    • A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton
  5. Read a book while wearing the same hat the whole time.
    • Mooncop by Tom Gauld
  6. Read a book with a beautiful spine.
    • The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  7. Read seven books.
    • Fly on the Wall by Emily Jenkins

Mooncop, The Underground Railroad, Fight Club, Long Way Round, and Fly on the Wall were all already on my personal TBR, so they were pretty easy picks. Only one of these was on audiobook, and I’ve found that I need at least three audiobooks to have a really effective BookTubeAThon. Unfortunately there was basically nothing else on my person TBR available on audio from my local library, so I started browsing the “available now” section of the library’s audio app to get some more options. I still needed a book with green on the cover (there is absolutely no green on any of the five I’d already found), so I started by just scanning for color.

A is for Alibi is almost solid green, and a book I first considered reading only hours earlier. I’d been listening to a beautiful tribute to Sue Grafton on NPR and thought it would be worth reading at least the first book in the famous alphabet series. I wanted an alternative to one of my physical books, so when I saw The Year of Living Danishly I figured a book about living in Europe for a defined but significant time could be on par with a book about traveling around the world in one long trip as something I’ve always wanted to do.

That left me with a coin toss. I decided to go through the whole list of available titles, pull out everything that looked interesting, and make the coin toss into a sort of bracket. It went like this:

ROUND ONE

Heads
Hidden Figures
Bird by Bird
You Can’t Touch My Hair
Tails – WINNERS
The Princess Diarist
Goodbye, Things
But What if We’re Wrong?

ROUND TWO

Heads
Hidden Figures
Bird by Bird
You Can’t Touch My Hair
Tails – WINNERS
The Princess Diarist
Goodbye, Things
But What if We’re Wrong?

ROUND THREE

Heads – WINNER
The Princess Diarist
Tails
But What if We’re Wrong?

So that’s it, that’s my TBR for BookTubeAThon 2018, with my challenge two book to be decided near the end of the week when I know if I need a physical book or an audio one.

It’s not too late to pick your own books and join in! The challenge starts July 30th at midnight. Remember, you don’t need to pick seven full novels. For my first BookTubeAThon, four of my seven books were extra short ones like plays and graphic novels. It was still a challenge and still a lot of fun. The worst thing that will happen is you won’t read seven books in seven days, which is exactly what will happen if you don’t try at all.

The Katrina 2018 Reading Challenge

I may be reading 50 books this year.

Ever since I discovered reading challenges and Booktube a few years ago, I’ve wanted to have a 50 book year. It’s a very common goal online, and for avid readers it’s pretty attainable. I’m not necessarily an avid reader, but I’ve managed 24 books a year two years in a row, so it’s not an insane idea.

However I’ve recently realized that setting goals and sticking with them is only helpful so long as the goals are aligned with your interests. I’ve had a number of occasions where I stuck with a goal for far too long (usually to completion) without acknowledging that I didn’t actually want it anymore. I think I want to read 50 books this year, but more than that I want to read as much as I can while still enjoying it. I don’t want to start reading “cheat books” just to get my numbers up, and I don’t want to push myself to finish something terrible just to say I did.

So I’m setting my Goodreads challenge at 30 books, and I’m planning to read three and a half books in January. Assuming I participate in BookTubeAThon and #ReadingBingo again this year, three and a half books a month will get me to 50 and then some. So if January feels good, I’ll up the Goodreads goal a bit. If I still feel this way in a few months, it will go to 50 books.

Part of what I like about reading challenges is the way it gets you to switch up what you might normally reach for, so I decided I wanted to have a challenge list for this year as well. But in the spirit of setting goals that are aligned with my interests, I wrote my own list. It is purposely not 50 items long, and I’ll probably double up on some anyway. This way I never have to refuse a book I want to read just because it’s not on the list. If you’re looking for a challenge I’d love for you to try mine. Or better yet, write your own.

Katrina’s 2018 Reading Challenge

  1. Read a book you’ve already read
  2. Read a political or religious book you think you may disagree with
  3. Listen to an audiobook
  4. Read a book that’s over 500 pages
  5. Read a book your audience or friend group won’t be interested in
  6. Read something by Stephen King
  7. Quit a book before you’ve finished (or at least skim the rest)
  8. Read a book you were given as a gift (and didn’t specifically ask for)
  9. Read a book about (or with heavy themes on) race
  10. Read a book about (or with heavy themes on) mental illness
  11. Check out and read a library book
  12. Read a non-fiction book about your career/hobby (or a career/hobby you are hoping to get into someday)
  13. Get rid of a book immediately after reading it
  14. Read a book you “should” read
  15. Read a book you “shouldn’t” waste your time on
  16. Read a book immediately after acquiring it or hearing about it (before it even makes it to the shelf or TBR)
  17. Read a book you think might make you a better person
  18. Read the second biggest book on your shelf (or TBR)
  19. Read The Princess Bride (yes, literally that specific book)
  20. Read a book you’ve been “really meaning to read” for way too long
  21. Read a book of short stories
  22. Read a book with a cover that bothers you
  23. Get rid of a book without reading it
  24. Get at least 2 books behind or ahead of schedule at some point in the year
  25. Decide not to do one of the challenges on this list

Good luck and happy reading!

BookTubeAThon 2017 is Coming Up

I’ve been taking a purposeful break from the blog, but I wanted to pop back in to let you know that BookTubeAThon 2017 has been announced! The dates are July 24th through July 30th, and I will be participating for my third year in a row. If you want to join me, check out the BookTubeAThon channel on YouTube to get the updates. They haven’t announced the reading challenges yet, but those should be coming soon.

Good luck!

 

 

BookTubeAThon 2016 – Reading Challenges and My TBR

It’s that time of year again – BookTubeAThon!

BookTube is a community of people on Youtube who post videos about books and reading, and every summer this community has a seven day read-a-thon (this year from July 18th through July 24th). The primary goal is to read seven books in seven days, but there are mini-challenges about the types of books as well. This year’s challenges are:

1) Read a book with yellow on the cover

2) Read a book only after sunset

3) Read a book you discovered through Booktube

4) Read a book by one of your favorite authors

5) Read a book that is older than you

6) Read and watch a book-to-movie adaptation

And as always:

7) Read seven books

In addition to reading, there are also Instagram and video challenges people can participate in before and during BookTubeAThon, like making a video about your TBR (to be read) pile or posting a photo of something from the cover of the book you’re reading. I am going to attempt to participate in these this year, though I’m preemptively giving myself permission to skip any challenge if I’m running out of time.

Last year I made a spreadsheet to plan out my reading, because of course that’s something I would do. I’ve updated it for 2016 and you can see if here:

Tracking Spreadsheet

The very first challenge was to make a video of your TBR, which I did and you can watch below. For a quick summary, here’s what I’ll be reading:

1/ Read a book with yellow on the cover.

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

2/ Read a book only after sunset.

Market Ghost Stories by Mercedes Yeager

3/ Read a book you discovered through booktube.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

4/ Read a book by one of your favourite authors.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

5/ Read a book that is older than you.

The Missing Piece by Shel Silverstein

6/ Read and watch a book-to-movie adaptation.

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

7/ Read seven books.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

Seven books in seven days can be a little intimidating,  but BookTubeAThon is not about success, it’s about effort. Even Ariel Bissett who hosts the challenge every year has never actually gotten through all seven of her books. However plenty of us have managed it, and it can be super fun. If you’re participating this year let me know in the comments, especially if you have an Instagram or Youtube channel I can follow.

Good luck and happy reading!

The POPSUGAR 2015 Reading Challenge – Update!

I did it you guys. I completed the 2015 POPSUGAR 50-book challenge in less than 24 books.

When I started this challenge back in February I didn’t think I’d ever actually get them all. But once I realized I could do it, I had to do it. Here’s what I read in 2015:

How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adlertwilight
A non-fiction book

Walden by Henry David Thoreau
A book more than a 100 years old

Twlight by Stephanie Meyers
A book that became a movie
A book with nonhuman characters
A book by a female author
A book at the bottom of your TBR list
A book with bad reviews
A book with a love triangle
A book set in high school
A book with magic
A book by an author you’ve never read before
A book with a one word titlesecret_life_of_bees_grande

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon
A memoir

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
A book your mom loves

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
A book from your childhood
A book that made you cry
A book with a number in the title

Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore
A book a friend recommended
A book you can finish in a day
A graphic novel

18007564The Martian by Andy Weir
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to go

The Wizard of Seattle by Kay Hooper
A book that takes place in your hometown
A book by an author who had your same initials
A classic romance (I don’t know what they mean by ‘classic romance’, but this was a romance novel and I was never going to read Pride & Prejudice)

Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
A book with a color in the title

Little Murders by Jules Feiffer
A play

All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen
A book based entirely on its cover
A funny book

Divergent by Veronica Rothdivergent-insurgent-allegiant
A book written by someone under 30
A popular author’s first book

Insurgent by Veronica Roth
A book set in the future

Allegiant by Veronica Roth
A Trilogy

Postsecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God by Frank Warren
A book with antonyms in the titleSIB cover

Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs
A book published this year
A book based on or turned into a tv show
A mystery or thriller

Beloved by Toni Morrison
A Pulitzer Prize winning novel
A banned book

Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman by Richard Feynman
A book published the year you were born

On the Road by Jack Kerouac
A book based on a true story
A book that scares you515VzrFPOKL
A book you were supposed to read in school and didn’t
A book you own but never read
A book you started but never finished

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
A book set in a different country
A book that was originally written in another language
A book set during Christmas

The Best of Roald Dahl by Roald Dahl
A book with short stories
A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet
A book with more than 500 pages

For those keeping track, I completed my challenge in only 22 books, however I kept my goal of at least 24 books for the year with a couple of the books I read during BookTubeAThon that didn’t fit into any of the POPSUGAR challenges.

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 4.02.05 PMI really loved doing this challenge, but I am definitely not doing the 2016 version. As much fun as it was, there’s a whole list of books I’m dying to read that don’t happen to fit into these categories, and my TBR list is getting too long for my tastes. I’d also like to focus more on books that I actually own, since I’m trying to slowly reduce the size of my personal library.

If you’re interested, check out the 2016 POPSUGAR challenge for a list of next year’s categories. Or maybe try out the New York Public Library’s challenge. Or this one from Book Riot. Personally I’m giving myself only two challenges: read 24 books in a year, and read (almost) exclusively from my TBR list.

_____

BookTubeAThon 2015 Wrap Up

I DID IT.

During BookTubeAThon 2015 I read seven books over the course of seven days. SEVEN.

(For details on BookTubeAThon, including the list of challenges, click here)

Day One

On my first day I started the morning off with the audiobook version of The Martian by Andy Weir, a book I really wanted to read. After ten minutes I worried I’d made a huge mistake. I could tell the main character was supposed to be funny, and I didn’t find him very funny. I soldiered on.

At the end of the day I grabbed The Go-Giver, a business fairy tale by Bob Burg and John David Mann. It was the last book I acquired. It read like the stories my old boss used to tell me – tales of how attitude can determine fate. These stories are usually told by conservative old white men whose fate started out in a pretty good place, but they are useful even so. I liked my old boss, and I liked The Go-Giver. Just in case I wouldn’t be able to do it later in the week with another book, I read the whole thing without putting it down. It was 132 pages and took me less than two hours.

That night I opened up The Wizard of Seattle, a pulp fantasy romance novel whose author has the same initials as me. I thought it would be a great readathon book, a classic popcorn read. After two hours, I had only done 71 pages. My goal for the day had been 110. This wasn’t going to be easy.

Day Two

Realizing that Wizard was going to be a slow read, my first instinct was to take it to work. I was working out of a different office all week, an office far enough away to make afternoon traffic miserable. My plan was to take books with me all week, and after the work day was over I would just hang out at the office and read. Unfortunately one of the privileges you lose when you become a manager is that ability to openly read books with shirtless wizards on the cover, so I knew the romance novel had to stay at home. Instead I took Rob’s favorite book, The Man in the Ceiling by Jules Feiffer. I got through about 60 pages before I was too hungry not to go home for dinner, and I listened to more of The Martian in the car. At this point I was listening at 1.5 speed all the time, which made the tense moments just a bit more thrilling and the slow moments go by quickly. The main character was growing on me.

Day Three

My original plan for listening to the audiobook of The Martian had me listening to about 50 pages a day over the course of the entire week. By day three I was almost done, having read 139 pages on Wednesday alone.

After work I tried to follow some well-traveled readathon advice to change up my location. I took a blanket and headed down towards the water near my house. All week it had been gorgeous, but I managed to go outside during the one cloudy and windy day. It made it even easier to breeze through Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise, a graphic novel that I read without putting it down.

I managed a meager 54 pages of Wizard before I had to give up for the night.

Day Four

Do not, I repeat, do not listen to the last 40 pages of The Martian while driving on the freeway. It was so tense I had to keep reminding myself to take my foot off the gas. The book ended just as I was pulling into work for the day. During my lunch break I moved on to the audiobook for Wolf in White Van. It was hard to know what to pay attention to in the beginning of the book. Everything felt important, but maybe nothing was.

I edged a bit further forward in Man in the Ceiling. Instead of bothering with The Wizard of Seattle, I read all of my seventh book, a play called Little Murders. I read it without putting it down, even though I’d already satisfied that challenge twice. I didn’t even get off the couch. It’s a play after all, it can’t take longer to read than it does to perform.

Day Five

I drove to Hood Canal on Friday for a retreat weekend. I was carpooling which meant no audiobook in the car. I did manage to listen to a little bit getting ready for bed at the retreat center, and my tiny room provided a perfect, distraction-free place to get some reading done. The Wizard of Seattle was becoming more interesting, though I couldn’t pinpoint why. I suppose I was just getting closer to the end, and more questions were being answered than asked.

Day Six

On Saturday I finished The Man in the Ceiling. I hadn’t been very interested in it, but I fell in love with the last few pages. I could see why it was one of Rob’s favorite books.

I also finished The Wizard of Seattle on Saturday. I got pretty into it by the end, and about 20 minutes after I put it down I realized why I hadn’t been able to engage with they story for most of the book. There were zero stakes. Yes, there was the one big set of stakes that caused the main characters to go back in time, but for individual moments there was very little. They made a friend right away who helped them avoid suspicion in the city. They found the guy they were looking for fairly quickly. When little problems crept up, they were dealt with easily. Despite going to an island full of wizards who hate each other, there were only two wizard fights in the entire book, both of them short. Things generally went smoothly and according to plan. At the end the main characters made it to their time portal without trouble. I repeat: there was a time portal and they made it through without trouble. They had to be in a specific place at a specific time and make it back home before all of Atlantis was destroyed by some unknown disaster, and they encountered zero trouble. They didn’t even have to jog.

Day Seven

My last day was my easiest. All I had was 70 pages of audiobook, which I conquered easily as I unpacked my things from the retreat. Wolf in White Van ended suddenly but still had a sense of conclusion. It reminded me a bit of Pulp Fiction in that regard. If you’re interested, don’t be scared off by any descriptions you read. It’s really good and not nearly as weird as it sounds.

_______

When I first made my stack of books to read, I was excited. As it sat next to my desk for a week, and I started to think I was crazy. Each book seemed to get bigger just sitting there, and I thought for sure I’d never make it. But I should have known better. I set myself a task with clear markers for failure and success. And I do not do well with failure.