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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.