For the past few years, I’ve seen these Dewey read-a-thons crop up every six months or so. I always found an excuse not to participate. I was too busy. I had something else on. Too much homework. Needed to feed my cat or wash my hair.
But as I wrote in a recent post, I had been in a bit of a reading slump the past couple of months. Part of it was that, yes, I am busy–I work full-time, I write, and I study part-time. Put them all together and I work a 70 hour week most weeks, easy.
I’ve also been reading slowly, but still adding onto what I read and starting new projects before I’d properly finished the older one. Before the read-a-thon, I was concurrently reading…seven books. If I kept bouncing around between them in the little amount of time I had to read, of course it would take me ages to finish and leave me feeling frustrated at my lack of progress.
And so lo, the reading challenge!
I decided to use it as an incentive to actually sit down and plow through some of the books I’ve been reading and enjoying at a snail’s pace. I started at 2 pm yesterday and read pretty much the whole day. My husband had some friends over in the evening, so I half-watched anime and read as well. I slept, woke up, read a bit more this morning. My pace gradually slowed as time passed. Had I pushed myself, I could have easily read a couple hundred more pages, but I wanted this to be fun and relaxing.
What I read:
Department 19 – Will Hill – the last 309 pages
I’d started this book after meeting the author at FantasyCon and really enjoyed it, but due to a lack of concentration I’d set it down and not had a chance to pick it back up. I was at the part of the book where young Jamie Carpenter by necessity had to be taught about the secret history of Department 19, which meant the pace had slowed somewhat. I picked it up, parked myself in my comfy beanbag, made myself a coffee, and went for it. In just a few hours, I’d finished the book. I’ll give this one a proper review of its own later on in the week.
The Passage – Justin Cronin – audiobook – 70 minutes – equivalent of say, 40 pages?
I’ve been listening to this slowly for the past couple of months while I walk to work or go to the gym. It’s 950 pages, though, so listening to it on audiobook takes 37 hours. It’s excellent and I recommend it. He’s very skilled at giving each character his or her own nuance. I’m about 80% finished with it now.
Her Smoke Rose Up Forever – James Tiptree, Jr. – two stories: “And I have Come Upon This Place by Lost Ways” and “The Women Men Don’t See” – 48 pages
I’ve been reading this short story collection on and off for ages. I like her work (yes, if you don’t know, James Tiptree, Jr. was a woman writing under a male psuedonym. She had a sad and interesting life–read the wiki), but don’t feel a great rush to finish. I’m savouring them. I wasn’t too keen on the first story, but the second one was wonderful. A slightly-unlikeable protagonist goes on a trip to Mexico to fish. He takes a small carrier plane with a mother, a daughter, and the pilot. The plane crashes onto a sandbank and the Mayan pilot is injured. The daughter and the pilot stay on the sandbank and the protagonist and mother go searching for help. It’s more complicated than that, for the mother is acting odd and the protagonist’s paranoia tingles. The supernatural element doesn’t appear until quite late in the story.
Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb – last 89 pages
I’ve been re-reading this for the past week and a half. Robin Hobb is my go-to comfort read when I want to sink into a world and escape. This must be the fifth or sixth time I’ve read this book, but the first time I’ve read it since I’ve written a novel (I last read it in 2007). It was interesting to read it and deconstruct the plot and examine what about this book appeals to me so–the lush prose (even if there are a few too many adverbs for my liking now), the deep characterization, the niggling mystery of the Fool and the threat of those discovering Fitz’s various secrets.
“A Song for Lya” – George R.R. Martin – short story – 56 pages
I finished up with a “short” story by George R.R. Martin. I’m a huge fan of both his longer and shorter work, and this was no exception. Two humans come to a planet called Shkeen, where humans and aliens live fairly harmoniously. The humans, Robb and Lya, are a couple with abilities–Robb is an empath and Lya a telepath. They have been summoned by the planetary administrator, Dino Valcarenghi. I’m sure the name is a Star Trek homage, as it’s mishmash of “Vulcan” and “Ferenghi.” The character has some elements of both races–he represses his emotions and he’s quite shrewd.
Dino is concerned because some humans have been converted to the Shkeen’s religion–one that involves a believer being willingly infected with a parasite. After a time the believer merges with the larger parasite and the human host dies. He wants Robb and Lya to investigate why humans converting. They learn that the religion is a lot more complicated than one might expect.
Written in the 1970s, it has a lot of similar themes to “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Heinlein. It’s a damned good short story that raises a lot of questions–What is a cult? Is it wrong if love is so all-consuming? Where and what is God? I loved it.
Pages read: 542
That’s the most I’ve read in one day for absolutely ages, and before this I’d probably been reading 500 pages every two weeks. As a result of the reading challenge, I feel rejuvenated and I think I’ll find a way to work more reading into my daily life. I now have fewer projects warring with my other books I’m reading, including a friend’s book and a beta-read, and so now I’ll be able to devote more energy to them.
It’s a bit like NaNoWriMo for reading. Gets your ass in the chair and an open book in front of you. It reminded me of all of the lazy afternoons I’d had not long ago, losing myself in other’s words. I’ll definitely be participating in more of these in the future.