One thing I’ve been meaning to do more of with my reading is participating in readathons. Normally, I read relatively quickly, but I generally do other things around reading, such as job hunting, playing video games, and watching Netflix. I find that readathons help me to focus my energy and motivate me to read as many books as I can. Somehow, I’ve only managed to participate one, which was Read-O-Rama. In general, Read-O-Rama happens a couple of times a year and lasts for a week, and features different categories every year. The important thing to know, however, is that it is run by an incredibly supportive group of booktubers, and there’s a really lovely environment on Twitter when Read-O-Rama is on. As such, I spent a good part of yesterday organising my TBR for the upcoming seventh round of Read-O-Rama, which is running from 11th June to 17th June. For more information, the best central place to find information is Twitter, and I highly recommend following their account. Now, let’s dive into the challenges and my TBR!
1st Challenge – Read a book with the letters RAMA in the title and/or author name: Pyramids by Terry Pratchett
“‘Look after the dead’, said the priests, ‘and the dead will look after you.’
Wise words in all probability, but a tall order when you have just become the pharaoh of a small and penniless country whose largesse – and indeed treasury – is unlikely to stretch to the building of a monumental pyramid to honour your dead father. And particularly when your only visible means of support is a recently acquired qualification from the Guild of Assassins where running a kingdom and basic financial acumen were not prerequisites for course entry… “
This challenge is in every round of Read-O-Rama, and usually leads me to books that I’ve forgotten about a little, like this one. I’m looking forward to diving back into Discworld with an entirely new set of characters and settings.
2nd Challenge – Read a book with water on the cover: Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King
“‘Riding the Bullet,’ published here on paper for the first time, is the story of Alan Parker, who’s hitchhiking to see his dying mother but takes the wrong ride, farther than he ever intended. In ‘Lunch at the Gotham Café,’ a sparring couple’s contentious lunch turns very, very bloody when the maître d’ gets out of sorts. ‘1408,’ the audio story in print for the first time, is about a successful writer whose specialty is ‘Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Graveyards’ or ‘Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Houses,’ and though Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel doesn’t kill him, he won’t be writing about ghosts anymore. And in ‘That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is In French,’ terror is déjà vu at 16,000 feet.
Whether writing about encounters with the dead, the near dead, or about the mundane dreads of life, from quitting smoking to yard sales, Stephen King is at the top of his form in the fourteen dark tales assembled in Everything’s Eventual. Intense, eerie, and instantly compelling, they announce the stunningly fertile imagination of perhaps the greatest storyteller of our time.”
This was a surprisingly difficult one to fill, just in terms of the books I already have, as the other two books I have with water on the cover (Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie and Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch) are both longer, and I want to try to read as many books as possible. I’ve read a few of the short stories in here already, and they are both gripping and terrifying, which hopefully means I’ll be able to get through them quickly.
3rd Challenge – Read a short book (150 pages or less): The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin
“When she was still a child, Tenar was stripped of her name and family and dedicated as high priestess to the Nameless Ones, dark powers of ‘The Tombs of Atuan.’ This is the tale of the young wizard, Ged, who came to the forbidden labyrinth to steal its greatest treasure–the Ring of Erreth-Akbe–and stayed to set Tenar free and lead her out of darkness.”
Yet another difficult challenge to fill! This book comes in at 132 pages, and is the second in the Earthsea series, so although it’s small I know it’ll be packed full of content. Le Guin can be quite dense to read, but I think that this shouldn’t be a problem to get through, particularly if I’m reading lighter books around it.
4th Challenge – Read a graphic novel: Gunslinger Girl: Omnibus Collection 1 v. 1-3 by Yu Aida
“The Social Welfare Agency in Italy is not what it seems. Yes, it rescues young girls who have been brutalized–but brainwashes them and transforms them into ruthless killers for an elite and secret counter-terrorism unite for the Italian government.
Enter Henrietta, a young girl who witnessed the savage murder of her family and barely survived. The Agency takes her in and repairs her injuries using the latest cybernetic technology, wiping her mind of all traces of her past and turning her into one of the Agency’s most lethal assassins.
Yet despite her programming, Henrietta is troubled by fragmented memories. It is her handler’s job, Jose, to keep her feelings in check and ensure that she stays on mission. This task is made all the more difficult because Henrietta bears an uncanny resemblance to Jose’s younger sister who died in a car bombing years earlier.”
This one was actually easy to fill, as I currently only have one unread graphic novel, which I haven’t been motivated to read thus far. I bought this at Forbidden Planet in Cardiff, where my boyfriend and I spent our two year anniversary (in Cardiff that is, not in Forbidden Planet), and other books have been occupying my attention since I bought it. I think this will be some light relief from some of the other books on my TBR, so I’m going to wait until I feel a bit bogged down to read it.
5th Challenge – Read a book you have been anticipating: The Dumb House by John Burnside
“Reader beware: The Dumb House is not for the faint of heart. This debut novel by Scottish poet John Burnside is subtitled A Chamber Novel, but ‘Chamber of Horror’ might better describe it. The central character and narrator is Luke, a terrifyingly lucid madman with a hankering to ‘know the soul.’ His deceased mother told him once that the soul resided in language, and he’s been obsessed ever since with discovering if this is true. To that end, Luke takes a page from an old fable about a king who kept babies sequestered in silent isolation in order to discover whether language is a natural or an acquired skill. For his own experiment, Luke impregnates a young stranger, takes the twins she gives birth to and locks them up in a basement where he raises them in complete silence. Eventually, however, the children begin to annoy him, and Luke feels he must ‘cut them down.’ How he does this isn’t pretty.
From dissecting live animals as a boy to his latest outrage perpetrated on his own infant children, Luke is completely unconcerned with the sufferings of others, so intent is he on his ‘scientific’ inquiries after the human soul. The fact that he is obviously lacking in this department is one of the book’s ironies. The gruesome details are plentiful enough in Burnside’s novel, but it is what goes on in the mind of this depraved character even more than what happens under his scalpel that terrifies; The Dumb House is likely to be one of those books that sticks in your memory long after it’s done, whether you want it to or not.”
Annoyingly, the book I’d been anticipating the most came out at the start of this month, and I finished reading it last week (The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey), so I picked a book that I bought a couple of months ago and have heard really good things about. Admittedly, I’ve heard it’s super dark and messed up, but I really like books like that (no bookshaming here) so I’m glad I could find a category to squeeze it into.
6th Challenge – Read an Own Voices book – Lucy by Jamaica Kincaid
“Lucy, a teenage girl from the West Indies, comes to North America to work as an au pair for Lewis and Mariah and their four children. Lewis and Mariah are a thrice-blessed couple–handsome, rich, and seemingly happy. Yet, almost at once, Lucy begins to notice cracks in their beautiful facade. With mingled anger and compassion, Lucy scrutinizes the assumptions and verities of her employers’ world and compares them with the vivid realities of her native place. Lucy has no illusions about her own past, but neither is she prepared to be deceived about where she presently is.
At the same time that Lucy is coming to terms with Lewis’s and Mariah’s lives, she is also unravelling the mysteries of her own sexuality. Gradually a new person unfolds: passionate, forthright, and disarmingly honest. In Lucy, Jamaica Kincaid has created a startling new character possessed with adamantine clearsightedness and ferocious integrity–a captivating heroine for our time.”
For those you aren’t aware, Own Voices books are books which aim to create a more diverse publishing environment, by celebrating books that are written by someone from a minority background featuring minority characters, e.g. a book by a disabled writer featuring a disabled character. I have a few books that fit this description, but I found that the books I had were similar to ones I read a lot of (i.e. focusing on feminism or East Asian culture), and I wanted to try something completely new, so I decided to buy Lucy. I have only a very basic understanding of Jamaican culture, and I’m looking forward to reading more about it, and the immigrant experience in America.
7th Challenge – Read a book published in summer of any year: A Quest of Her Own: Essays on the Female Hero in Modern Fantasy by Lori M. Campbell
“This collection of new essays seeks to define the unique qualities of female heroism in literary fantasy from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in the 1950s through the present. Building upon traditional definitions of the hero in myth and folklore as the root genres of modern fantasy, the essays provide a multi-faceted view of an important fantasy character type who begins to demonstrate a significant presence only in the latter 20th century. The essays contribute to the empowerment and development of the female hero as an archetype in her own right.”
Wow so this one was tough, I guess a lot of the books I like are published in the winter! This challenge led me to a book nearly two years ago at the London Film and Comic Con (an excellent event, highly recommend) where they also hold the YA Literature Convention every year. I didn’t go to any of the talks there (mostly because I’m not hugely into YA) but picked up this book as I’m fascinated by feminist criticism of contemporary literature, particularly because YA features so many female protagonists. I’m excited to finally getting to read this!
8th Challenge – Read seven books – Hopefully I’ll be able to fulfill this!
There’s my TBR! Let me know what you think – do you like readathons, and how do you put your TBR together?