How to Read for 24 Hours and Live to Tell About It

Okay, that’s a little misleading. I did not read for 24 hours straight; that surely would have killed me. Instead, I read for 24 hours across a 48-hour period and it only almost killed me.

Deejah, my NBFF (that’s a “new” BFF; the perfect label for when you meet someone who could totally be your BFF after already having a BFF. This way, the NBFF gets the benefit of a new affectionate moniker and there’s no other hurt feelings in the process) and I are crazy project junkies. It’s like being addicted to doing projects and challenges to the point where you are always looking for the next. Big. Thing. It’s also like being nerds and we are okay with that.

It started several years ago when we decided to take a photo a day, everyday for 365 days, known as Project 365. We did this before having smart phones when taking, editing and uploading a photo could take minutes… or even seconds. This was with actual cameras, plugged into our computers, edited with software and then posted to Facebook. Crazy, I know. How did we ever do it?

Then we upped the ante.

As big-time book lovers, we decided to read a book a week, for 52 weeks. And we wrote book reviews on each one. Crazier, I know.

So here’s the craziest yet… according to many of my family members and my BFF: We decided to read for 24 hours during a 48 hour period.

Why? A few reasons:

  • Because I heard about this project (known as 24in48 on twitter) and I am a little crazy.
  • Because I asked my equally project-obsessed (read: crazy) NBFF and of course she was game.
  • Because we can. Duh.
  • Because we love to read and this project had a manageable timetable of just two days (very important for the single, working mamas that we are).
  • Because we are nerds.
  • Because this is really no different than two men spending hours and hours of planning and strategizing football picks for a FANTASY football league. That’s right. FAKE. And we heard them doing it while we were reading for hours and hours.
  • Because this madness had a manageable timetable of just two days.
  • Because if it was amazing, we might want to make it a regular (annual) part of our reading process (because, you know… nerds, loving to read, etc.).

We started at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 31. We finished just after 3 a.m. on Sunday, September 1. A total of 7 books were read between the two of us. And we consumed more Starbucks in a 24 hour period than is probably ever recommended. We posted evidence of completion (there should always be evidence) and the congratulations came in. I also got this text:






So what would I do differently? Good question. After some rest, and allowing the reading hangover to subside, the NBFF and I put our mostly clear but still sleepy heads together and came up with the following Lessons Learned (a must at the end of any major project).

1. Schedule your 24in48 over a 3-day weekend.
Lara: You will need a day of rest and recuperation from reading that much. Wait, reading is hard work? Yes, doing anything for 24 hours is hard work. Even if you don’t need the rest, you will want a day to do something other than read.

2. Don’t make any other plans.
Deejah: You would think finding 12 solid hours to read would be easy. Lara had a previously scheduled massage and I had dinner plans with some other friends. Add in time for driving, bathroom and food breaks…you are just adding more hours–into the wee-time hours of the day–for reading.

3. Have plenty of books at the ready. And then have a few more. (See the end of the article for our books)
Lara: On the second 12-hour shift I started a book that I was excited to read and was HATING IT. There’s no time for crappy, boring, dragging, horrible books in life. When you are on a reading mission, there’s even less time. Fortunately, I ended up bringing a couple of extra books and this took care of the problem immediately.

Deejah: And if you are reading on a tablet or ereader, have your charger handy. Having to run home to get it is another time suck. GRRRR!

4. Have a stopwatch.
Deejah: if your phone doesn’t have one, download one or bring an actual one. We aren’t trying to make reading an Olympic sport here, but you are going to want to be mindful of your breaks. They can really add up. Plus, you can add cool photos of your stopwatch to your project evidence!

Lara: Right! You know there’s going to be someone who’s all… So, uhm…. Did you read while you went to the bathroom? So, uhm… No that’s gross and I just used a stopwatch so I could take breaks.

5. Stay hydrated.
Lara: It keeps you alert.

Deejah: But it makes you pee. You must have gone to the bathroom 10 times on Saturday.

Lara: Thank goodness for the stopwatch.

6. Eat Good. Eat Bad. 










Clockwise from the top left:

Turkey burger with avocado. Good healthy fats and deelish.
Frozen lemon yogurt with graham cracker and dark chocolate chips. A healthy alternative to ice cream.
Ghetto-fabulous, truck stop trash: Chili cheese fries with sour cream and a taco. No judging. We were on a mission.
Homemade trail mix: This concoction was THE only thing that kept us going in our 23rd hour.
Grilled chicken kebabs with roasted veggies and brown rice: Who are we kidding? This is fantastic any day.

7. Find a place to have your reading marathon.
Lara: Ideally, it’s a public place where you have to sit up and won’t likely fall asleep. Ideally, it has food. And if it has food, it has a bathroom. All wins! If you can do this, you can plant yourself and avoid all the running around we did. Our favorite place to do this was Starbucks.

8. Music is a must.
Deejah: Starbucks typically plays music. The background music, plus the hum of the people creates a nice white noise while reading. However, you want to have your own music source as well. Sometimes Starbucks isn’t playing music or people are just being distracting. We found the Saturday Starbucks crowd to be pretty mellow. Sunday was a party–and not the kind you want to be at when you are on a mission.

9. Pick a realistic start time.
Lara: We met at Starbucks at 6 a.m. both days. This ensured prime seating selection (comfy leather chairs). We actually started reading around 6:30, after ordering food and drinks and getting situated.

10. Let people know about your reading marathon.
Deejah: This way they can be supportive and they won’t be surprised/worried/annoyed if you aren’t returning their calls/commenting on their FB statuses/retweeting their tweets/or liking their Instragram posts as quickly as you typically do.

Lara: Yeah, you will get a lot of “Why on earth are you doing that?” but people like a freak show too. They will support you.

11. Don’t go it alone.
Lara: There was a reason I tapped Deejah the second I heard about 24in48–she’s my Project Partner in Crime. But aside from that, you really need to the support of another person, in the same room, on the same couch or at the same table that can cheer you on when you finish a book, can tap your shoulder when you are dozing off and that can give you a couch to crash on when it’s over because you are too spent to drive home.

Deejah: Really, it is about a shared experience. And this is another one we can put in the books, NBFF!

As for if we will do this again? Stay tuned… You will be some of the first to know.


What Deejah Read

Naked Statistics by Christopher Wheelan — This is not a topic I would willingly dive head first into, but I was intrigued as I listened to the author describe the book on NPR some months ago. Though this is a technical book about statistics, the author knew just when to lighten the text so as not to be obscure and potentially lose the reader. I stayed the course and learned some interesting facts (don’t always look at those survey results with such a trusting eye) and I feel like I am better equipped to have a basic conversation regarding some basic theories associated with statistics.

Self-inflicted Wounds: Heartwarming Tales of Epic Humiliation by Aisha Tyler — Aisha Tyler’s book of anecdotes teaches us that winning isn’t always the thing. Sometimes the thing is what you do after you have lost, after you have humiliated yourself, after you’ve been told no. This book was oftentimes laugh out loud funny, as my NBFF can attest, it was also a great pick me up after the heavy, though fun, concepts in Naked Statistics.

Maus 1: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds Blood by Art Spiegelman — Lara saved me with Maus. I had about 4 hours of the project left, but needed a book to read. I had plenty on the Kindle but we could use this project to fill in some book bingo squares (another one of our book projects this year). I am not an award-winning book reader by nature but my NBFF is. I needed one for that category and another with an animal on the cover. This is a 2-book series that met both of those criteria. Maus is a graphic novel about the holocaust, a tragic event in history but lovingly and often times humorously told by father to an often exasperated son.

Want to keep up with Deejah? Follow her on Twitter!

What Lara Read

Blankets by Craig Thompson — A graphic memoir where Thompson tells the story of his first love, his first loss and his struggle with faith. His drawing is extraordinary.

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg — Any time a prominent woman writes a books about women’s rights, there’s an uproar. Rather than choosing sides, grab the book and pull up to the table. There’s a lot here we can learn about – whether we are women or men – and the value equality brings everyone, not just some of us.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich — Her latest, a National Book Award Winner for Fiction hit it out of the park for me. It’s 1988 and 13-year old Joe’s mother, a social worker has been brutally beaten and raped. Joe and his father, a Reservation Judge, work with authorities on this troubling case that stretches tribal, state and federal jurisdictions. Part literary fiction, part literary thriller, this book had me turning the pages. I’m usually hit or miss with Erdrich, but THE ROUND HOUSE was a bonafide hit.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan — Lifted from my folk’s house this summer – shhhh! I’ll return it–this is a fun romp into the discussion of books, technology and our own mortality. A must if you like books, technology and are a bit nerdy.

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