Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Sunday Salon: "Alone Among Others" or Reflections on Read-a-Thon

The Sunday

Thoughts on my participation in Read-a-thon and some inspiration about being "Alone Among Others" from The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee.

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon is a fantastic event that brings together readers from all over the world to simultaneously read for a twenty four hour period. How does that work exactly? Well, we all agree to read for a 24 hour period and we use various social networking tools to stay connected. Most participants maintain a book blog for longer posts and comments from other readers. Many use Twitter to send short bursts of information and encouragement, and to leave links to blog posts and videos (vlogs). We use YouTube, Vimeo, or other sites to post videos giving a live action look into our doings. A central event blog is available with hosts that post helpful suggestions for staying awake, information about various prize giveaways and contests, and videos in which they cheer the readers on. There are also teams of cheerleaders that "visit" all of the participants and encourage their reading endeavors. As you can see, there is a lot going on besides reading!

Participating in this Read-a-thon for the first time, I found it a bit overwhelming to balance my reading with all of the social interaction. I expected to read a lot. After all, it is a READ-a-thon. I also wanted to stay connected to the other readers. Since we aren't all sitting in the same room, we have to find other ways to be together. In order to stay connected I had to, at the least, write blog posts and visit and comment at other participant's blogs. Posting pictures and/or videos of our book piles, snacks, reading areas, and activities (like that lovely afternoon walk to rejuvenate us for more reading) is a bonus but it is also an important way to make the event more personal and give it a sense of place.

So how did I do? I did get some reading done, but I spent a lot more time interacting socially online!

Reflecting on all of this, I was inspired by an idea in an essay by Lewis Buzbee that I read during Read-a-thon. In "Alone Among Others," Buzbee puts forth the idea that as readers we are alone with our books but by congregating with other readers we can simultaneously be amongst others. Have you ever seen a room full of people reading together? Or spent time in a bookstore or library browsing among the books? It is quiet with everyone individually focused on their reading or browsing, yet it is a gathering together of those with something in common. I love this idea of being alone among others.

Yesterday I was alone among others worldwide (that's a big room!) reading together. I spent time online making connections to other readers doing the same thing at the same time. Yes, this took away from reading time but it also allowed me to be part of an awesome community of book readers and bloggers. We were together. It allowed me to read and chat with my friend in Canada, someone I've never met but consider a friend none-the-less. I was encouraged by another friend in Texas, again someone I've never met but admire for her unending enthusiasm. I could mention others, but like I said ... it was a BIG room. And it was an AWESOME event.

Will I participate in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon again? You bet! It was a great experience. And for those who remember Dewey, she would be proud of our ability to be alone among others.


  1. Thanks for your account of what it was like. I totally wanted to participate, but knew that a week before comps was not the best time to take on something like this! Maybe next year!

  2. What a great post! It is amazing the amount of social interaction goes on during the read-a-thon. It's one of the reasons why I keep coming back. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. Have a great week.

  3. Great post! You've exactly hit on why I love taking part in the readathon. It's not just to read all day - I could spend other days doing that. It's being part of a community event that I love. Yes, throughout the rest of the year we visit blogs and chat on twitter, but readathon lets us all hang out together at the same time - with new and old friends - doing what we do best: reading :)

  4. When I have time for the read-a-thon, my favourite thing is to socialize. For that reason I have never signed up to read before. I was sad this year I never really got to do anything, though...

  5. Oh Terri--I love this post. And I love the idea of being alone among others. When I first heard of the readathon I didn't think it sounded like any fun at all--reading alone for 24 hours? Blech. But the interaction is what makes this event so special--the bringing together of this solitary act. I've been a little sad as some of my blogging friends have dropped the readathon throughout the years, but I'm glad that other friends continue to join every year. It really is something that must be experienced to completely understand! is easy to get carried away with the interaction. When I'm more focused on reading than cheering (which has been a few years), I try to set a timer when on the computer to keep me on track. ;)

    SO thrilled you'll join again!