In just a few short hours, the latest edition of 24-Hour Bookclub—a reading flashmob you can join!—will begin. We’ll be reading Both Flesh and Not, the new collection of non-fiction essays by David Foster Wallace. If this time is anything like last time, I’m going to be delirious with happiness by the end of the day. I’m already kind of delirious with excitement.
Since a ton of readers are joining us for the first time, I thought I’d jot down a few examples of ways people have seized the day and new ideas we’re trying out this time. These are all things that people came up with spontaneously, though, so my number-one piece of advice is: experiment! If it seems like a good idea, try it. We’re all making this up as we go along, and that’s what makes it so fun.
- Take a picture as you start reading. Capture the book (or the device you’re reading it on) in your natural surroundings. And if you received a membership card in the mail…might we suggest using it as a bookmark?
- Pull quotes that catch your attention and post them to Twitter. Make sure to add the hashtag #24hourbookclub to all your tweets so that we can find them!
- Throw an in-person reading party with friends. Last time, people in San Francisco got together to read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore in Dolores Park with bagels. This time, people are gathering in Brooklyn to read together and eat coffee cake. That’s so cool.
- Write more than 140 characters on Branch! Thanks to Libby and Josh at Branch, we’re all set up with a shiny new Branch group for 24-Hour Bookclub. Click “ask to join” and we’ll let you right in once it’s Sunday morning where you are. We’ve set up separate branches for each essay in the collection. Once you finish reading “The (As it Were) Seminal Importance of Terminator 2,” for instance, you can hop on over to the associated branch and see what other people have to say, as well as adding your own thoughts. Branch and Twitter are complementary; Branch emanates quiet purpose and lively civility, where Twitter is all chaos and bright light. I’m excited to see them coexist!
- Highlight in Readmill as you go along. I did this for my original solo book-in-a-day experiment and I can’t wait to do it again for Both Flesh and Not. When Matthew from Readmill interviewed me and Max over email, I realized that “calm and exhilaration are two sides of the same coin: books were made for immersion, and no experience is more immersive than Readmill.” If you’d like, you can follow my real-time highlights and notes here.
- Share your thoughts out loud with SoundCloud. I love the image of a time-shifted in-person bookclub…all of us sitting around a kitchen table, talking once we have things to say. SoundCloud’s mobile apps are great for recording audio on the fly—I use their iOS app pretty much every day.
Or…just quietly read, and know that you’re in good company. I love playing with new tools, and I love that so many 24-Hour Bookclub readers do, too. But books are our first love, and if solitude feels truest to you, then that’s what you should do. This can be whatever we want it to be, and if all you need is the license to throw yourself into a book for a day…well, dear reader, we will give that to you in a heartbeat.
I hope to see you in the morning! Thank you for being a part of this.
As an observer, I always like to hear about things go—how the story turns out. I read all kinds of announcements online, but reflections are my favorites. So here goes one of those.
Last week, I wrote that I’d be reading Robin Sloan's new novel, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, in one marathon day for 24-Hour Bookclub, a new thing Max Temkin and I started. Max followed up with a post of his own.
On Friday, I went to the grocery store and picked up some snacks for the day: yogurt, apples, jack-o’-lantern chocolates. That night, I had trouble going to sleep—I was too excited. Looking forward to the marathon day evoked that old Christmas Eve feeling in me: total, gleeful anticipation.
Woke up in the morning, realized that a few people had already tweeted at @24hourbookclub wondering if they could begin. Not everyone lives in the same time zone! I apologized quickly, then posted a stream of stage-setting tweets. (Use the hashtag, tweet your thoughts, have fun—we’re not rule sticklers, and besides, we’re making this up as we go along.)
Then I dug into the book. And oh wow. The book was so good. It stayed good the whole way through, but it had the special quality of grabbing me from the first sentence. I knew I could count on Robin to write something fun and real.
I poked my head up every couple of chapters to check Twitter, reply to people, retweet fun thoughts. My double bed (my favored reading place, aka the only comfortable surface in my dorm room) became command central: computer at my side, phone blinking with Twitter notifications, book nestled in the folds of the comforter whenever I had to set it down.
At one point, Ed Cormany and I tweeted almost exactly the same thing at exactly the same time. I took a screenshot just seconds later:
In that moment, I felt so ridiculously connected.
All in all, over 25 people read the book as part of 24-Hour Bookclub. (I asked for names and addresses afterward for a small surprise we’re planning, which is how I know with such specificity.) I collected over 150 tweets into a mammoth Storify. I made some new friends, and strengthened old friendships. When I saw photos of dear friends in San Francisco sitting and reading the book together in Dolores Park, my heart nearly exploded. Really, what could be better than reading together?
I finished the book in the early afternoon. This was around when the first wave of readers finished, too, so I tweeted out some congratulations. For the rest of the day, I watched as others crossed the finish line, celebrating with them as they did. As for me, I didn’t want the day to be over. In the end, I went back to the beginning and started again.