This week (27th July to 2nd August) is the FinishAthon – a readathon hosted by book blogger Tea Books and Tazmyn. The idea of this readathon is simple: finish as many of the books you’re currently reading as you can! You can keep track of your progress, and other people’s, by using the hashtag #FinishAthon on Twitter and Instagram.
I’ve got quite a few books on the go at the moment, a lot of them nearly finished, so I thought I’d join in and try to finish off as many as I can during this week. I’ll update this blog post each day with my progress, and hopefully inspire you to finish off some books too!
As of the beginning of the #FinishAthon, here are all the books I’m currently reading:
- The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- Lullaby by Leïla Slimani (audiobook)
- How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi (audiobook)
- A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
- The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe by Steven Novella et al.
The last one on that list is a big chonker of a book, and I’m not even halfway through yet, but I’ve made good progress with all the others, so with any luck I’ll finish off the top four. I’ll also try not to pick up anything new this week, but I’ve got a lot of books sitting and looking at me, so that might be tricky. Wish me luck!
This morning I read some Underground Railroad – it’s very pacy and the font is quite big, so I reckon it’ll only take me a couple more days to finish it. I also listened to the last hour of Lullaby, so that’s officially my first book of the FinishAthon complete! I have discovered that I can’t really concentrate on fiction on audiobook – it’s taken me months to read this book, not because it’s bad, but because if I drift off for even a minute, I lose the thread of the story. I think I’ll stick to non-fiction on audio from now on. Overall I found Lullaby, which is a novel about a nanny who kills the two children in her care, to be very tense and filled with gorgeous, sinister detail, but I didn’t love it.
This evening I started listening to a new book on audio, already failing at my attempt not to pick up anything new this week! It is Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed – a collection of her advice columns written under the pseudonym Sugar, and read by the author – and it is amazing. Strayed merges life lessons and personal memoir in her replies to difficult, emotional letters, and she proves that advice writing can be literature. Really looking forward to listening to more of these!
Books finished: 1 | Books started: 1
I’ve managed to make a little bit of progress with nearly all the books today, but I haven’t finished any of them. This morning I read more Underground Railroad – if I didn’t have to do pesky things like work and eat, I’d set aside a full afternoon and just finish it, because it’s utterly compelling. I’ve also listened to a bit of Tiny Beautiful and Antiracist today. I listen to audiobooks on 1.25 speed, but I’m still quite a few hours away from finishing either of those!
I finished my work early this afternoon, so I read a couple of chapters of Brief History of Time, all about black holes! I have to read this book in the afternoons, when I can properly concentrate on it, because it’s not exactly easy going; if I tried it first thing in the morning or last thing at night, I’d probably struggle.
And lastly, I bought a new book today! Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid just got nominated for the Booker Prize, and I’ve been hearing good things about it, so I went to Waterstones and got a copy. I haven’t started it though – I’ll save it for after the FinishAthon.
Books finished: 0 | Books bought: 1
Once again, no books finished today, but I’m very nearly at the end of Underground Railroad. I had about 40 pages left at bedtime, and that was just too many for me to finish off before I went to sleep. Tomorrow though!
I went for a long walk today, up to the Clifton Suspension Bridge, and listened to a good chunk of Antiracist. The audiobook is read by Ibram X Kendi, the author, and he is so good to listen to – he uses this clear, repetitive style that really drives home his points; he doesn’t just narrate, he orates. In this book he talks about race in ways I’ve never heard before, so I can highly recommend Antiracist, and I think listening to it on audio actually enhances it.
Books finished: 0
At last, another book finished! I read the last pages of Underground Railroad this morning – I really liked the ending, it seems very fitting for Cora’s story. I realise I haven’t discussed the plot of this book before: it’s about a runaway slave called Cora, who uses the underground railroad (in this book, a physical railroad hidden under the ground) to travel through states and flee from the slave-catcher Ridgeway, who is after her. The story is often tragic and there are lots of extremely shocking moments that I have no doubt are based in real history. But the railroad is a symbol of hope, or at least forward movement, and Cora is a compelling character to follow.
I read a little bit of Antiracist today, walking to the park to meet some friends. This part focused on racism and capitalism, how they were born together and are deeply, inextricably interwoven.
One of the friends I met in the park gave me a book! Green Earth by Kim Stanley Robinson. It’s actually a trilogy, trimmed down and reworked by Robinson to fit into one volume, and it’s a mere 1,050 pages long. So if I want this to be one of my FinishAthon reads, I only need to read 350 every day until the end of the week. Easy!
Books finished: 1 | Books received as a gift: 1
Today I skipped my morning exercise to finish A Brief History of Time. I kept up with the early chapters quite well, because I’ve studied some of it before (origins of astronomy, lifecycles of stars, etc), but the later chapters got into pretty intricate quantum physics and cosmology, and that is hard. Still, I’m very glad I’ve read it, and hopefully if I read it again in a couple of years, after I’ve studied more, I’ll understand it better!
I listened to a good chunk of Antiracist, this time about the intersections between racism, sexism and homophobia. I’ve got about an hour and a half left of the audiobook, so I should finish that over the weekend.
And finally … I started another book. I know, I know, I have a problem, but I couldn’t help myself. I’ve been really excited to read Such A Fun Age, and the pink endpapers and blue sprayed edges make it look like an ice cream. So I started it and was immediately hooked. In the first chapter, babysitter Emira is accused of kidnapping the child she’s looking after, because Emira is black and the child is white. The child’s mother, Alix, feels extremely guilty about this and decides she wants to be friends with Emira – and we go from there. So far it’s page-turning reading and I can’t put it down!
Books finished: 1 | Books started: 1
I finished Antiracist! WOW. It’s an amazing book; it should be essential reading for everyone. Kendi blends history, autobiography and critical race theory into this incredibly thoughtful, powerful call to action to take a stand against racism. As he says in the book, “The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist’. It’s ‘antiracist’.” I highly recommend the audiobook version, but you should read it in whatever form will work for you.
I’m also absolutely ploughing through Such A Fun Age. It’s so readable and also packed with ideas about race, motherhood, power, money, love and sex. The characters are amazing and the story has this constant sense of excitement and nervous tension that just pulls you through. I don’t want it to end, but at the rate I’m going I’ve only got a couple of days left with it! I have high hopes for this one winning the Booker, or at least getting shortlisted.
Books finished: 1
And so we have reached the end. I didn’t finish any more books today, although I have been eating up Such A Fun Age and I’ve only got about 50 pages left. So, at the end of the FinishAthon, my currently reading list now looks like this:
- Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
- Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
- The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe by Steven Novella et al
I have finished four books this week, and started two more, so that means my currently reading list is shorter than it was on Monday – I call that a win!
I’ve really enjoyed doing the FinishAthon. It’s pushed me to finish books I might have dragged out for another few weeks, and I’ve ended up loving most of what I read. I’ve also learned that essentially my whole life is a FinishAthon and there will never come a time when I have read all the books I want to. Luckily, I’m OK with that!
Books finished: 4 | Books started: 2 | New books received: 2
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my progress this week. Did you do the FinishAthon too? If so, let me know how you got on with a comment below.