Updates to this post will appear here throughout the first several hours of the RAT.

Then, in the evening I’ll be attending a bookish event, so I’ll be reading on the subway before and then being bookish elsewhere.

On Sunday, I’ll total my pages and enumerate the snacks that were had and celebrate another read-a-thon.

Let’s begin with photos of the books that I am planning to read

…so that you will know what I’m *not* reading today.

Because it seems like, every year, I make unreasonable stacks of tempting stories and, then, I read only a fraction of them and get happily distracted by other reading.

Well, not entirely.

But regularly.

And happily.

Nonetheless, here’s my starting point. First, the skinnies. The likely-ones.

Sara O’Leary’s picture book A Family Is a Family Is a Family comes recommended by Anne at I’ve Read This. It comes from Groundwood Press and sounds like just the kind of story to keep in my back pocket, for when focus is flagging.

Lynn Coady’s Who Needs Books? is one of the Canadian Literature Centre’s Kreisel Lecture series. I’ve enjoyed several others in the series, and they are thoughtful but short works. Plus, it’s about books.

Devin Krukoff’s novel Hummingbird sounds like it will be one of those novels which raises a lot of questions about narration and who’s telling stories and how. The fact that the character is dealing with memory gaps, and has written a novel that he doesn’t remember writing? How fun is that.

For the serious reading of the day, I’ll be choosing one of these works (Chan Koonchung’s The Fat Years or Lijia  Zhang’s Lotus)

Each of these is to be discussed on BBC’s World Book Club (on the 27th and the 25th, respectively, of October in Beijing).

Do you follow this podcast?

The interviews are splendid and usually consider prominent backlisted titles.

So if there’s a book you missed reading when it burst onto the literary scene, it’s a great opportunity to “catch up”.

I’m planning to read both of them, eventually, but hope to start one of them during the RAT.

The next three stacks are inspired by the upcoming Margaret Atwood Reading Month, an event which Naomi, of Consumed by Ink, and I are hosting in November.

More details about the Readalong are here and here if you’re a fan of Margaret Atwood’s work or if you’d like to see who else is reading for the event.

Although I haven’t decided exactly what I’ll be reading next month, I know I want to reread some of my favourite short stories of hers (from Stone Mattress and Bluebeard’s Egg).

Rereading is something I always mean to do more often, but it’s hard when there are so many “new” books.

So many bright and shiny temptations!

And, speaking of which, I also would like to peek at her earlier collection (Dancing Girls) which I’ve never read.

Short stories are always in my stacks. What’s the last short story you read?

On November 1st, not only will I be reading Margaret Atwood, but also a Mavis Gallant story collection, From the Fifteenth District, but that’s part of an ongoing project to read through her stories, so I don’t have a play session planned today with her stories as I do with these three volumes.

I’ve read all of her novels, and reread several as well, and I’ve yet to choose which of them I would like to reread in November.

I’m planning to revisit the first couple of chapters in an old favourite (Cat’s Eye from 1988).

And maybe a couple of chapters in each of these two early novels, Bodily Harm (1981) and Life Before Man (1979) as well.

Sampling should lead me to a conclusion in terms of which I’d like to reread and then, hopefully, I can settle into that one.

Finally, I’ve got some more skinny reads on the stack, including a play (a version of The Penelopiad), some poetry and a booklength essay.

When attention flags, it’s nice to have books of various sizes and weights to hold in your hands, to make everything fresh.

That’s one of my favourite read-a-thon tips.

Do you have a favourite too?

But…when nothing else will do…I’ve got a stack of Ms. Marvels to shake up the rest of the stack. I’ve been meaning to read the series for ages, and I know I won’t get through all of the volumes in this event, but starting is sometimes the hardest part. And, the nice thing about being slow to get to a series when you’re borrowing them from the library, is that they are usually not only available but renewable, so I’m looking forward to this.

Hour 4 Update (Host: Beka)

Even though I can’t imagine read-a-thon-ing without a TBR, I would be just as well to do it without, because I rarely end up reading what I’ve stacked up!

However, so far I have read three Margaret Atwood short stories, as planned. (Super impressed with myself for this tiny achievement of focus.)

Normally I don’t read more than one short story in a sitting – to let them breathe – but these three were all rereads.

I’ve also read a couple of chapters in Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, which wasn’t in my RAT stack but has been in my stack since the beginning of the month (I’m not finding it as absorbing as The Woman in White was for me).

And some short articles and a poem in last month’s “The Walrus”. I’m very interested to read the cover article by Chris Williw “My Life and Death on Opioids”, but, first, “Very Important Pig”, about Esther (of course), by Jason McBride.

My favourite snack so far is this nut-flour cake from Forno Cultura in downtown Toronto. With fairly traded coffee by Kurtis Coffee.

I’m reading in Toronto, Ontario where not-quite-half of the leaves on the trees have fallen. There are just enough to create a skitter on the sidewalks when you’re walking. Just enough to provoke the early signs of mold allergies. Not enough to get really serious about raking. Not enough to have to closet myself indoors and put my head under a pillow. Which is lucky, because it’s hard to read under there.

And, now, back to the pages!

Hour 8 Update: Hosted by Ellie

She’s right: that’s time to have read through an entire book, but I’ve been reading around.

Maybe that’s one of the things I love most about RATs? After all, most of the time when I sit down to read, I sit down to read specific things.

Whereas on a day like this, I wander-read. It’s permission to browse and roam.

Only two articles left in my magazine, however, and only a few sections to leaf through in the newspaper.

Also, I’m halfway through Angie Abdou’s memoir, Home Ice, which is a compelling read for parents and not-parents, about hockey and not-about hockey.

I’ve also read the picture book in my stack (which I thought I’d be saving for later) and I’ve been for two short walks.

Soon, I’m going to do some stretches and make another small snack afterwards.

By the time I make another update, I’ll have something finished, but I bet I’ve started at least one other book too.

I’ve read the first chapter of each of the next World Book Club reads.

First, Chan Koonchung’s The Fat Years (Trans. Michael S. Duke). It helpfully begins with a note on pronunciation and (perhaps more intimidating than helpful, just for a moment, but then a breath of relief that the list is only a page long) a list of main characters. (Not that I mind character lists in general, but this looks like a relatively short novel, so the idea of needing a list to navigate it was surprising and a little alarming.)

There is also a very informative preface by Julia Lovell which both situates the reader and entices them. Quotation, from the opening lines: “One whole month is missing. I mean one whole month of 2011 has disappeared, it’s gone, it can’t be found.

Next, Lijia Zhang’s Lotus, which is dedicated to her maternal grandmother who survived her life as a ‘flower girl’ in the 1930s. The table of contents lists interesting chapter titles, like “The weak are the prey of the strong” and “You can’t wrap fire in paper”. The voice is immediately arresting and even if it doesn’t have the wicked smart opening that The Fat Years has, the first chapter is definitely engaging within a couple of pages. Quotation from near the beginning: “Lotus instinctively held on to the bench but the officer’s iron claw pulled her up. He dragged her toward a pickup truck parked farther up on the embankment.”

I’ll be reading when I can while I’m out tonight, and tomorrow I will update with my progress while offline.

Closing Survey

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
2. Tell us ALLLLL the books you read!
3. Which books would you recommend to other Read-a-thoners?
4. What’s a really rad thing we could do during the next Read-a-thon that would make you happy?
5. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? Would you be interested in volunteering to help organize and prep?

The hour before I had to stop, because I had so many other ideas about what to read, and, really, only short books would work for my commutes. I read four slim books: Angie Abdou’s memoir, Home Ice, Lynn Coady’s lecture Who Needs Books?, Margaret Atwood’s lecture The Burgess Shale, and Sara O’Leary’s A Family Is a Family Is a Family (a picture book, but I’m counting it because it was so cute and it reminded me of when my stepdaughters would join in the readalong). For Canadian readers participating in the readalong, I do recommend the slim volumes in the Kreisel Lecture series, which read very quickly and are always bookish in nature (although they do have footnotes – so they’re not exactly light reading either) but they’re published by a Canadian academic press so perhaps not readily available in other countries. I like all the readalong traditions, so just keep on keeping on! And I will participate again, but it depends on the weekend.

Happy Read-a-thon-ing!