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The Reader’s Olympics

So, yes, I know – the Olympics are finished already, so this is no longer an on-theme post, but there was lag, okay? It took me several nights of watching astonishingly gripping women’s rugby sevens games (I am not a person who watches sport at all, so I was a little bewildered by just how invested I was in the sevens, but the Black Ferns were awesome), and having my shoulders hurt just watching the gymnastics, and pining to go swimming while watching the diving, before I realised there was a blog post in it all.

Not about the Olympics themselves, obviously. That would make too much sense.

No, this is the booklover’s Olympics, which, while possibly not as physically demanding, is just as … well, not at all as mentally or emotionally demanding, either. I mean, depending on the book. Some of them can be pretty testing. And anyone who reads hardbacks knows the weight of those things when you’re trying to read in bed. 

But .. well, yeah. Entirely unlike the Olympics. But on to the events anyway! 

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The marathon. Choose a series. A long series. Maybe Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, or George R R Martin’s Song of Ice & Fire. Although, that one’s not finished, so that might be tricky. Or is it finished? I lost track. I did read the first few books, but it appears I am not marathon standard. You could also go classic here – get hold of Don Quixote or The Iliad and The Odyssey. Whatever it is – make sure it’s long. Settle in. You’ll need snacks to keep up your energy, and drinks to stay hydrated. Choose your location carefully – bed may be a little too comfortable, as snoozing is an instant disqualification. The sofa may be an option, or the dining table, but resist the advances of those who would like to watch TV or eat a meal. You are immovable. You’re in this for the long haul. Stay strong.

NB: Toilet breaks are permitted, obviously, but penalty points will be deducted for more than one per hour.

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Laughing maniacally could indicate that it’s time to withdraw from the marathon, though.


The speedreading event. A set text will be distributed to you and your fellow competitors, and it’s a race to finish. A discussion will follow in which you’ll have to prove that you actually read it and didn’t just sneak a look at the blurb. Extra points will go to best recall of actual passages, best interpretation of the themes through the medium of song, not completing due to becoming too invested in the story and slowing down, and wildest misunderstanding of the entire event.

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All the Words. ALL THE WORDS.


There are variations within this event, depending on your location and access to large (or small) bodies of water. For those of you participating from summer climes with ready access to a pool, lake, or the sea, apply liberal amounts of sunblock, add a rash guard and hat, and proceed immediately into the water. The use of a flotation device is permitted, and the competitors are also allowed to remain in shallow water, but the body must be fully immersed, and the book must be held aloft, unsupported. Commence reading. The last to dip their pages wins.

For those without ready access to a large body of water, or currently in winter weather, a bath may be used. If a bath is lacking, fill a large bowl or sink with water. One part of the body – hand, foot, elbow – even face, for those with a clear bucket and goggles – must remain immersed at all times, and the book must be held aloft. The competition is over when you put the book down. And don’t forget to hold your breath.

NB It’s advisable not to use an e-reader for this event. Or a particularly favourite book.

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Points will also be awarded for style.


Competitors will stand next to their bookshelves while a friend or family member stacks books in their arms until they can hold no more. The event is judged both on how many books are able to be held, and how long for. Extra points are awarded for the careful placement of the book stack on the ground at the end of the event, rather than an uncontrolled drop. Points are deducted for any damage sustained to the books.

NB Please ensure all small children and animals are kept at a safe distance. And please ask bystanders to refrain from tickling the competitor. That’s a whole different event.

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Poor show on the dismount.


This is a freestyle event, in which competitors may demonstrate their most challenging reading positions. Points are awarded for inventive use of the space and furniture available, comfort, and ability to remain in position for long periods of time. However, books must actually be read, and pages must be able to be turned. Looking at you, handstand enthusiasts.

NB Please do not use pets or family members as props. There were complaints last time.

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A deceptively straightforward event, this requires competitors to continue reading while well-meaning family, friends, acquaintances and strangers approach them with questions, requests, and amusing anecdotes. Points are deducted for looking up from the page, re-reading the same sentence multiple times, loss of average reading pace, inability to recall what you’ve just read, and responses of more than one syllable.

NB Throwing the book at the distractor is grounds for immediate disqualification, despite the inarguable degree of satisfaction involved.

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Extra points for polite dismissal of interrupters, although I then have to take them away again for looking up from the book. Sorry.


A group event, this will require actually interacting with other competitors and bookshop owners. Form a band of local competitors and establish a route through all local new and secondhand bookshops. A list of books to be acquired will be provided, including: one paperback with a half-naked man on the front; one very old hardback with a dedication to someone’s pet hand-written in the front; one book of obscure poetry by someone with a title, preferably with at least one sonnet to the moon; one children’s book with suspicious bite marks on the corner; one celebrity memoir found in the bargain bin; two books claiming entirely conflicting advice on how to get rich/thin/young; one hot beverage; one baked good; and two complimentary bookmarks. 

All bags must be carried by the competitors themselves, and extra points will be awarded for becoming distracted while searching and emerging with five unassigned books and the loss of three hours.

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This is not efficient, but it is entertaining.

Having written this, I really want to compete. Anyone in? Any other events you’d like to add? Let me know below!

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  1. Val Foskett says:

    Re how many books can you hold event: librarians have a head start in this. Are they therefore ineligible to enter? ; )

    1. Kim Watt says:

      They begin with a fixed penalty of three hardbacks and four awkwardly-sized children’s books 😉

      1. Val Foskett says:

        Yes, that would do it! Retired librarian here, and I have struggled with those children’s books!

        1. Kim Watt says:

          They’re so tricky! All sorts of sizes!

      2. BONNIE BONNETTE says:

        Cat. Will there be any more books about Gobellino and Green Snake and Cullum? I discovered your books about them and read all four in a week. Now, I am clamoring for more!

        1. Kim Watt says:

          Hi Bonnie – thanks so much for dropping by and commenting! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed the Gobbelino stories ❤️ And yes, there will be more! The next book out will be another Beaufort, but I’ve already started on the newest Gobbelino as well. I’ll keep you updated!


    I’m in! Finally! A sport I might excel at. At least all the reading parts of it. I was that pathetic child last to be picked on the sidelines🙁 And looking back, rightly so since I have never had any athletic prowess whatsoever. Unless you count reading 😉
    I’m afraid I didn’t watch any of the Olympics and I didn’t have any desire to. I grew up on a tropical island where the sports we watched were surfing and cliff diving and I’ve never been able to muster any interest in any others. I know right? Downright un American🙂
    Thank you so much for the Lindsay Buroker recommendation! So far I’m loving her.

    1. Kim Watt says:

      We have an awful lot in common – I was also the last person picked for EVERYTHING. The only reason I didn’t fail PE (sports) was because there was a swimming module, and that carried me through. I dropped that class the moment I could! And I really only ended up watching the Olympics this time because my dad was – I’ve never thought to watch it before. It was actually weirdly fascinating! And in some areas just weird (the gymnastics with the ball? All I could think of was performing seals, although I know it was amazing and I’d never be able to do anything like it, but still… seal…).

      And I’m so glad you’re enjoying Lindsay Buroker! I loved the Star Kingdom series so much.

      1. MARIE CORDALIS says:

        The only reason I didn’t fail PE (and I still getting that gripping feeling in my gut just saying the acronym) was that I gave my best no matter how awful it was . Pretty sure it was a pity pass. But I’ll take it 😉
        I’ve only read the first of the series so far but I loved it!

        1. Kim Watt says:

          Oh no – I’ve only just realised now that maybe the swimming *didn’t* save me (although I was good at it). Because now I think about it, that was one very small part of the curriculum… 😂

  3. CG Phillips says:

    These Olympics sound like fun! Can we bring our own team? 😄

    1. Kim Watt says:

      Absolutely! It’s open to everyone, and new events can be submitted to the committee (also known as the contestants) at any point. And every team gets to create their own flag 😉

  4. Rose says:

    A competition I’d add is to have all competitors given a Kindle with the same 2,000 books and samples and have them sort the books into logical collections with limits on quantity in each. For bonus points on the second day I’d add being able to find any specific book within 3 tries, searching not permitted.

    (I’m still trying to figure out where everything is or isn’t on my new Kindle.)

    1. Kim Watt says:

      Ooh, that’s a challenging event! High levels of technical difficulty involved, intense focus and strategic thinking. I like it. I wouldn’t do very well at it myself, of course, but I’d observe with great interest!

    2. Val Foskett says:

      Are librarians allowed to enter this, Rose?

  5. Lynda Dietz says:

    I love this! “There were complaints last time.” And I’m pretty sure the steeplechase would be where I excel.

    Your comment about holding our own bags made me think of a handful of years ago when a friend and I went to our annual library sale together. We came out with so many books that we had to stop about every ten steps on the way back to the car because our bookbags were so heavy. It took us forever, and we giggled all the way. When we were telling another friend about how long it took to get to our parking spot, she just looked at us incredulously and said, “Why didn’t one of you wait with the books while the other one brought the car around?” Honestly, it had never occurred to us, and the whole thought just made us laugh all over again. Bags full of new book acquisitions make my brain fuzzy.

    1. Kim Watt says:

      I love that – bags of new book acquisitions DO make the head go fuzzy! I think there’s also a weird thing about not wanting to relinquish the bags to anyone else, in case … Well, I don’t know in case of what, but I know for me there’s definitely a covetous little thing going on there. Like I’ve been out and found treasure, and I will absolutely carry it home myself, because rawr treasure!

      1. Rose says:

        I think it’s that combination of old book smell and your knowledge that you can’t get these books in the bookstores that gives you the warm brain-fuzzies. Plus, it’s such a DEAL!!! Twenty-five cents to a dollar each and you get hours of reading, almost free. A fancy coffee or two could give you a week’s winter reading or more.

        1. Kim Watt says:

          Bookhauls are AMAZING for that. And getting to take them home and wedge them into your shelves, and see if anyone’s left interesting bookmarks in them, and just generally admire them while you decide which one to dive into first… Yes. Amazing!

    2. Linda says:

      Thank you for making me remember a wonderful memory. My friend and I went from our home in the states to London and Scotland for the first time. We stumbled on an old book sale in a church in Edinburgh. We bought too many books for our suitcases so my friend had the brilliant idea to mail our dirty clothes home to us. Much cheaper than mailing the books which we then put in our suitcases! LOL

      1. Kim Watt says:

        That is WONDERFUL. I also got a little bit over-excited in the secondhand bookshops in Edinburgh – it’s a city that just seems to encourage such things! I had to buy an extra bag to check back to France with me (I was living there at the time), but I prefer your idea. Books > dirty clothes, always!

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