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Reader Challenge: SF Books You’ve Read In One Sitting

I can count, on one hand no less, the number of times I read a book that I just couldn’t put down and ended up finishing later that same day or, more usually, night. The first time I remember this happening was about a year after I graduated from college. I was looking for something to read and happened to see a copy of Rising Sun by Crichton that my parents had bought. I picked it up and the next thing I knew it was 3am and I had to get up for work in 3 hours. Just for the record, I probably wouldn’t do that again if I was able to re-read Rising Sun for the first time, even though I enjoy earlier Crichton stuff.

“But!”, I hear you cry,”that’s not SF!” You’re right. In sad point of fact, I have never read a, what most of us would consider, ‘true’ SF book all in one sitting. The closes I’ve come is with Matt Ruff’s awesome Bad Monkeys (review). That one time in my adult life there was the perfect confluence of time, a great story well told and the perfect novel length to allow me to start the book about 6pm and finish later that night around midnight. Although technically it wasn’t one sitting as I started during my son’s tennis practice so I had to stop to bring him home, eat dinner, help with homework and then get the kids to bed. Only then could I finish the book. Still, if I’d had the uninterrupted block of time to work with, I’d have punched that sucker out in a few hours and still had time to play some World of Warcraft.

So the challenge before you is simple: Name the SF(ish) books that you have read all at once, with all at once being defined as starting a book and finishing it within a 24 hour period. You are allowed to have taken breaks in between readings and you get bonus points for finishing late into the night. Tell us what your book(s) is/are and why! (I figure someone has to have read something SF in one sitting…)

About JP Frantz (2323 Articles)
Has nothing interesting to say so in the interest of time, will get on with not saying it.

37 Comments on Reader Challenge: SF Books You’ve Read In One Sitting

  1. In the past, when a new entry in the WILDS CARDS series came out, I would hole up on a Saturday or Sunday to devour it.  Now I’m married and have other responsibilities. 

    Now if I want to read a book quickly, I’ll read it on the train, while walking to and from the train, while walking to meetings around the office, and obviously while in the “library” as my boss used to call his post-lunch visit to the loo.  But I generally don’t get through a book in less than 36 hours.  My most recent fast read was Richard Laymon’s BEWARE, but that was more horror than SF.

  2. I think the only books I’ve read in one setting where the Star Trek series tie in novels (Orignal and Next Generation with a few DS9 books). I’ve been known to read multiple ones on long car trips. Of course a lot of them are rather short and make for light reading so they probably don’t count for anything.

    As for full length hard sf novels? I’m not sure I have read one in one setting. I have read other genres on one setting though – a few mystery novels here and there.

  3. I think the only books I’ve read in one setting where the Star Trek series tie in novels (Orignal and Next Generation with a few DS9 books). I’ve been known to read multiple ones on long car trips. Of course a lot of them are rather short and make for light reading so they probably don’t count for anything.

    As for full length hard sf novels? I’m not sure I have read one in one setting. I have read other genres on one setting though – a few mystery novels here and there.

  4. Oops, sorry for the double comment – I got a server error and hit the back button by mistake which resent the comment…

  5. Actually, Jen, that was my fault.  I was mucking around on the back end — that’s what caused the error.  Sorry!

  6. Back in 1992 I read Jurassic Park in one sitting.  I was 11 at the time, and remember being irate that my mother kept yelling at me to put that book down and go outside. I was reading a book!  It’s not like I was playing computer games or sleeping all day.

  7. Actually, since I don’t have a spouse and kids I get through books rather quickly. Plus I have a habit of reading until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning because I’m hooked (which is a common occurance). For me the list would be more interesting to look at which books I took longer than 24 hours to finish.

  8. Back in the day, I could read every Alistair Maclean paperback in one sitting.  For SF though – I remember making it from start to finish in Anne McCaffrey’s The White Dragon with only bathroom and meal breaks. And I would have made it through Jurrasic Park in a day if it weren’t for a few long car trips that day where I had to drive. 

    But I did manage Sphere and Congo in one-day sittings.

    It’s harder these days, with so many other things vying for my time – and my butt stamina ain’t what it used to be 😀

  9. Two come to mind recently,Jim Butcher’s Small Favor and Karl Schroeder’s Sun of Suns.

  10. In as much as I could have “one sitting” time with a pair of little ones running around at the time, I read John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War in a day.

  11. When I was nine I read Otfried Preussler’s “The Robber Hotzenplotz in one sitting. When I told my friends in school the next day they didn’t believe me.

    Four years ago it was Alan Dean Foster’s “Lost and found”, in 2006 Mike Resnick’s “Mutiny”.

  12. I’m with Rachel on reading most books within 24 Hours.

    The one that sticks in my mind from a long time ago (40 years?) is Robert Heinleins Starship Troopers, which I read twice in 48 hours.

  13. Joshua Spurling // April 20, 2009 at 2:13 pm //

    I read Ira Levin This Perfect Day not that long of a book though.

  14. For me, it was Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, the first book I’ve read through in a day since the Heinlein juveniles.

  15. Tony Solorzano // April 20, 2009 at 2:37 pm //

    Most of the Sci-Fi books I’ll go through in a day are the Star Tek novels, especially when I was younger. But the first one I read in a day came when I was 10 and I got a copy of the book “Sweetwater” by Laurence Yep. For those not familiar with it, and I suspect there are many, this particular book was set on a colony world called Harmony, and it follows the story of a boy named Tyree who’s torn betwen his love of music and the obligations of his family, descendants of the original captain of the ship that founded the colony, on this flooded world. Think a wetter New Caprica, minus the Cylon occupation, but with native aliens.


    I remember sitting around the back yard all afternoon reading every page, not putting it down, even during dinner, and finally finishing it around midnight that day. I still have the book somewhere in a storage container, one of my most prized possessions.

  16. I consider this to be the most-exclusive category of books I’ve read: the literally un-put-downable.


    The first book that falls into this category almost shouldn’t count though, since I was only 13 at the time. I picked up Crichton’s “Sphere” in the bookstore, sat there reading it, got my dad to buy it for me, and finished it that night. What can I say: I was young and naive, and Crichton knew how to write a damn page-turner.


    The other two I’m more proud of: Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods” and Stephen Barnes’ alt-history “Lion’s Blood.” Both absolutely swept me up in the story. (Although I did read “American Gods” sitting by a computer because I wanted to look up half the god references.)

  17. Chapterhouse Dune. It wasn’t within 24 hours, I don’t think. It was too long and I read too slowly, but I think it fits in with the spirit of one sitting. I read it over the course of thirty-six hours, I’d say, doing nothing else but regular maintenance and grooming of the human body. The book was newly released and I raced to finish it before my friends so I could be King Dork for a day.

  18. <i>Vurt</i> by Jeff Noon. As addictive as the drugs that power the plot.

  19. Bill Spangler // April 20, 2009 at 4:28 pm //

    Back when I was an undergraduate, I read Michael Moorcock’s BEHOLD THE MAN from about 3 a.m. tp 7 a.m. one morning, at the end of an all-nighter.

  20. i know that there were more when i was younger, but the most recent that i can think of was about 4 years ago. it was a beautiful afternoon that i’d skipped out of work early to spend with my girlfriend to realize that she had some kind of big design project due at 9pm. i read Down & Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow very quietly in the chair by the window in time to drive her to drop her assignment off at Studio and get some Italian. really a great day on all counts.

    i think it was probably his best book, before he started wearing the cape & ballooning goggles.

  21. In the 55 years that I have been reading, I have read far too many books in less than 10 hours to remember what they were! I do remember, however, reading Tolkien’s The Hobbit when I was 13. Some Steinbeck while I was high school (although they weren’t science fiction). And there’ve been 3 or 4 Heinlein books. Matthew Sturges’s Midwinter. Blood of Ambrose by James Enge. (I remember Sturges & Enge as I just finished them last week.) The Crooked Letter by Sean Williams. Hunter’s Run by George R. R. Martin. The 3 Cassandra Kresnov novels by Joel Shepherd. The very last Harry Potter book (although that took more than 10 hours, I did read it straight through in 18 hours – and it’s not science fiction).

  22. @Paul – This probably isn’t the best way to reach you but I don’t know how else to contact you. I’ve been having problems with the Futurismic in the last couple of weeks – it never loads for me as the network times out every time. What’s crazy is I can access the RSS feed and view the newest posts via that which probably means it’s a problem on my end but I’m not sure. Anyone else have trouble accessing ?

  23. Vurt by Jeff Noon.  Mandy came out of the all night Vurt-u-want, and I was hooked.  Read it straight through – first and last time I’ve ever read anything in one sitting.

  24. Weyland Yutani // April 20, 2009 at 5:44 pm //

    Stephenson’s Anathem – started during my lunch break and had it knocked out by dinner.

    Seriously, I don’t trust anyone’s recollection or review of nearly any novel if they say they knock it out in one day.  There is skimming a story and there is reading a novel.   Anything of any length that isn’t “read” would have to have some pretty poor writing to be “flipped through.”

    No, I want to take my time, construct a full scene in my head, allow the characters to speak, and reflect on moments and ideas.  I read.

    Smaller novels may have quick reading times.  I can see a lot of people getting through Ender’s Game, Solaris,  Starship Troopers, or something by Lethem pretty quickly.   Of course, if you are reading a Lethem Novel in only a few hours, you are probably missing out on the full experience..


  25. Well there’s been times when I’ve had nothing else to do so polished off a book within a day, comfort reading when I’m ill for instance. One I had to finish though was Alfred Bester’s Demolished Man, I seem to remember finishing that about 3 AM: emotionally blown away by the whole thing; and it was written in the 50s! An amazingly modern style compared with other authors from that time I’d been reading.

    Oh, and I also read Lord of the Rings in a weekend (although not the appendices and I skipped most of the songs) when I was 12 or so.

  26. “Darkover Landfall” by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Perhaps a few of the Heinlein juveniles.  Note that those books are very thin by today’s standards.  By the mid 70s most publishing houses required SF novels to be longer and longer in order to justify the cost of publishing.  If this type of question had been asked forty years ago, most people probably would have said most of the novels they had read had been done in one sitting.

    Personally I’m like Weyland Yutani; I have no interest in racing through novels (or non-fiction books) just for the sake of finishing them off in one go.  Very few books I’ve read in recent years have been so gripping that I just had to continue reading it.  (The only one that comes to mind is Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air.”)  I prefer to read in more manageable chunks, 50-100 pages at a time.  It allows me to “digest” the book more thoroughly, giving me time to think about what the author has said when I’m not reading.  That to me, the reflection period, is just as pleasurable as the actual reading.


  27. I can’t remember any SF titles per se…but I’m sure I must have read at least one of the Star Wars books cover to cover in one day…However, I do clearly remember one cold, wintry day during Christmas break back in my college days reading ‘The Cardinal of the Kremlin’ (Yikes!) in less than 24 hours.  I started reading about 7 AM, and finished probably around 1 or 2 in the morining!  One of his shorter books, but still…that’s a lot of pages.

  28. I’m still in high school, and pretty much EVERY book I read I finish within twenty-four hours. I usually start in the morning, read during school, and finish when I get home.

    However, I will say that one that I simply couldn’t put down was Ender’s Shadow. That I can remember finishing in one sitting.

  29. euphrosyne // April 20, 2009 at 10:29 pm //

    I’m with Weyland–I deliberately read fiction (for pleasure) at a slower rate than I read non-fiction (for mere comprehension). The better a book is–and particularly the better the prose–the more I savor it.

    I have, in the past, occasionally read a book in 24 hours–Ender’s Game, some of the shorter Asimov novels. These are the printed equivalent of a blonde bomshell: immediately compelling but ultimately shallow. Anything I read that quickly I am unlikely to recommend.

    A Lolita, say, or Viriconium, or Little, Big–these are the complex, sultry prose seductresses that you never want to say goodnight to, and dream of long after parting. The best books are too good to read too quickly.

  30. I don’t normally read super fast, so I was happy to read The Running Man in a weekend.  I started Ender’s Shadow slow, but read the last 200 pages in a sitting.  

    Most other books I spread out through a week or two depending.

  31. When I was teaching, I chaperoned a group of middle school and high school kids to a young writers convention (where I met Dean Ing who basically didn’t have time for me when I mentioned I enjoyed his work). Because there wasn’t anything for me to do once the kids were there (their responsibility once the kids were in writing sessions), I had all day to read. I brought along a copy of Gibson’s <b>Mona Lisa Overdrive</b>. It was a spiritual experience getting the opportunity to see that book as a whole rather than a lot of separate parts spread out over several days. I’ve been a fan since Neuromancer came out, but that experience sealed it for me.

  32. I remember reading Shogun in a marathon reading session back in ’76. Read the first 600 pages over a weekend, and then rationed myself to 100 pages a night the following week as I got home from work. Worked fine Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but Thursday I had to stay up and finish reading the novel (that book is 1200+ pages long!)…and needless to say, that Friday I was not prepared for work.

    Now that I’m retired and on a very fixed budget, I tend to ration myself to a chapter a night, just to make a book last longer. Of course if it’s a FANTASTIC book, I do tend to read them all at once — most recent was John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War.

  33. Back when I was a young teenager, I was excited to learn that the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings were going to be on TV as a marathon on Sunday afternoon.  These were, of course, the three animated movies.

    My elder brother suggested that I actually read the books, and I managed to read the Hobbit AND the entire LOTR (excluding appendices) by showtime.

    More recently, I’ve had more luck in reading books at one sitting while on airplane flights.  But the most recent book I read at one jump was Stirling’s “In the Courts of the Crimson Kings”.  I simply could not put it down.

  34. I read Dune: The Battle of Corrin in one sitting. Not as good as the originals, but entincing enough for a day of lecture.

  35. Dune. Ringworld. Foundation (That one actually took 2 days, but hey)

  36. Skylark of Valeron and Cosmic Computer

  37. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

    In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan

    Both SF, at least a little bit.

    Does City of Glass by Paul Auster count? Probably not, but I’ll put it down anyway…

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