You don't have to spend National Readathon Day reading "Beowulf," but you could. And if you did, you would have a lot of company.

Saturday has been designated Readathon Day by the good bookish folks at the National Book Foundation, and people across the country are being challenged to read for four hours straight, from noon to 4 p.m.

The good bookish folks at Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis are taking this a step further, challenging people to read in Old English for four hours. They are hosting a marathon session of "Beowulf," the oldest epic poem in the English language. The event will begin at noon with these words:

"Hwæt! Wé Gárdena in géardagum þéodcyninga þrym gefrúnon hú ðá æþelingas ellen fremedon." Although chances are they will be translated into standard English, which would sound more like this: "So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness." (Seamus Heaney translation.)

The bookstore has lined up a host of readers, including novelist Peter Geye and National Book Award-winning writer Will Alexander, but a few five-minute slots remain open. Sign up at

Donations will go to the National Book Foundation, which supports reading, writers and the National Book Awards. Tweet your experience using hashtag #timetoread. You know, just like those Old English writers did. □

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