A Blog of Seattle Arts & Lectures

SAL Success Guide to Book Bingo

By Danielle Palmer-Friedman

The game is underway, and we’re set to read, play, and win. Here are some handy tips & tricks on how to master the 2019 Book Bingo Board this summer, straight from the SAL office:


Use sticky-notes flags as markers, instead of writing the title directly on your board.

The only constant in this life is change: You start out with Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How It Ends on your “Past or upcoming SAL speaker square,” but then someone recommends Jesmyn Ward’s Sing Unburied Sing, which you meant to read years ago. So, you move Luiselli’s powerful essay on child immigration to the “By an author from Mexico or Canada” square. Then, you happen upon a fresh copy of There There while browsing at Third Place Books. You read the first page and don’t want to leave the store without it, so you move Ward’s eerily beautiful work of fiction to the “By an author of color square” and Orange’s novel takes the place of “Past or upcoming SAL speaker.”

All of this movement is made possible by one tiny tweak: using sticky-note flags as markers on your board. This way, as the summer and the game proceed, you can adjust your titles to fit what you’re reading next, flowing from one square to the next, the board as malleable as your weekend plans.


If you’re going for a blackout board, don’t read anything longer than 400 pages. And, knock out the squares you’re least enthusiastic about first.

A can-do attitude is a must if you’re aiming for a blackout board. So is a strategic set of rules for yourself.

The summer only has so many days, so stick to books of a manageable size: only you know what that means for you, but for us, anything over 400 pages is out of the question. There’s nothing in the Summer Book Bingo rule book that says shorter works are less valuable.

If there’s a category you’re dreading, be honest with yourself and tackle it first. While we all strive to be diverse readers, there’s no use in denying you love fiction and only begrudgingly read about science. Find a science book you can handle and hop to it – once you’ve checked that scary square off your board, the rest of the game will feel a lot breezier.

Need recommendations for a category that’s out of your book comfort zone? Head to one of our bookstore partners, your local Seattle Public Library branch, or tweet at us @SeaArtsLectures and we’ll send along some suggestions to get you through the struggle.


Don’t feel the need to play for a blackout board.

Blacking out your board is awesome, but it’s not the only way to play. Book bingo is a challenge for yourself, not a measuring stick against other readers. Maybe you made grandiose plans to play harder than years before: you collected suggestions for each square and set a timeline for yourself. But, sometimes, life gets in the way. This doesn’t mean you failed – it doesn’t mean you’ve lost. The point of the game is to enjoy it and to stretch yourself past your normal reading choices. As long as you’ve done that, you don’t need to play blackout.


Choose a poetry book for more than just your poetry square!

We know there’s a #BookBingoNW2019 category dedicated to poetry or play, but you don’t need to confine this genre to just one square. Books of poetry are great for reading in tandem with other books: Read two poems a day, maybe three: one in the morning, one at lunch, and one right before you turn the lights off at night. By the end of summer, you’ll have another square checked off without even noticing it. You can easily fill your “SAL speaker square,” “By an author of color square,” or even “challenges your world view” square while simultaneously reading other books.


Get everyone you know involved!

The best part of 2019 Summer Book Bingo is talking about Summer Book Bingo! The game is meant to bring our community of readers together, but it’s also intended to help that community grow. If someone you know isn’t involved, invite them to get involved. Reach out to a friend from college you were looking for an excuse to talk to, your co-worker who always has a different novel on their desk, or your good friend who you’ve been seeing less of these days. It’s the perfect excuse to start a conversation – both before and after you’ve checked off that square. You can read titles together, bounce recommendations off each other, or help motivate each other to keep playing.

Stay tuned for more #BookBingoNW2019 content as the summer progresses. Next, we’ll feature some titles to help you tackle your next square!

Posted in Summer Book Bingo