Sunday, October 16, 2011

So Many Books, So Little Time

Picture this: A girl is reading on a couch. The book could be a classic, a young adult novel, or even a thriller, whichever floats your imaginary boat. Rinse and repeat for the next two to five days depending on the length of the book. Well, guess what? That girl used to be me.

People who read more than one book at a time used to drive me crazy. I kept wondering how they could possibly keep all those characters, plots, and little details straight. I thought "cheating" on a book took away something from the reading experience, cheapening it somehow.

Since I started blogging, I've come to realize how I underestimated the creative powers of the human mind. Sure, you might not like reading more than one book at a time (like I said: whichever floats your imaginary boat), but it is possible to keep those plots and characters straight. For example, you're reading Treasure Island and Pride and Prejudice at the same time. You're not going to expect Mr. Darcy when you pick up a book set on the high seas, are you? Or Mr. Rochester in Harper Lee's Alabama?

Blogging never fails to introduce me to new things, and, now, I can't believe I'm reading four books at the same time--a Frankenstein e-book, Anna Karenina, Rebecca, and Dubliners. All I can say is I'm having a fabulous time reading all four books. When the short stories in Dubliners become too much for me, I can always switch to the intrigue provided by Rebecca. There's no pressure to finish a book on a specific date, because I'm having so much fun.

It just goes to show that, over time, the preferences that we thought were set in stone change. I always thought I would never cheat on the books I love so much, but it turns that more is indeed merrier.

How about you? What's your reading method of choice? Do you read more than one book at a time or do you stay faithful?


mooderino said...

Currently reading:

The Ask
Bonfire of the Vanities
The Killer in Me
Blood Meridian

usually read at least a couple of chapters of each a day.

Moody Writing

Nymeth said...

I used to be a monogamous reader too, but blogging changed that. My problem wasn't so much getting the books mixed up, but feeling that I wasn't making any progress or finishing anything and getting frustrated. However, I find that I actually read more if I have more than a book at once, because if I'm not in the mood for one of the things I'm reading I can pick up something else.

Amanda said...

I'm usually in at least two or three books- an audiobook for driving, my main read, and a bedtime book. Right now those are Tess of the D'ubervilles, The Secret History, and a guided daily Bible...I've admittedly been slacking on that last one there.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I'm strictly monogamous otherwise I find that I get nothing finished and get frustrated at taking so long to actually complete any of the books.

Looks like I'm in the minority though!

Trish said...

I usually have one main book and then a short (small) one for in my purse and then, lately, I've had something in audio on my iPod. I like the idea of short stories for a quick read now and then. I have Dubliners, too, but I haven't started it yet.

Right now I'm reading:

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (big book)

The Picture of Dorian Grey on my iPod (audio)

The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole (small book)

Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe (short stories)

Allie said...

I used to read only one book at a time, but when I started blogging, that slowly started to change. I try to only read 2 books at a time for sanity's sake, but I am often in the middle of 3 or 4. :)

Laura said...

I'm pretty much always reading a non-fiction (usually a memoir or something) and a fiction book at the same time, (oh, and usually a Stephen King too...) but sometimes it spirals out of control and I'm reading 5 or 6 at once.... But I think you're definitely right, it's pretty easy to keep track, and to pick up on each story where you left off.

Zibilee said...

I have a hard time reading more than one book at a time because invariably, one book gets more attention, while the others languish. But I do listen to audiobooks and read print books at the same time. I use the audiobooks for times when I have to be on the go or moving around and I can't sit still to read a book. Sometimes I even listen as I am dropping off to sleep.

Erin said...

My ideal number is two books (print or e-) and an audiobook going at one time. If I know I'll have a lot of time to read for a period of time, I may pick up a third book; if my reading time is going to be restricted, I stick with a single book. I find that's all I can take on without getting overwhelmed. It's not so much that I start confusing the books with one another (though I had a fun time picturing Mr. Rochester hangin' with Scout!) as I get discouraged by how long it takes me to finish a book!

simplerpastimes said...

I used to read more than one book at a time quite easily (if nothing else one for fun + one for school), but anymore I don't seem to be able to make progress if I have more than one on the go.

Trisha said...

I'm not sure what to call what I do. I'll have multiple books going at any one time, but I'm not really reading more than one at once. It's more like I read one in the middle of reading another.

Kailana said...

I am both. Sometimes I just read one book at a time, but then other times I feel like reading a bunch of books. I am in the mood of reading lots of books at a time recently...

Emma said...

I used to be monogamous as well with reading. It changed for me when I got my Nook (E-Reader). At first, I read almost exclusively on there, then I started reading paper books as well, but all one after the other, and then it eventually morphed into reading one of each, beginning another of the same format when I finish one.

Lately I've also been checking out audiobooks from my library (I can listen to them all day at's WONDERFUL), but I find I've sort of let the E-Reader slip...though I am still slowly reading a non-fiction work when I think of it.

I also occasionally pick up a book of poetry to read just before bed.

Right now I'm reading:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Hardcover - Reread

Flyboys - Nook - Non-Fiction

The Graveyard Book - Audio-Book

The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath - Bedtime Poetry

I don't really see a correlation between my blog and my various types of reading, I just tend to speed up one of them when I realize I haven't posted a review for awhile.

Great question, and post!

Shelley said...

I usually read anywhere from 4-6 books at a time, but that includes audiobooks for housework, and a book that I'm reading out loud to my kids. I'm also usually reading something non-fiction, and then one or two fiction books. When people question the idea of reading more than one book at a time, I usually point out that many people are watching more than one TV series at a time, and they don't get mixed up, do they?

Jillian said...

Um... I'm reading 13 books at a time. :-) Sticking to one makes me restless.

Sasha said...

I very rarely stick to one book. Like Jillian, reading just one book makes me restless. I don't want to know how many books I'm "currently" reading at a given time--the contemporary novel I can't wait to finish, the classic I want to savor, a book about whales I picked up because I'd only realized I was interested in whales, a short story collection I'm chugging my way through, the romance novel I'll most probably ignore all the others for. Eek.

Right now, I'm getting jiggy with Jeffrey Eugenides, Eileen Chang, Alois Hotschnig, Fernando Pessoa, and, um, a lot more. Somewhere.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I love this post. I'm always reading multiple books at the same time. An audiobook in my car, another at home, a hard copy I keep in my purse and usually another by my bedside. I've found that all I really have to do is pick a diverse number of topics, like you said. I'll have one nonfiction book, another Victorian novel, another modern novel and then maybe a play or book or essays or YA book or something. I feel like it helps keep my brain going in multiple directions and keeps each book interesting because I'm enjoying different aspects of each.


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