Sometimes I feel like I’m in a strange situation in the reading community. While I follow people who always seem to have at least 3 books on their GoodReads Currently Reading, I struggle with reading more than one book at a time. It’s by no means because I don’t want to be reading more or certain books. I have moments where I’m trying to decide which book to read next and want to read 3, but I know I can’t. While there are definitely exceptions, I just can’t get myself to do it. Here’s why.
For the most part, I feel like I can’t keep the books straight in my mind if I read more than one. This has been especially important since I started writing serious reviews. If I read more than one thing at a time, I’m far more likely to confuse the writing styles of the books I’m reading or forget that a plot device was used in one book but not the other. And if I’m writing a review for a book for public consumption (aka all of them), then I want to be sure I’m actually reviewing the content of that book and not a different one.
Similarly, I don’t think I can give a book the full attention it deserves if I’m reading another one at the same time. Again, this is particularly important for books I decide to review, because I have to be sure that I’m catching at the nuances of the book in order to do what I consider to be a good review. If I’m thinking about another book simultaneously, I’m more likely to miss important information and details that could change my opinion of it.
I’m also someone who judges books relative to one another. For instance, I review all adult stand-alone romances relative to how I like it compared to The Night Circus, which is one of my all-time favorite books. I have enough trouble reading an okay book after reading an amazing book that if I read the two simultaneously, I might hate the okay book, whereas I might just be ambivalent about it if I were to read it by itself. And I want to judge a book fairly, even if it is relative to my favorites, which I just don’t think I do well if I read more than one book at once.
There are instances where I have to read multiple books at once, the most obvious being school. As an English major, a liberal arts student, and just a reader in general, I could be reading as many as 6 books at once. It’s one of the major reasons I struggle with reading for fun while I’m in school, but at some point, it just gets so overwhelming that I stop being able to do it. For the most part, I’m getting better about it, but I still think it’s hard to differentiate between what I read in one book and what I read in another.
As I write this, I’m in a peculiar circumstance where I am actually reading 2 books for fun. I was in the middle of A Reaper at the Gates when I got caught doing a last-minute shift at work without my copy of it (I know, I know, how could I leave the house without a book?!) I didn’t have anything else with me, so I downloaded The Upside of Unrequited on my phone and started reading that. This happened about half a week ago, and, since then, I’ve been jumping back and forth between the two books.
But I’m having a hard time with it. I feel pressure to pick up the “right” book, when the reality is there is no “right” book between the 2 of them. Then I overthink it and convince myself I “should” be reading the other and that I’d enjoy the other one more at the moment but I can’t just put it this one down and pick the other one up, right? It’s a terrible vortex of questioning that distracts me even further from what I’m reading. And I think the only reason I’m even capable of reading both books simultaneously is because they’re different genres. I don’t think I could read 2 contemporary or 2 fantasy or 2 sci-fi books at the same time. I think this is the reason I can read multiple books for classes; one is bound to be nonfiction, another is a classic, and another may be more recent. Granted I’ve never actually tried it, but I think if I read 2 books in the same genre at the same time, I would find it impossible to keep them straight.
In a nutshell, I have a very one-track mind that can’t handle reading more than one book at once except under very specific circumstances. I want to read more, but I also want to be sure that I’m doing each book I read justice and giving it the attention it deserves, and, for me, that means taking it one at a time.
Do you have any tips for how to read more than one book at once? How do you balance it? Or are you like me and pretty much refuse to try? Do you think it’s even important to force yourself to read more than one book at a time?