I Can Only Read One Book at Once | Discussion

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.

let's chat

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?

Keep reading,

Francesca M. Healy (1)

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14 thoughts on “I Can Only Read One Book at Once | Discussion

  1. I can only actively read one book at a time (and even a step further than that I can’t start a new book without writing my review first… or the review won’t ever be written), but I do tend to have a couple current reads on the shelf. As a mood reader sometimes I have to put something down and move to something else, but I don’t move the book back to WTR right away if that makes sense. I envy people that can read multiple books at once, though. I feel like I would be a lot more productive.

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    • That makes perfect sense! I’ve done that a bit recently, where I just leave it on my CR shelf because I plan on picking it up again once I finish whatever other book I started.

      I can see there the review thing comes in play as well. Personally, I like waiting a day or two after finishing a book to write a review so I can mull everything over thoroughly. That means that I do usually start a new book in between finishing a book and writing a review for it. I actually tend to find it helps me; if I can’t stop thinking about the last book, then I know it was good. It means I tend to start off slow with the new book, but I don’t think it really affects my overall reading experience.

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  2. This is very interesting! Until recently, I only read one book at a time. I would have 3-4 books on my Goodreads shelf as currently reading. This was mostly my “up next” or “on deck” books. So, I know what I need to pick up next. Sometimes, it’s because it’s an ARC that I’ve ignored long enough or a library book that is due soon.

    Last month, I was doing two buddy reads at the same time. We had a certain amount of pages due each day. We would then discuss those pages via messages. I think it helped a lot with reading multiple books. It was like mini reviews each day, as we were discussing things that happened. I then started picking up other books that needed my attention that week. So, I was reading 3 books at once. I had my two buddy reads and then one of my own. I think if you want to try it, doing little reviews when you are done or notes can help keep you on track of the pages you have read. I have not stopped reading multiples since! We have continued our buddy reads the last few weeks since they are series though.

    You could read two books and then set a certain amount of pages you want to hit for each one and read both everyday. So instead of reading 100 pages total, you could split it 50/50. You get a little of two books a day.

    I’m not sure if that makes any sense? It’s just things I’ve noticed that has allowed me to start reading more than one book at a time!! 🙂

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    • That makes perfect sense, and it definitely sounds like something that would help me keep books straight in my head! I think I actually need to do a better job of keeping track of my thoughts as I read, even when it’s just one book, so the idea of mini reviews as you’re reading sounds like a phenomenal strategy! Thank you so much for sharing – I think it will help me a lot in future, especially when I have to start adding in reading for school alongside my fun stuff

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      • Awesome! I’m glad that you were able to understand my ramblings! Haha. I hope that it helps and let’s you get some fun reading, while in school! Although, I can understand why it would be hard to.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I just started Uni so I’m pretty much only reading one book at a time, but usually, I will always have a comic on the go as well. I used to be able to read a bunch of books all at once, but I found that I would always be more interested in one more than the other and might accidentally end up forgetting about one of the books.

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  4. YAAAASSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS! Mee too girl, me too. I can barely keep multiple views straight in one book, let alone multiple books at once! I think my biggest problem with this is that I do not utilize audiobooks. I know a lot of readers who read multiple books at a time are able to keep them straight because one is read physically and one is listened to. I don’t know, I have never been able to get into audiobooks so I don’t read books that way, and maybe that’s why I can’t read more than one at a time?
    The only time I have multiple books on my Currently Reading list on Goodreads is when I picked up books simultaneously to figure out which one to read first. Does that make sense?

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    • I can’t do audiobooks either! I think my visual attention span is way better than aural attention span, so I can read for hours on end but zone out after like 5 minutes listening to things. I’m sure it would be way easier to do it that way, but I just can’t!
      Your way totally makes sense. I try really hard to commit to a book once I start it, so I personally never really start 2 books at once. It definitely seems like a good way to keep track of what you’re reading though, especially when you’re not sure what to start next.
      I currently have 3 listed, and it’s kind of driving me nuts. There’s the one I’m actually reading, one I’m debating DNFing one but want to leave it up in case I do pick it back up, and then Philosopher’s Stone because I started rereading it back in April and figure it’s the kind of book I can pick up where I left off whenever I want to.

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      • YESSSSSS I completely agree about zoning out! Somehow I can sit and read for hours but within minutes of listening, I cannot stay focused.
        I completely understand your frustration! I truthfully only commit to one at a time, and will leave a second option up (if I have it) just in case I end up DNFing.

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  5. I don’t even try reading more than one book at a time and definitely stick to just the one. Go with whatever suits you! Sometimes I’ve started reading a book and it turns out I’m not in the mood for it so I’ll put it down and read something else (however many something else’s) until I’m ready for it. Sometimes it’s me, sometimes it’s the book!

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