One of the main ways I read as many books in a year as I do is by reading multiple books at a time. For a long time, I thought that’s what everyone did – had several books in progress at once, rather than reading one book straight through before picking up another one. How eye-opening it was for me to discover that that was not the case, and that many of my acquaintances and friends were baffled by my typical reading method!
The primary reason I’ve heard for why people only read one book at a time is because they fear they won’t be able to keep them all straight, and will mix up story lines and events from the different books. This is a valid concern, and it’s why I try to make sure my “currently reading” stack is made up of books that are so clearly different that I won’t have issues remembering what’s happening in them versus another book.
For a comparison, if you watch TV, and watch several shows on TV, if they’re all similar in type (say, crime dramas), you might forget which one had the episode with a particular story line. But if you watch one crime drama, one medical drama, a documentary, and a couple of comedies, you probably won’t have any trouble remembering which one had the story line about the hospital emergency. And you probably can manage to follow along the entire course of a season, even though you’re only watching it once episode at a time, interspersed with episodes from other shows.
When I’m reading one memoir, one writing book, one history book, one spiritual growth book, etc., it’s generally pretty easy to remember what’s happening in each book.
What’s the benefit?
- Some books are simply slower-going than others. I’m reading about the Donner party currently, and it’s interesting, but so dry that don’t want to try and read it all at once. Smaller segments at a time let me appreciate the text a lot more. Reading other books while working through slower books helps keep me from getting bogged down and not reading anything.
- Some books benefit from being read in small doses, with time in between to think about what I’ve read. One of my current reads is The Message of the Old Testament. I’m really enjoying it, but it’s also almost 900 pages, and one that is not at all condusive to being read straight through. As it is, I’m taking it a chapter at a time, typically one a week. That pace should have me finishing it up at the end of the year.
- Some books require the right mood and setting. Certain titles (such as Wolf Hall) require a quieter atmosphere and larger chunks of uninterrupted time – those I have to save for when my husband has the kids or they’re otherwise reliably occupied. Some books (such as Homemade Pantry) can be read as I’m sitting in the backyard supervising my kids as they run around and play. By matching the right book to the right time, I can maximize my reading time.
Why Should You Bother?
If you’re happy with the amount and type of reading you’re currently doing, that’s great – I’m not trying to get you to change something if what you’re doing is working for you. But if you wish you could read more books in a month, reading multiple books at a time just might be a way for you to accomplish that.
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