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Do You Read More Than One Book at a Time?

illustration: 2021 Discussion Challenge

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The question of whether people read more than one book at a time comes up often on book-related media. I’ve noticed that the people who post the question and then go on to answer it most often write about why they read multiple books simultaneously. Many people just ask the question without including any discussion, but the ones who do include their answer with the question are usually people who read more than one book at a time.

That’s just an unscientific observation of mine. I haven’t kept any records or hard statistics on the subject. But I’m going to assume I’ve observed correctly for the purpose of discussion here, because I wonder why simultaneous readers tend to ask and answer the question most often. 

Perhaps these readers ask and answer the question because they somehow feel that reading several books at once is a habit that needs justification. They frequently explain that they have different books in different formats (print, audiobook, ebook) going at the same time. Some read books in different categories (i.e., fiction and nonfiction) at the same time, or works in different genres (i.e., fantasy and historical fiction).

Or maybe these readers are really bragging: “I’m smart enough to keep several books going at one time,” as if the capability of keeping more plates spinning is an assertion of reading prowess. A more gracious interpretation would be that moving between different stimuli is how they keep their engagement with reading fresh and rewarding.

I firmly believe that reading is a highly personalized experience: different strokes for different folks. There are no right or wrong ways to read. Whatever works for you is what you should do.

In answering the question of whether I read more than one book at a time, I fall somewhere in the middle. I prefer to immerse myself in one book at a time. I don’t want to be reading two novels simultaneously and have to remind myself which one’s protagonist is an orphan and which one’s protagonist, at age 37, still lives at home with Mother. I like to consume characters’ stories whole.

However, I sometimes have an audiobook going at the same time as either a print book or audiobook. The reason for this is practical: I can’t turn the pages of a print book while I’m folding laundry or vacuuming. Those are activities that audiobooks were invented for. I am, though, choosy about audiobooks. I pick works that I think I won’t need to flip back through several pages to follow the story line of. The shortcoming of audiobooks is that it isn’t easy to isolate specific passages that I may want to reference in a review.

How About You?

Do you read more than one book at a time? 

Or maybe you prefer this question: Do you think that the question of reading more than one book at a time is meaningless, pointless, useless?

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

7 replies on “Do You Read More Than One Book at a Time?”

In answer to your first question, I read one book at a time. In answer to your second question, I would say that the question of whether one reads more than one book at a time does not lend itself well to critical inquiry. 😉

If I’m really into a book I won’t cheat on it except with an audiobook – if i’m finding it hard work or not really in the mood for that sort of story i’ll normally have a second one on the go. It is a bit of a pointless question but it made me have to think about it!

I like hearing people’s answers to this question. I kind of see people’s answer of reading more than one book at a time as their way of explaining how they make it happen – different genres, different formats. Not necessarily bragging, but who knows? I’m sure some do! LOL I tend to read 2-3 books at the same time but it’s usually just so I can fit in more books – a review book, a book for book club, etc.

-Lauren
http://www.shootingstarsmag.net

I’m much like you—I typically have one main book that I’m reading, but then I will have an audiobook that I listen to while I’m doing other things. Occasionally, I’ll also have a kindle book and a physical book going because there are circumstances where I can read the kindle but not a physical book (like when my husband is sleeping and I still want to read!).

For most of my life, I was monogamous with my books. I read one at a time and never cheated on them! Then I got a job that allowed me to listen to audiobooks when I had no customers to help. Now I always have 1 physical book to read at home + an audiobook for exercise and boring work days. I’ve become a book polygamist.

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