Reading Multiple Books at Once

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This is something I honestly don’t understand and definitely makes me want to punch some people in the face. Because I’ve read way too many blog posts about someone reading three or four or even five books at the same time. No.

Not counting college textbooks, I’ve never once read more than one book at a time. How is one supposed to become immersed in a story if it’s just one of many fighting for your attention? You all may or may not remember that I read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank for the first time earlier this year. Though non-fiction, it easily became the best book I’ve read. I can tell you for certain that had I been reading another book at the same time as that one that my opinion would not be the same. It would still be the same book and I’d think highly of it, but I doubt it’d be number one on my list. Because I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate it quite like I did.

To me, reading multiple books at once will never happen. All that can result is taking away from each story. I don’t want books I’ve bought to be spoiled because I decided to read something else at the same time. BUT I know for a fact that many, many people do this, and now I’m asking you why.

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201 thoughts on “Reading Multiple Books at Once

  1. πŸ™‚ You’re such a purist. (Don’t worry, I used to only read one book at a time as well.) Ever since my move to audiobooks, I now “read” two at a time. I have one physical book that I read when I’m home and one audio that I keep in my car. My commute is pretty long and I’m in the car for at least an hour every day. That’s a ton of reading potential that I just didn’t want to waste. I don’t feel that I’m being spread too thin or not immersed enough in either, that I previously thought would happen. As for reading more than one physical book… you got me stumped on that one.

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  2. I read only one book at a time but I have multiple series I’m still reading. I take it one book at a time otherwise. I would get my stories confused otherwise! I used to have to read a lot of books for school and I could read something on the side for my own entertainment but that’s as crazy as I get!

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  3. I can’t read more than one book at once, like you say, I worry it will take away from the others if I did that. So yeah, concentrate and enjoy one at a time to its fullest πŸ˜€

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  4. Sometimes reading two books at a time is like experiencing various feelings and/or emotions at a time. Like sorting through things and seeing how different scenarios affect one.
    I will read voraciously various books…keeping them all separate in my mind when I am in intense study time/school and my mind…my ability needs wide subjects to sort through the materials I am attempting to solidify in my head.
    I also read various titles to help me sort through issues in my life and the position I have chosen to be. I recently read Innocence by Dean Koontz…(by the way, new find for me and he is outstanding). And he should not be listed under horror. he is not. He is heart all the way).
    This book helped me align..I first thought escape and then said…nope. This made me feel happier about myself and some days one needs a lift. The world can be difficult.
    I also have a photographic memory and read quite fast. So I am able to store lots of info in this brain and scan and pull the info out. I find it helpful when I read and study, especially if I am short on time. helpful as a full time student and full time employee.
    Oh a suggested book..which I found fascinating…
    The book of lost things…by John Connelly….

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  5. I understand where you are coming from as my husband feels the same way. However, I do read multiple books at a time constantly. It is something I have done since I was a kid. I don’t think it takes anything from any of the stories. What I find happens is one day I wake up and I’m in the mood for something scary or sci-fi and will pick a book up. However, by the next day I may want something more or different. I love each story, immensely but sometimes the mood I am in will determine what book I want to read. I have been known to start three or four at a time and switch back and forth. Eventually I get into one that I will finish it off in one day and go back to the others. I don’t think I enjoy anything less or get less out of the stories. I really, honestly, have a desire to read one genre one day and a different one another day and sometimes I do it because I’m not ready for one of the books I’m reading to end and by taking breaks with other books I can prolong the experience a bit more.
    Hope that all makes sense.
    Jamie

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    • I suppose. But the time it takes to read a book is so little to begin with. You could read one in one genre and then move on to another genre and so forth. It’s not like books require 24 hours of actual reading time. I don’t know.

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    • I’ve been reading multiple books since I was a teenager. I still remember my trig teacher in high school asking me if I was really reading all five gothic romance and sci fi books I had stacked on my desk. He couldn’t understand how I could keep all the stories straight. It’s just how my brain works. I do go through periods where I just read one book at a time but I always have several “how to” books going in the background and bop between them. Then I go through periods where my monkey brain is restless. One moment I’m in a sci fi mood and maybe later that day or the next, I’m feeling more historical romance. I can have several books going if they are just so so or I come to a point in the book where I need a break from the tension. I can easily jump back into the story. If a story is really good, I give it all my attention until it’s done. I devour books and reading several at a time is like stuffing your face full of all the junk food you love. Sometimes you just have to do it. Or maybe is just ADD.

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      • I think some of the commenters have mistaken what I said in the post for something I didn’t mean. I’m not saying that you’re going to confuse the stories. Just that, in my opinion, I wouldn’t enjoy the story as much as if I were reading it alone. But if it works for you, then who am I to say otherwise.

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      • John, I have to agree with you on that one. If you truly want to experience story, you have to immerse yourself in it…100%. When I find a great book, I have to read it until it’s done. It’s when I’m reading stories that are just ok that I tend to bop between several.

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      • Not many people have agreed. Some of us are sane. Haha

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    • I would agree with this. It depends on your mood a lot of the times to determine what you want to read.

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  6. Well. I read pretty thick novels usually. I work full-time, have 4 teenagers, husband, volunteer and am an artist/photographer as well. I am constantly moving and I think that is what effects my eradic reading so much.

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  7. I tried reading more books at once before but I can’t focus on them both equally. If I do start another book before finishing another I’ll have to go back and reread the first one from the beginning.

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  8. I often have several books going at once, but usually only one is fiction.

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  9. I tend to read one fiction book at a time, but I usually have several nonfiction books going at the same time. I have done several fiction books at the same time, but don’t really enjoy that.

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  10. I read more than one at times when my brain can’t find the focus it’s looking for. I spent a hour here or there sheltered in the arms of a fantasy novel. Then I need a hour hiding behind the biography of some past historical figure. It’s not something I do often, because I get very wrapped up in my reading and have a hard time putting something down. But occasionally I just can’t focus and need more than one book to keep me going. Very really is it a reflection on the quality of the book–but occasionally I’ll read more than one if one of them can’t hold my attention.
    But to each their own!

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    • Hmm. I could only say that perhaps the book you turn away from just isn’t drawing your interest. I hate stopping books in the middle, but sometimes it just has to be done. I don’t know.

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  11. I’m just going to ignore one of the comments above where you call people like me dumb. I’ll just start feeling violent again.

    Although I read every day, most books just don’t hold my attention long enough to finish it in one sitting. I’m like one of the above commenters who said they wake up feeling in different reading moods. I get that a lot. Some days I just don’t want to read that book I started on kids that turn into animals. Some days I want to read my favorite poet. I refuse to make reading a drudgery, so I will never force myself to finish something when my psyche is not in the state of mind for it. (Even if I love the plot and storyline).

    I have no problem separating the story lines in my mind. And even if I did, it would just be another argument for rereading books. Because details are missed by our limited minds, no matter how much we pay attention.

    I’m not going to try and convince you to change your mind, because we think much differently about this. And that’s just fine.

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  12. All right. Let me brace myself before you punch me in the face.
    I am a notorious and shameless multiple book reader. I’m also a notorious and shameless multiple book writer. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. I might have to do with a poor attention span, but I think it has far more to do with my desire to experience a wide breadth of things. Sometimes, I “feel” one book more than another, but if I stuck to just one, and my mercurial emotions shifted, I would probably get really sick of that book and start to dislike it. If I’ve got several things to flip-flop between, I can balance it out better and enjoy them all for their differences. I’m the same with projects; I have trouble focusing on one project all the way through to completion, so I have to disperse other things in there, otherwise I just get irritated or bored or something and don’t want anything to do with it.
    Also, there’s so much going on in my life that the opportunity to just “pick a book off the shelf and read it in three hours” is not a possibility, even if I COULD stay still for three hours (my mind starts thinking about ALL THE THINGS I have to do after about ten….). The multiple book thing helps me to fit in reading when I can and keep things interesting, without making me feel like I’m devoting a huge chunk of time to one thing when there’s so many other things to be done.
    …okay, so, yeah, it’s probably definitely an attention span thing.

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  13. Reading is definitely an each to his own hobby. I will say, I am similar to the poster who reads 100 new novels a year. I also believe the more you read and explore different genres the more you can improve your own writing. I use to stick to my favorites only but when I stepped out if my comfort zone a whole new world opened up and made a huge impact on how and what I write. The more you take in and as often as you can the more “experience” from others you have to drawn on when formulating ideas.

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    • I know. I try to switch it up a bit, but great writing is great writing if you ask me. No matter the genre.

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    • Stepping out of your comfort zone is great. I never knew that until I decided to read The Great Gatsby. And surprise surprise, I loved it! I try to take in as much as possible, to the point where sometimes I can’t remember where I read something.

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  14. I usually read 2 or 3 books at a time. I guess for me it’s a selfish kind of thing. I want to read so many books and I want to read them all now. So I just pick up a few that are screaming the loudest and dive in. Right now I am reading two books. I read about three chapters of each every night before bed. I just like to have more than one story going on in my head. I work best in chaos.

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  15. Guilty. I have bookmarks in several books right now. Usually I focus on one novel at a time and try to see it all the way through. I have so many, though, that sometimes I just want to grab a new book from my shelf and start reading. I can usually keep them apart in my mind, so it’s not a problem. I’m also always reading excerpts in random books to learn techniques. And then there are the short stories I fit in between chapters. And the myriad magazine articles… I’m just a reading junkie. What can I say?

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  16. Hmm. I almost always read more than one book at a time. And I usually listen to at least two different audio books at once. (I use two different cars, one for work, one for play) I usually have a different book in each one.

    As far as reading, I tend to focus on one novel at a time, but I’m usually reading a non-fiction howto book of some sort that I’m always “reading” I dunno if that counts.

    I do find, at least with the audio books, that sometimes I want to listen to one more than the other. Hell, sometimes I’ve listened to the one in both vehicles and read it at the same time. I think it depends on how much I like the book to begin with.

    Some books I can tell I want to spend time with, others are more like passing acquaintances.

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  17. Yep, you are gonna hate me. I totally read several books at a time. Right now I have five I’m currently reading, though only one is fiction. However, I have totally read several fiction at the same time, all within one day too. It started when I was in my teenage years when we had to drive several miles to go to the library and I’d get a stack of about 20 books for three weeks. So I’d want to try them all out at once, kind of. And the habit stuck. It does depend on my mood. I don’t always want to be reading a romance, or general fiction, so I intersperse it with poetry books and biographies and whatnot. Right now it’s a mystery book (Richard Castle!), a bio on Edna St. Vincent Millay which is a long book so I’m taking it in stages, two poetry writing books, a poetry anthology, a quick romance… and possibly more. I have several books I’ve yet to finish and I can pick them up at any time and start reading where I left off.
    And yep, I write several different novels at the same time, or I can within the same week.

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  18. Well I guess I am considered dumb too. Because I read multiple books at once. But in my defense, when I read two books at once, one is usually a new book, and one is usually a book that I’ve read multiple times already. I just finished Chosen by Ted Dekker, which I’ve read like 4-5 times now, and I’m also reading The Partner by John Grisham.
    Another reason I like to read two books at once is because I read a lot of really intense thrillers, and I don’t usually like reading those late at night. (I have a wild imagination and I’m convinced there is a serial killer in my closet) So I like to read things that are a little more light hearted at night.
    I do see what you mean about reading more than one book at a time. It is hard to really get into the story when you’re reading more than one book. I try not to too much, but sometimes I just get sucked in. πŸ™‚
    P.s. I’ve only finished 7 books so far this year, so don’t feel too bad. (Not including the two I am working on.;))

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  19. Great point, John! I’ve had books ‘fizz out’ on me a little bit, so I’ve started a new, more exciting one believing I’d go back to the second, and I’d probably say ‘I’m reading two books at once’, but then I never go back to the first! ‘Cos actually, it IS weird to actively read two at once.. But I can’t believe you’ve never reread a book!

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    • I read your whole comment thinking we’re in the same page, but then you mentioned rereading. I’m not getting into it because this will be a future post. Sooo too bad for you.

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  20. I usually read one devotional type book in the mornings, one fun fictional story during lunch, and listen to an audio book during my hour-long commute each day. So this means I’m balancing three books at any given time, not including textbooks. But in my mind, they’re all different genres and have different purposes, so it doesn’t bother me. What’s the difference between this and keeping up with several of your favorite television programs at the same time?

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    • Another commenter said that about TV. You only get one episode a week. Books are going to be read more frequently than that. You just said everyday. I just don’t think I’d enjoy them as much is all in saying.

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      • Oh… well we usually watch television on Netflix and typically watch an episode of our favorite shows each day… but I see what you mean. I enjoy immersing myself in one really good book during vacations, but during “normal life” I don’t get the luxury!

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      • Yeah. I was thinking Netflix kind of changed the whole wait a week for a new episode. Eh. Maybe I’m just crazy.

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      • It did…which kind of does take the suspense out of the whole thing. You do have a point, that enjoying a good book is kind of like enjoying a great dessert – you want to have time to really focus on it! But just because I read a couple at a time, I hope you won’t punch me in the face! Ha!

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      • Nope. This is an incorrect opinion friendly blog. No punches will be thrown. Haha

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  21. Right?? I absolutely agree. I hardly have time for one book, let alone more than one. Plus I don’t think it’s far to either book or any to be reading multiple. You really can’t invest in the story or characters like that. It always bugs me when I see people on blogs listing three or four they’re currently reading.

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  22. I’ll often read multiple books at once if I’m not liking one but can’t quite commit to putting it down. But if I’m reading a non-fiction I almost always have a ficton going at the same time. I’ve been reading the same non-fiction book for a month now, and have probably read about 6 other fictions. My attention span isn’t long enough to read a long non-fiction without breaks. The other exception is a collection of stories, either fiction or non-fiction. I’ll just pick up the book and read one story whenever I feel inclined, whether I’m reading something else at the time or not. But MOST of the time, I read an entire fiction book without interruption. It’s more likely to be an interruption to something else I have going on. I can’t read two fiction novels at once, though. I’d get way too confused.

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  23. I find I read more books when I read a few at once. However, like you mentioned above, I don’t enjoy or appreciate these books as much. Don’t worry I stopped doing this. πŸ™‚

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  24. I have 3 books going right now. But I always read them in different situations. I have a fiction paperback going whenever I’m on the train or during my break at work. I read a fiction eBook whenever I don’t have the time to read a paperback or if I’m standing on the train. i also have a bad habit of reading it while walking. My third book is a nonfiction book I read at home. I have no problems with getting into them. One of the books I’m reading I think is fantastic. But switching to another book hasn’t been diminishing my experience.

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  25. Recently i finished Gone with the Wind, which is just shy if 1,000 pages so it’s not very ‘totable’ in my purse. So, I read Gone with the Wind at home but read a book on my kindle elsewhere. The kindle book was fluff and I only read Gone with the Wind when I could focus on it and not be distracted, so in that case, I was able to appreciate both stories.

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  26. An interesting idea. I was an English Major in University. At more than 1000 pages per Dickens novel, reading only one book at a time was impossible. Though these days I usually read only one book at a time, I am sure that I could totally immerse myself in a story, and still take a break from it.
    However, I will think about what you have written and write again tomorrow.

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    • I’ve never read a book that long. Longest I’ve read was….596? Something like that. I could definitely step away from that. But I wouldn’t from your regular 300-400 page book.

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      • I seem to recall Bleak House being about 1400 pages. Incidentally, other long books I have managed to get through include Clavell’s Shogun and Noble House (1211 and 1370 respectively) Those weren’t difficult works, so they weren’t so difficult.
        Someday I may tackle something larger.
        I guess all those people reading the Fire and Ice saga are reading long works.

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      • I just read what I want. One book at a time. That’s really all I can say.

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      • And you said it well. Enjoy.

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  27. Yep, guilty! I do it because i have books everywhere and depending where i am and what time of the day it is, there it is waiting for me. While I’m reading I’m completely immersed in that book and do not think about the others. BTW i loved Anne Frank too. πŸ™‚

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  28. It depends. I can be reading fiction and non-fiction at the same time for example. I am not always in the mind-set the be reading the non-fiction but always in the mood for fiction so I always have both on hand at the same time. Also, occasionally I come across a book that is just something I am not getting into at all but I think maybe the story might pick up, so I set it aside read something else and then go back to it after to give it a second go

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    • I honestly didn’t expect so many people to fiction and nonfiction. And if I stop a book, I almost never go back to it.

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      • Well, granted, I stop a book because it isn’t drawing me in at all. Generally those are slow reads because they are not interesting or have some other flaw. But I’ll go back to it to give it a second chance… see if I can get into it and maybe the pace will pick up or the plot. Some are duds, but some do.

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      • I usually won’t stop unless at least halfway through.

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      • If I make it halfway through… I’ll finish it. πŸ™‚

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  29. I usually only read one book at a time, the only time I read multiple at a time are when the book I first started (usually in a series) gets boring enough for me to take a break, and so I take that break by going a reading another book or two until I’m ready to return to it. It doesn’t happen too often, but it does happen.
    I’m actually having this issue with Game of Thrones right now, in the middle of the 4th book and not interested enough to keep plowing through, but I do plan to go back to it (I’m on the 2nd book in the “break”).

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  30. I’m another one of those multiple book readers, and another one who does fiction and nonfiction at the same time. I can read several nonfiction books at once, but I tend to max out at one fiction book. Nonfiction often doesn’t have a “world” to be caught up in like fiction does, and it’s the jumping between worlds that unsettles me.

    Also, one book at the dining table to be read while eating, one book in the bag to go with me on the day’s travels… πŸ™‚

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  31. Ha, I’m one of those people! I’ll always have 3-5 (if not more) books going at the same time.
    Right now, I am reading two non-fiction books (one on homes and home life in Georgian England and one on brain [popular science I think it would be called]), a short story collection, a book of essays, and a fiction novel. The history book is somewhat dry (though terribly interesting, especially if you read or have read Georgian era literature), so I will not always be ‘in the mood’ for that one – thankfully I have lots of other options.
    It kind of depends where I’m reading (at home or in the train, etc.) and the time of day (I want easy, very readable stuff just before going to bed – I’ll leave the philosophy treatises for during the day) and my mood (fiction or non-fiction mood?). I mostly have one fiction book going at the same time. Sometimes two, but then they’ll be vastly different (such as a Jane Austen and a contemporary novel).
    But well, everyone is different I suppose!

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  32. I do it all the time. And I enjoy both, or all three, books at the same time. I don’t leave one book unattended to read the others. I simply give each one equal time. I’m not a good multi-tasker, but a multi-reader I am. Sometimes I read only one book. Imagine that!

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  33. It depends on the book. If I am reading a book that is great and the story line has me hooked, I am committed to it until the end. If I am reading books that don’t involve a story line or it’s an informational type book, I can read more than one book at a time. A good book demands full attention!

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  35. Before I started with uni, I had the exact same thoughts as you. But during my studies I had to read a quite a lot novels, partly novels that I didn’t enjoy reading because they were too boring. So I wanted to relax with some lighter literature for the meantime. I also read a lot in trains and when I am on the go again, I don’t want to carry along a heavy, thick book with me (although I had also done this very often because the story was just too good and I couldn’t stop reading), so I usually opt for an ebook or a thinner book πŸ™‚
    Of course it is a different thing when reading a good classic. Then I wouldn’t prefer reading another book neither. It always depends on the book.

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  36. I like to try to read one book at a time, I find it to overwhelming if I devote my time and energy to multiple books. I read because I love it and I love to give each book my full devoted attention.

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  37. I personally used to think reading more than one book at once was crazy, However now I read more than one at one because sometimes I get board and I still want to read so I will go read another book and go back to the other book later

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  38. As an English major, I really can’t help reading multiple books at once. I’m usually taking 3 English classes and have reading due for each of them (although I try to balance it between books, plays, and poetry so I’m not trying to read 3 novels a week). And then if I fall behind in one class, then I’m reading 4 things at once…
    And those are just the books for school. Then I need to read something for pleasure. I usually only have one primary pleasure-reading book at a time. But sometimes I’ll also have a slower read sitting on the back burner. Like right now, I’ve been reading the Clan of the Cave Bear series by Jean M. Auel, which are great books, but they are each about 700-800 pages, have definite lulls in the plot, and are pretty easy to pick up and put down. But my primary pleasure-reading book is usually a “light read” like something YA or romance that I can finish in a week or two at most.
    And of course, once I got a kindle, I started reading something on that, too. Sometimes those become my primary read and I read them all at once. But other times I start things like Les Mis and then put it down for several months….
    In general, all the books I read at once tend to be vastly different from each other and entirely different genres. But I find that by now, it never gets confusing and I don’t really feel that it takes away from any of the books. If it hasn’t been too long since I put it down, as soon as I open up one book again, I’m just as immersed in it as I was before I started reading something else.

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    • Well I think I mentioned in this post that I wasn’t talking about college texts. So obviously most college kids are reading multiple books at once. I meant like what you might be reading at home. Separate from the college stuff.

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  39. I’ll often have a short story collection or two on the go while I’m also into a novel. The shorts are great for feeding the addiction when you don’t have time to settle in properly with the longer work. Each story wraps up in one sitting, so they don’t divert at all from enjoying the novel

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