January 25, 2013

One or Two (or Maybe More?)

I was never one of those people who could read two books at the same time.
At least, I wasn't... until now.

It occurred to me recently that I've gotten into the habit of reading two books at once, one from my physical bookshelf and another on my iPad. The first time I did it, it was instinctive. I was running late to work, and about to grab my iPad, but made a split second decision to swipe a book off my shelf instead. Ever since then, I've been doing that regularly - I read on the iPad while I'm at home, and usually carry a physical book with me when I'm out.

It surprises me a little because I thought I was the kind of person who had to finish one book before starting another one; with the success of my new habit, I'm guessing that's changed. The fears I had previously of being too confused or overwhelmed if I read more than one book are pretty much gone now, as I've proven more than once this year that I can do it and enjoy it.

Of course, everyone has their own reading preferences when it comes to the amount of books they can handle at once. Some can handle more than me, others about the same and still others less. I've been turning over some of my preconceptions about reading more than one book at a time, and I thought I'd share some of them here.

There are multiple characters! And settings! And stories!
(also known as My Brain May Explode)

You'd think that with all these elements my brain would complain about being overworked. But there have been no complaints filed, nor has there been any whining. It appears that my brain loves the information overload that we've been experiencing, and enjoys dissecting them all in one fell swoop. It's such a revelation for me to realize that my brain is capable of so much more than I happen to give it credit for.

Because I'm very organized in real life, it's not surprising to me that my brain is too. I can file away information from the books I'm reading and retrieve it when I need to. But there are other ways to deal with that. You can write down notes, or make lists. Heck, if you want to go all out, you can make charts (because charts are awesome!). And then there's the possibility of maps too (which are a lot of fun to make!)

You'll love one book more than the other, and ditch the less favored one.
(also known as You're My Favorite)

This is half-true in my case. It's not necessarily that I love one book more than the other. It's more like I'm craving a certain kind of story, or loving a certain character a lot, which leads to me reading bigger chunks of one book over the other. I always go back and forth between the two choices though, so there's never really a pronounced favoritism when I'm reading.

What does this all boil down to?

It’s a surprising and very welcome development indeed that I now have the ability to read more than one book at a time. It’s probably got a lot to do with the fact that I’m reading in different formats (physical book/e-book), and that’s got me thinking that I can probably add audiobooks to the pile soon. I’m excited to be reading even more than I used to, and to continue developing my talent of multi-tasking (or in this case, multi-format reading?).

This is new for me, but it may totally not be new for some of you. Tell me, who reads more than one book at a time? Who reads only one book at a time? What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing either one?

(You might also want to check out this post Jamie wrote a few weeks back about this very thing - although she did the opposite and went from reading multiple books to reading one at a time. It's a pretty darn awesome post.)


  1. I have tried to do this, and it's been successful a few times, but more often than not I'll end up sticking with one & finishing it until I pick the other back up. My mind isn't that organized apparently lol.

  2. I always read one paperback, one hardcover, and one ebook. People always ask me how I can keep all of the stories from blending together, but it's really not hard for me. I've never been a person to read only one book at a time. I like to have a lot of variety and choice when I decide to read. Thanks for the great post!

  3. I usually end up reading one hardcover/paperback, one audiobook, and one ebook since I can only access each one of those in exactly one spot (home/car/work). I actually don't think I get confused! Once I jump back in, it's like I never left :)

  4. I will do this occasionally--not all the time; it just seems to happen randomly--and I think it's something about the format that helps keep it separate. That and I often find myself reading very different books, which also helps keep everything straight. (Adult and YA of two different genres.)

    I used to be a one book a time person, too. Like you, I'm glad to find out I can do more than that. :)

  5. I like to only read one book at a time - it's not so much a focus/organizational thing as it is an OCD thing. Every now and again I'll find myself in the middle of two books and I'll just be mad at myself for it.
    Great discussion Alexa! :)

  6. I am not brilliant at reading more than one book at any one time, and usually read books in a single order. I could probably manage two (as I have done in the past), but I prefer focusing on one book at a time. I can confuse things very easily!

  7. I only do one at a time. I've never been able to juggle multiple books because I get so invested in a story that I have a hard time redirecting my focus to another one. I'm ok with that though, because I think I get through more books that way.

  8. I used to only read one book at a time, but I found myself doing exactly what you speak of reading e-books and physical books at the same time. I found myself reading my physical books at night before bed and reading my e-books while out - easier to tote around my kindle. I don't have any problems getting the characters or plot lines confused. I found I enjoy reading two books at once.

  9. Oh, man, sometimes I read three at a time, though usually it's only two. That's totally because of my review commitments. I never did that until I started blogging....

  10. I don't often do it, but as long as the books I'm reading are different genres, then I like doing it once in a while. Especially if I'm reading a really looooong book, and I need a break. Interesting post.

  11. When I was a teen, I used to read multiple books at the same time. I don't do it anymore and the biggest reason is because I almost always prefer one book over the other, and I want to give each book my undivided attention and not compare it to another. Even if the books aren't comparable because they aren't on the same topics, I'll still end up saying things like "This one has better pacing" or "This one has more lyrical writing." I think this stems from the fact that even though I'm reading for pleasure, I'm also dissecting the writing because I enjoy editing/critiquing and am trying to learn from the book at them same time.

    But I am struggling with balancing eBooks and physical books. I find I read more and read faster on my Kindle, but I've been trying to purchase books from Indies instead of Amazon, so I have a lot of physical books and Kobo books on my iPad.

    But I liked about how you talked about how your brain was organized enough to compartmentalize the books you are reading. And I'm glad you're finding that it's working for you :)

    Lauren @ Hughes Reviews

  12. I can definitely read more than one book at a time! I think it depends how busy my week is. If I'm super busy, I'll have an audiobook in the car, something on my Kobo or iPad for on the go, and a book book for at home. BUT I'm very particular on what I read in these circumstances. I like to make sure that the books are all very different from one another -- like one contemporary, one paranormal-type book, and one more funny/memoir-ish. I feel like if I read, say, two vampire books, I'd get completely confused. But it is nice to be able to bounce around between a few reads, rather than reading only one book straight through -- especially if my week is busy. Then I'd feel like I wasn't making any progress!

    Great discussion!

  13. I used to be the person that read two book all the time now I prefer to read one book at a time. I used to always pick one book over the other and it lead to more put down temporarily books so I'm a one book at a time reader now.

  14. It really depends on the books for me. If there is a book I'm really into, I'm going to read it through until it is done. If it's a slower moving one, I might pick some other stuff up in between to break it up.

  15. Welcome to the dark side! I'm so happy you're reading more than one book at a time. :)

    I'm also on the multiple book train. I read one paper book and one kindle book. I try to keep them different genres so if I'm in the mood for one thing or the other, I can swap back and forth.

    I used to be worried that it would be distracting or I'd get lost by swapping between the books...but I don't!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  16. I definitely relate to you, Alexa! I read a physical book and an ebook at the same time. It just depends on whichever I have with me at a time. I used to be extremely afraid of reading several books at once, but now I do it pretty often! :)

  17. Great post! I've also been reading two books at a time, but one on audio while driving and the second is a physical book. I also thought it was interesting that you read on the iPad at home, but take physical book(s) out with you. As a new member of the iPad club, I always thought that people had e-readers to read on the go, but would read physical books at home =P I haven't started reading on it yet, but plan to in the not-too-distant future.

  18. I love to read several books at the same time. When I'm busy, I read two books, when I have a lot of free time it can become around 6 books at the same time. I don't know how my brain works, but I can keep the stories separated and I like to switch between stories and characters. I do have 'a favorite' most of the time and that's the book I will end as first.


  19. I never plan to read more than one book at the same time, but somehow it happens to me a lot. It doesn't even have to be one e-book and one physical copy: two physical books works for me too. I don't have a problem keeping the stories seperated, but I DEFINITELY know the You're My Favorite feeling. Sometimes I start another book because I've been waiting for it forever and it finally came in, but most times this has to do with the fact that the book I've been reading first bores me and I need something different. Oh well, as long as there's more reading I'm fine with it :) (Oops, this turned out longer than I was planning it to be.)

    Oh, and I love the title and drawing :) Did you draw this one yourself too?

  20. I read MANY books at one time. Like, it's almost embarrassing.
    I always have a paper, a kindle, and an audiobook. But to be more precise, right now:

    I have two audiobooks going. One for review that is print and audiobook together (which is an additional audiobook). I'm re-reading two books with some people, and I'm starting a book to readalong with another gal that has already read it before. The stack beside my bed is stupid-looking. I don't always read the same number of pages in each of the books every single day - some days I read more of book A than book B, because I read like I want to. But I juggle them all well and the best part of every single bit of it is that for all of them except for my review books, I discuss them with others as I go along. For the review books, I will discuss them after I'm done! I always re-read books with groups of before the next installment comes out. Tomorrow starts the big group re-read of Incarnate so I'm adding that to the mix. And starting in February we're starting the Finnikin of the Rock readalong. I can juggle a ton of them, but it is GREAT fun for me and I thrive on it.

    HOWEVER, occasionally I will pick up something that is just a fun-for-me book that I'll read straight thru and love it. I can't read like 15 books at one time or anything, despite how this sounds. It's more like 5 or 6, but the discussing with other people is what makes it so worthwhile. YAY for readalongs and re-reads!!

  21. Sometimes I read more than one at once. I generally have a review book on the go, an audiobook and one from a list of the top 100 novels that I've been working on for awhile. Right now I just have one book on the go though. It doesn't really bother me and I don't get the books mixed up or anything. Generally I can pick right up, even if it's been awhile.

  22. I find myself reading more than two books at a time. I always start one an move on to another so quickly. Sometimes as I read a book I haven't read in a long time all the details sort of flood back in.

  23. That's great you're able to process reading more than one book at a time! I wish I could. In fact, that's how I used to read. I wasn't reading two books in different formats, but I was reading books of different genres. I feel like reading has now become more complicated since starting a blog and writing reviews. I'm already behind on reviews as it is, so adding another book just increases my information overload. Maybe if I can get things under control again, I'll try. I do think it's a benefit for book bloggers to read multiple stories at once. I think I'd be the opposite of you, though - bringing my Kindle everywhere and saving my physical books for reading at home. :)

  24. Love this post, Alexa! I actually go back and forth. There will be some periods of my reading life where I'm reading one book at a time. And then all of the sudden I'll decide to mix it up and read multiple books.

    Like someone else has mentioned, I often try to pick books that are somehow different. For example, a YA book and a classic or something non-fiction. Right now I'm reading three books - an audio re-read, a classic and a YA re-read. But I'm about to start Finnikin, too, so I'll probably be reading four books at a time. EEK! What will probably happen is that once I get it back down to two books, I'll go back to reading one book at a time for a while. It just goes in phases :)

  25. Great post. Glad to see it's working for you, because having an ebook and a physical book going at the same time is so darn convenient.

    I usually have 2-3 (or more) books going at the same time. I need to, because I have such a hard time picking my next read when I finish one. So if I have a few going, it's less pressure to decide the next one.


Thanks for leaving a comment! I love seeing what you have to say, and will try to reply (here or on Twitter) as soon as I can :)