There are two types of readers and two types of readers only.
One type has several different books going. They might have one on their nightstand and one in their backpack, another stashed at work for lunchtime reading and who knows where else. I don’t understand these people. They have a wild book love life.
Others, like me, cannot cheat on our current books. We are book monogamists, faithful to the book that currently has our attention even when we’re apart and there are tempting new books in front of us.
Which type are you? Do you like having several books going or do you read one at a time?
Art: Interesting Story by Laura Muntz Lyall
Lollipop Goldstein says
It absolutely depends on the type of book and why I'm reading it.
I definitely can always have a non-fiction and a fiction book going at the same time. Sometimes I have a fiction book that I'm reading to get me in the mood to write, and I only read it for 15 minutes before I write vs. a fiction book I'm reading for pleasure. That book I'll read any other time except right before writing.
Donna June Cooper says
Total book polygamist. I have one on audiobook that I listen to as I walk the dog, wash the dishes, fold laundry and I have another on my Kindle that I read before bed and I often am reading another non-fiction on my Kindle PC app as well. So, I have a WILD book love life. Who'd a thunk it?
Matthew MacNish says
I will generally only read one book for pleasure, but I am often reading another as a critique partner for a friend, and possibly skimming some others for research.
Joanne Huspek says
I'm afraid I'm guilty of book polygamy as well. I usually have a fun read, a serious read, and non-fiction going at the same time.
I read multiple books at a time, chapter by chapter. I was monogamous before University but now I enjoy jumping from book to book because I want to read everything at once. It also helps to read chapter by chapter because it allows me to digest what I read, thus allowing me more time to mull over what I read. I used to consume books but now I take my time.
I always have multiple books going. Always. I attribute this to grad school when it became necessary to read multiple books at one time, both for writing papers as well as researching for particular clients (I'm a psychotherapist).
I read multiple books for work, but I also have several on the bedside table and the bookshelf at home that I'm currently reading. Sometimes it's driven by the weight of the book – I can't read GOT in hardback in the bathtub for example – sometimes by the attention required, sometimes by what I'm in the mood for on that particular day. I don't think of it as polygamous vs monogamous – you have different friends for different interest or moods don't you? And if I'm going on a trip or vacation, or I'm about to finish a book, I will "test drive" a couple. There's nothing worse than starting a book with lots of time ahead of you, only to discover it doesn't entice the way you thought it would.
Maya Prasad says
I'm somewhere in between. I can easily have one fiction book and one informative nonfiction book going at the same time. I usually wouldn't read more than one fic at a time, but if it is starting to feel like "work" than maybe I'll have a fun book and a "learning" book if that makes sense. 90% of the time, though, I'm only reading a single book. (Not including picture books to my daughter)
Multiple. I have four going right now. I don't mean to do this, but I keep doing it. Like eating donuts. Daughter, at 10, has three, as well.
Curtis Edmonds says
I used to be book-monogamous before I started reading e-books. Now I typically have two books going at once–an e-book on my phone (the new Ayelet Waldman at the moment), and a printed book on my nightstand (just finished re-reading one of the Hornblower books, and starting up the new Steven Pressfield book on the Six Day War).
Carmen Webster Buxton says
I confess to being a books slut. I am not cheating, though. They are all on the same Kindle, so they know about each other. I keep the Kindle in my purse at all times (except when reading!) but what I opt to read depends on where I am and how much time I have.
Wow, I'm surprised at the comments. I can only read one book at a time. The idea of juggling books stresses me out. Fun question!
I used to be a book slut and read many things simultaneously, but now I have less time to read so I stick to one book at a time (so as to not lose the story!). I do read plenty of other stuff, though, like blogs, articles online, and print periodicals.
I used to only read one book at a time but since I started writing, I have about 2-4 books going. Audiobook, ereader, hardcover/paperback. I also might be researching non-fic or a different genre so it's like a different type of reading than something I know I will enjoy from a reader vs. writer perspective.
I always have multiple books going: print book, ebook, manuscript I'm editing, and whatever I'm researching/reading online. This can include online books and plays that are out of copyright, news articles, science blogs, novel-length fanfic, or digital graphic novels.
Kate Duttera says
I always have more than one book going, and it depends on where I'm doing the reading. Travelling and commuting, I'm on the Kindle. Anything bulky, like GOT or other big hardcovers, have to stay on the nightstand for bedtime reading. And I'll have several non-fiction books in progress on the Kindle as well, which I sort of dip into here and there depending on my mood.
Anma Natsu says
I usually only have one fiction book going at once, though I may have one or two non-fiction ones going at the same time. For fiction stuff, if I'm enjoying it, then I'm going to use every reading opp to finish it. If I can interrupt it for another book, I probably just won't go back to it.
I'm always reading more than one book. I think I may be reading about 10 books right now….someone asked me to name them all the other day, but I couldn't!
I also just graduated from a Masters in English program and I think I'm just wanting to fill up with stories that aren't part of a curriculum and catch up a little on my ever-growing TBR pile!
A.M. Guynes/Annikka Woods says
I used to read more than one book at a time, but with the fact that I also want to focus on my writing I tend to read one book at a time over the course of two or three days per book.
Jennifer R. Hubbard says
I usually have about 4-5 going at once. The longer, weightier books (classics, biographies) I tackle a few pages a night. The others I read in sections as the mood strikes me. When a book really grips me, I'll stick with it and not read anything else until I've finished it–but that just means my other reads are suspended for a day or two.
It isn't too difficult to keep all those books going. It's like being able to watch several different TV series regularly: you can keep the characters, setting, plotline and backstory of each series distinct in your mind, even if watching only one episode per week of each.
Nicole L Rivera says
I am currently reading only two books, which is rare for me. Usually I'm juggling 4-5. And watch out if I have to pick something up from the library. My husband has to pry me from the shelves. I guess I have a pretty wild book life, lol.
I'm a wild book reader, totally. Always have more than one book going though I tend to favor what I call my "main love," the book I'm mad about, the one I can't put down. That one.
Still, it's hard to be faithful when there are so many tempting choices, so many books flashing before my eyes, so many alluring ideas and story lines and plots, all waiting for my fingers to touch them, open them up.
I also reread like crazy. I often finish a book and immediately turn to the beginning and read it again. I find I notice more during the second read. I take my time. I linger. It's very delicious, this thing called reading.
Ann Noser says
I used to be just like you–one book at a time.
For the last year or so, I've been repeatedly cheating on my books.
I feel so dirty.
Bruce Bonafede says
I'm always reading a number of books at the same time and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I can't help being attracted to more than one book at a time. Sure, it can be a challenge juggling them all, and I occasionally call one book by another's title, but the only real downside is I risk contracting a textually transmitted disease.
Deborah Halverson says
What a fun discussion, Nathan! I'm surprised that so many people keep multiple books in rotation at once. I must read multiple manuscripts as an editor, but my pleasure reading is totally monogamous.
I'm usually editing a couple people's books, editing my own WIP (and occasionally the previous book in the series), thinking about the next book all at one time. So it's no big deal to juggle a couple other pleasure reading books at the same time. I try to be reading something in the same vein that I'm writing and possibly the biggest project I'm editing to keep in "tune." So there's usually something in progress on my Kindle and a hard copy or two laying in convenient places.
Marlene at On Writing and Riding
Sweet Venom says
I try to read multiple books while in school, or I end up going the whole year without reading a book of my choice. Luckily I'm an English major so my assigned readings are pretty awesome. However, I don't like reading multiples. I always get too absorbed in one and forget the other.
Jane Moore says
The above makes no sense & I can't delete it. I read all kinds & forms of books simultaneously.
My long-standing pattern is a sequence of books primarily for entertainment (generally fiction) at the same time that I'm reading one on a heavier topic of interest (generally nonfiction), at about a ratio of 5:1, along with anything I have to read for work or studies (such as books related to something I'm editing or writing, including reference books).
Sarah Brentyn says
I'm always reading at least two books. Usually more.
One fiction (for me), one that I'm reading to my kids (longer kid lit like Harry Potter), and always a few resource/nonfiction books.
Magdalena Munro says
There is ALWAYS simultaneous reading happening on my end. I usually have a "primary" book and a few on the side that I'm picking apart and re-reading. Right now I am re-reading parts of Brothers Karamazov and re-reading The Three Metamorphoses by Nietzsche. 1Q84 is the primary and I'd be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Dragons Love Tacos. That sums it up: Fiction, Philosophy, Toddler's books. Sums up my life pretty well. HA! Cheers!
Niki Tulk says
I am both proud and ashamed to say that I have 72 books on my to-read list, and I had to get a bookshelf for them, because of the nightstand invasion. Of that 72 I am reading 6 at the moment — a nice cross-section of non-fiction, poetry, writing reflections, novels and short stories. You gotta be ready for those literary mood swings!
It's funny. I used to read only one book at a time, and I used to re-read obsessively. Now, there are so many books I want to read and I have so much less time for reading, so I have converted. Now I read several books at a time (usually 1-2 fiction and 1 non-fiction at once) and almost never have time to re-read.
Ethan Casserino says
I couldn't possibly read more than one book at a time. When I'm not reading, the literature part of my mind is occupied with mulling around my own writings. I couldn't possibly more than the two stories in my head.
If I start a new book while reading another, I'll probably end up forgetting the original one and not finish it. I may be shot for this, but I read the first four of A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE, and quit reading A DANCE WITH DRAGONS halfway through. I never looked back.
Leslie Claussen says
Usually I have to read multiple books, having been an English major. I still read more than one book at a time but tend to make sure they are very different, so I don't mix up the plots.
I usually only read one book at a time, but lately I've had a short attention span and end up setting a book down halfway through and start a new one. Eventually, I return to the one I started. If a book intrigues me, I usually finish it in a couple days, depending how much free time I have.
Lisa Shafer says
I am definitely a book polyandrist, with books on every table/flat surface in the house. Right now, I'm in the middle of 6 books. I read whichever I'm in the mood for at the moment.
Sheila Deeth says
I never know where I put anything down, so it's got to be either multiple books or a life spent searching for where I put the last book. Why waste time searching when I can READ!
Liss Thomas says
I swing both ways!!! If I only have one, I read one. If I have a few I'm dying to read, I'll have an audio book in the car, one at work and one at home…
G. B. Miller says
I've never done more than one at a time, even when I was a kid.
Father Nature's Corner
Jennifer Mattern says
As with some other commenters, it depends on the type of book for me. I can read several nonfiction books at once, or nonfiction alongside a novel. But I only read one novel at a time. I'm not sure it's a commitment issue so much as the fact that I prefer to read series though. And I suspect I'd have a difficult time keeping two different series straight. The exception to my one fiction at at time rule is with short stories. I'll squeeze those and flash fiction in whenever I can.
Anouk Rot says
I always seem to have several books going although I shouldn't, I know, I know. But the other books in the pipe seem to be so tempting. At the moment I just read "The Goldfinch" by D. Tartt, but that's because I don't have any other books at hand. But I want to become a book monogamist again, because I seemed to be more immersed as a child and I want to get back there.
One at a time.
Laurence King says
One book at a time for me. I usually like to immerse myself in the world I'm reading, and reading more than one book at a time would feel disorienting.
Liz Mallory says
I never understood you book monogamists. How do you do it?
I don't just read multiple books at a time (anywhere from 3 to 8; and if I finish all the book and get below 3, I have to start some new ones so I can continue the remaining ones). I also decide to read books by picking them up in the bookstore, flipping to the middle, and reading a few pages. If it seems good, I'll read the ending and THEN I'll read the book. The suspense is so good!
Best way to read…
Lori Schafer says
Usually I keep to one at a time, but I will occasionally read a fiction and a nonfiction simultaneously. Also, I take practical considerations into account. If I'm reading a large hardcover at home, I may carry around a light paperback for my "travel" reading.
"They have a wild book love life." I love this! That's me. I never thought of it as a "wild book love life," but I've got a book on my desk, one in the bathroom, and one by my bed. 🙂
Ted Cross says
I used to read just one at a time, but since I've been concentrating on reading more, I've begun having books in different places. One near my bed, one in the living room, one in the bathroom, and one at work for slow periods.
When I was younger, I read books straight through. Now I don't always have the time – and often I want to read something else than what I started yesterday.
At the moment, I'm listening to an audio book while commuting. I've got one (and when I say one, I really mean two) paperback lying on the windowsill in case there's a lull in whatever else I'm doing. On Kindle, I'm reading one book about photography, one about writing and one collection of short stories. I haven't counted books that I haven't gone back to in weeks. They are on their own shelf of "I suppose I will get around to them sometime".
And then there's the internet…
Chrissy Coleman Miles says
If I'm diving into multiple books at once, then I'm bored with my primary title. The primary title will then usually sit unread and either gets tossed or deleted over time. I tried reading multiple books at once, but it felt segmented and took me out of the full experience that I enjoy of getting close to the author's material, so I went back to my usual method. Undivided attention helps me get the most out of the material.