Do You Book Juggle?

I never thought that I would become a book juggler. Well in all fairness until about five or six years ago I never thought I would become an avid reader but there you have it. I have to say though until this year I was simply a one book at a time kind of guy, no multiple reading at Savidge Reads HQ. That all seemed to fly out the window a couple of months ago and so I thought today we could maybe have a natter about how we juggle books and why you do or don’t.

It was starting Justin Cronin’s ‘The Passage’ that changed my reading habits for a couple of months. Simply not being able to lug a book, no matter how good it was, from pillar to post as my work routine saw fit meant I was reading a short book on commutes. So whilst reading ‘The Passage’ became and on going project I read a good ten plus books along side it, and oddly it didn’t ruin my reading experience like I thought it might.

I won’t lie to you all whenever I have known someone reads several books at once, with the exception of maybe  a novel and a non fiction read at the same  time, I have always been slightly baffled and in awe of it. I just didn’t think that you could really fit several storylines in your head at once. Surely it makes the reading experience less enjoyable if you are being jiggled here there and everywhere. But recently I learnt a key to it or two. Firstly, they all need to be quite different, well for me at least. So for example whilst reading ‘The Passage’ I didn’t touch any books with a science fiction or vampire based storyline.

My notebook is also a key part for me, because whilst all the reading above was going on (and still on going now) I have had a book that has become its own battle to read. ‘The Lacuna’ after reading bits at a time for about three/four months I am now over half way. ‘Why are you bothering?’ you might well ask, well because it has some moments of genius and I get the feeling its going to really pay off in the end, it just might take me the rest of the year to get there ha. If it wasn’t for the brilliant bits I honestly would give up, I just have to have breaks during the erm, not so great bits. Hence the need for my book notebook, I am keeping everything fresh in there so when I step back in it doesn’t take me very long to orientate myself again.

Interestingly though despite having become much better at multi-reading/book juggling I am not sure it’s a style of reading that suits me. Not so much when I am reading a fiction, some non-fiction and maybe have a short story collection for in between reads  or just when I fancy a mini change. Juggling lots of different fiction doesn’t quite work, occasionally a character from ‘The Passage’ would pop up in my mind whilst reading one of the short books or vice versa. At one point too I have sulked with both ‘The Lacuna’ and ‘The Passage’ because I wasn’t getting them read as fast as I am used to. That might be the length, could be because one I was wading through and the other was so addictive. Weirdly though it didn’t effect my reviewing of the books short or long that I have finished, none suffered for it and I thought maybe they might.

So do you book juggle or are you a one book at a time kind of person? If you do how do you remember all the different stories and voices? Do you have some techniques? What are the pro’s and con’s of book juggling for you? Will be interesting to see what you all have to say on the matter.


Filed under Book Thoughts

70 responses to “Do You Book Juggle?

  1. I tend to have about three or four books on the go, but as I read fast I don’t have too much problem keeping the thread going. I usually have something literary on the go, something lighter by my bed (usually chick lit), a children’s book and a non fiction book.

    • I think if you have such differing books it could work, I dont know if I myself could manage more than three and ideally I go for two though since this I am back to my one (I have given up on The Lacuna for a while).

  2. I was like you I never used to but I have just started doing this while readin one hundred years of solitude. I am enjoying it but I have to really concentrate while reading and I cant read a quick chapter here and there or on a train etc. So while Im reading a chapter of that a day I have ‘easier’ reads going on.

    • I have heard that 100 Years of Solitude is quite a difficult chunkster that needs some breaks as it goes, I think thats why its stayed in the TBR for so long. I am not sure I will get to it soon either, maybe one day.

  3. I used to be a monogamous reader but I drifted…

    It depends on what’s going on. If I’m on holiday then I’m a one book at a time girl but just now I’m a book juggler. I admit to dropping the ball sometimes though! I have a little pile of unfinished books that are currently stressing me out (have gone off to read something else and never returned); I require a wee week of doing nothing else except finishing them off.

    Being at uni gave me the skills for juggling books. I had no other option with having to read several books each week for different classes. I find that they easily stay separate in my head so can’t share any tips or techniques with you, I’m afraid.

    Having just come out the other side of The Great Book Slump 2010, I am avoiding the same thing occurring my interspersing my literature with lighter reads that keep me thirsty for more, whilst keeping up with my usual reading.

    I do like to have shorter reads to hand when reading something chunky; like you it makes me antsy if I’m not reading quickly enough for my tastes.

    • Oh those unfinished books… I have a very similar pile. I have decided though that if I havent picked another one up between now and a months time I am just not going to. Dependent how far they are through I will either pop them back in the TBR or they are going to charity/friends am determined to be more ruthless! I will do it!!!! Ha!

  4. I do book juggle but am beginning to think I may have to concentrate on one book at a time just because I find my concentration and enjoyment drifting and feel I’m not fully immersing myself in the book I’m reading. We’ll just have to see as I find it difficult to stick to one book and will inevitably start something else…

  5. novelinsights

    I book juggle only when I must (i.e. when I’m halfway through one and I need to read another for a deadline or like you with The Passage when lugging it around is impractical). I just find juggling frustrating, and continuing the analogy sometimes I end up dropping one by accident.

    • The Passage and The Lacuna are the two books that suddenly brought my book juggling skills out. Though I do have a MASSIVE short story collection by Lorrie Moore on the bedside now which I am reading one of every day… I think it might take about ten years though its that big.

  6. I do book juggle if I am reading a long and weighty novel, or a non-fiction book I’ve been asked to review. I have been juggling Wolf Hall for months and it’s been OK, but now I am on holiday I am going to finish it and I am rather glad that I can give it my full attention.

    • Long and weighty or non fiction are the two I will allow myself juggling with from now on. I sadly have had to give up on The Lacuna… for now. I might send it to my Gran, she can do a guest reiew she loves Kingsolver no matter what!

  7. I prefer not to book-juggle with fiction unless it’s a chunky book that lends itself to having a break now and then. Non-fiction I’m fine with, I can have 2 or 3 on the go…

  8. farmlanebooks

    I book juggle too. I normally have one very long book on the go and need a few short ones for variety. I’d find it weird to just read the same book every day for a few weeks. The books need to be different from each other though – I’d get confused if the story lines/setting were similar.

    • Yes I am just the same with needing very differing types of fiction if am reading two kinds. Fortunately The Passage is very very different to most things I would read in general!

  9. I think of myself as a book monogamist. I just can’t shift gears from one book to another easily. If I try to read multiple books, one of them always seems to end up abandoned. I do, however, have different books for different places, which lets me meet different reading priorities without feeling like I’m juggling. I have my main book, a reread that I keep at the office for lunch breaks, an audiobook in the car, and some sort of project book (usually a theology book) that lends itself to short spells of reading. And every now and then I might take a break from my main book to read something really short, if I’m not in the mood for my main book and think I can read the short book in a single evening.

  10. I totally juggle books, and I always have. I got into the habit as a kid because my parents’ house was just so full of books, and there were five of us wandering around moving books, putting different books on top of other books, stealing each other’s books. So if I were wedded to one book at a time, I would be severely disappointed. Whereas it was just so easy, if I were in the bathroom cleaning my teeth, to wander into the hallway and pull something different from the hallway bookshelves. So I’ll read anything that’s to hand, and I don’t tend to commit myself to one book unless there’s one book that absolutely drags me in and won’t let go. :p

    • I don’t actually have anything against the idea of juggling, I think the only worry I have with it is though that you might end up loving one book more than another (both of them being good) and then loosing interest in a gem and just putting it to one side because of another. That makes sense to me it might not to anyone else hahaha.

  11. I am a juggler in the extreme I think. But I think I keep it all nicely compartmentalized. I have an audio in the car for the kids and I, I have an audio for me on the iPod, I have a printed book going at all times, sometimes a printed book for a read-along, in which I read in small pieces with the group, sometimes a book I am reading out loud to the kids. I don’t really take notes, but rarely get them confused. Once I did have a couple of books going that both had a character named “Claire” and were both women’s fiction. That took some adjusting.

    • Blimey I think that would be too much for me, however it works for you and thats what reading should be about, what works for each one of us and I love posts like this where I hear everyones different reading rituals.

      I hadnt thought about reading two books with two characters with the same name… that would confuse me.

  12. Dot

    I’m so envious, I wish I could book juggle but I am definitely a one book woman!

  13. Interesting post, Simon! I’ve noticed since book blogging myself that there are plenty of people out there who seem able to book juggle, and I’ve never really been able to do so myself.

    In order to really get into a book, I tend to find that I need to immerse myself in it and not get distracted with others. Although I’ll sometimes read a magazine rather than a book on my commute if I’m not quite in the mood for the book I’m reading (London Review of Books is my suitably bookish magazine choice!).

    The only time I really ‘book juggle’, which seems to be a bit of a theme going on above, is when I’m reading some heavyish non-fiction. Then I sometimes quite like having a nice bit of fiction to get into on the side. Especially in my pre-bed reading, when I’m too sleepy for heavy books (both meanings of heavy apply).

    Although I’m not sure that having some non-fiction, fiction and – as you say – maybe a few short stories or poems open at once really counts

    • I find it really interesting how so many people book juggle as long as one book is fiction and one is non-fiction. They both require the imagination and yet we seem to find on needs more.

  14. Deb

    It’s standard for me to have one fiction and one non-fiction book going at once, but sometimes I’ll be reading an additional book–usually fiction. I read a lot of mysteries, so I try to only read one mystery at a time to avoid character/plot confusion. Right now I’m in the middle of a re-read of H.E. Bates’s LOVE FOR LYDIA, plus reading a Ruth Rendell from the 1980s, THE BRIDESMAID. My non-fiction read is John Berendt’s CITY OF THE FALLING ANGELS. These books are so diverse, there’s no way I’ll confuse the storylines. Or so I say until my crazy day gets started…

  15. I’m mainly a monogamist, but occasionally do take a break from very long reads or short story collections. But then, even with those I don’t follow through and end up reading only one book again, and then get back to the other after I’m done with the first. My mind gets cluttered if I have to juggle between several books. I like the sense of accomplishment after each read. Juggling books take me longer to finish one or all.

    I used to be amazed at this friend I have who would read multiple books at the same time. Now, after being with all you book bloggers, I’m no longer amazed. Apparently there are more book jugglers than the likes of me! 😀

    • I can’t read a short story selection in one go like I could a fiction novel. I like to have space away in order to let the characters of each tale settle in my brain, I find I start to think every story is the same and so need the breaks.

  16. I juggle in the summer, because it’s too hot to do anything except stay in the air conditioned home and read.

    Juggling keeps me engaged.

    In the winter, I go out more, so I can keep track of one book only.

  17. Sometimes while reading a fat long book I have to take breaks and read something shorter at the same time. But usually I stick to one book at a time- less confusing (even if I keep the genres separate like you do)

  18. Sue

    I loved Lacuna, loved it. Its well worth making to the end – although I had to go back and reread a couple of pages before I got it, but thats just me.

    I always book juggle. I have something ‘easy’ upstairs for before bed and in the bathroom. I usually have something a bit more taxing for on the train and tube. If I have a hardback to read I juggle that with some fairly plain knitting and a ‘book-chair’.

    Its a mark of a good read for me if I cart the same book round the house and in my bag when I go out. Lacuna was like that.

    • I have sadly given up on the Lacuna for a while Sue it was just becoming a chore. I think its the sort of book you need to be able to give more than an hour to or a part to once in a while. I may start again… who knows.

  19. I don’t tend to get books confused when I do juggle them, even if they are quite similar, but I definitely prefer to read one book at a time. The only exception to this is when I have a fiction and a non-fiction on the go at the same time.

    The only time I do tend to have more than one book on the go is either when I have to read several books at once (Uni courses) or I am going through a bad patch with my reading, when I can’t seem to settle on one thing to read and want to keep myself interested. I think my record for that is about six books at the same time, but I was very grateful to go back to one book at a time after that.

  20. When I was in school, I was forced to read 3-4 books at the same time. There was no other way to finish everything in time. The problem, however, was in what I was able to retain. I think that book juggling is an effective “multitasking” skill but it is very easy to fall into the trap of being overwhelmed. At times I was bombarded with plots and multiple character story arcs… everything felt a little muddled. When I finished school, I had the freedom and time to devote all my attention to one book. It was a treat! For me, it’s easier on the brain but I can understand that, for practical reasons, we can’t lug a 10lb book around with us all day… 🙂

    • I never had to read more than one book at a time at school. Unless you count text books and thats non-fiction so I dont think they counted. I also loathed the books we read at school as we went over and over and over them!

  21. Normally I only read one book at a time, but if I get stuck and can’t read any further in one book, then I do pick up another and start to read that one and the next thing I know, I’m in the middle of two books. Or if I want to stretch out one read, because it is just too good and I don’t want it to end – then I pick up another book to read alongside it.

    • I hadnt even thought about those books that you want to savour every sentence of. Mind you with those books I couldnt read anything along side it in case it broke the magic!

  22. Bet

    I’m a book juggler, too. I rarely juggle two fiction books at a time, but when I am reading a really long tome (such as War and Peace) I have to take occasional breaks from it and read something else short and totally different for a day or so. But most of the time I can only handle one fiction book and one or two non-fiction books at a time.

  23. I definitely have a few going at all times, but of different types. In the early mornings, I read non-fiction and heavier literary works. Those I tend to journal more to keep my mind fresh – those also tend to be the ones that I find “new” words in. 🙂 At night, I must have light reading. I also tend to have some children’s books going – something I’m reading with my kids, or never got around to as a child, and those also are read at night since they don’t take as much concentration.

    But like you, Simon, I don’t typically have more than one in the same genre going at the same time. Interesting discussion!

    • Again I love hearing the way people read in different ways as I would never have thought of having different types of reads for different times of day. Well I never, more food for thought. Thanks Susan.

  24. pat

    I don’t mind juggling david sedaris or augusten burroughs with any novel i’m currently reading. But what made me really juggle several novels at a time was infinite jest which though i love, i just can’t always get through all of the time. Some days I love it, some days I want to kill myself for not getting some parts of it.

    • I havent tried Infinite Jest and am not sure that I would want to from that review Pat hahaha. Any books that makes me contemplate reading suicide I tend to disregard and move on.

  25. An interesting topic for a blog post. I’m just about to start The Pasaage and note that you had to do some juggling to get to the end. The Lacuna defeated me I’m afraid – it just didn’t hold my interest sufficiently.

    Usually I can’t read more than one book at a time because I end up concentrating on one and ignoring the other. Possible a fiction and a non-fiction, but even that is a chellenge. So, I’m a one book man, faithful to my current literary interest until that relationship is over.

    • The thing with the Lacuna is that I simply hate to give up on a book, not if its only 20 pages in, but when you are above 90 pages, or in this case half way through.

  26. When I was a child I got to a stage where I was reading ten books at once and never finished any of them so since then I’ve been on a strict diet of one. I found when I did read more than one I got the stories and characters mixed up and as well as confusing me it made me hopeful of subplots that weren’t going to happen. I now keep a list of my books and it’s in nice date order so any more than one book at a time wouldn’t fit in – in a way it’s silly because it’s restrictive, but I still worry about not finishing books if I started more than one at a time.

    • You made the point I was trying to make earlier in a comment on someone else comment so much better than I did Charlie haha. I worry if this juggling becomes a habit then I am not going to finish any books. I should have just (or should just even) grab the Lacuna and grin and bear it till the end, I think it will pay off too weirdly.

  27. Juanita

    I don’t juggle. I’m not even sure if I can, as I’ve never really tried. I just enjoy being immersed in one reading experience at a time. I think I will make an exception for anthologies from now on though. I’ve found that reading them straight through isn’t best.

  28. Reading five books at a time was my secret shame – I thought it was an indication of mental weakness. Then I discovered that other people do it too…imagine my relief!

  29. Looks like the jugglers are in the majority. I juggle too though only metaphorically, I would be useless at literally juggling books, or anything else for that matter! My parents can’t understand how I can do it, even when I point out that they are perfectly capable of following several TV series at once.

  30. One at a time for me. I read quickly and just don’t want to draw a story out for too long by setting it down. If a book is dragging, I either quit it or force myself to sit for a few hours and get through a chunk of it. Then I’m either into the story or close enough to the end to just want to finish. But if I picked something else up, it would be the death knell of the first book.

    • What happens though with those books you want to be lost in forever? I don’t tend to ike dragging books, I need to get much more ruthless with them though lol.

  31. That´s a very interesting post! 🙂 For me, juggling works better some months than others, or it deopends on the books. Usually I read two books, and like you try to choose ones that are very different from each other. Ofthe it´s something cosy and something more thought-provoking, so a mystery and a novel 🙂
    It´s also good to always have one book that I can read on my commute, something light and with short chapters.

    • Light and short chapters is great if you have lots of meetings all over town. You have just made me realise I plan my reading around my schedule more than I had realised I did.

  32. I’ve tried book juggling, but as some others mentioned, usually it just means that the “easier” book takes over. I’ll end up racing through one of them and putting the other on hold.

    Non-fiction is a whole other thing. It’s such a change of pace that I think of it more like reading the internet while I have a novel on the go, or reading the newspaper!

  33. Ti

    I am a book juggler, but I wasn’t one until about 2 years ago. Oddly, that is about the same time my blog came into being.

    For me, I just feel as if there is so much for me to read that I have to have it all at once. Technically, this practice does nothing to improve the speed of my reading, but there’s just something so satisfying about reading 4 books at once.

    Plus, my moods change throughout the day so it helps to have a few books to choose from when I sit down to read.

    • I do wonder if people juggle more because of blogging actually. It is part of the reason I think I have started of late, mind you somehow I have managed to avoid it for a good few years now.

  34. Yes, I book juggle, partly because I keep losing my books, which later turn up under a pile of sweaters, or in my daughters’ room, or under seats of our messy cars.
    My daughters say I read very slowly–well, this wouldn’t be the case if I could keep track of my books a bit better!

  35. I once heard someone compare book juggling to watching multiple soaps – many storylines, all a bit similar and yet many of us manage it. For me it’s not about forgetting the stories, when I juggle I get disconnected from the emotions and the relationships, not to mention the rhythm of a book can get a bit broken up in my head. So I try not to do it, but sometimes it just happens. Like you say big books are heavy (I have seen The Passage in shops and it’s ginormous in hardback).

    • I do think that TV is just so much more visual than books. With books you have to visualise it in your head and thats much harder I think… yes I guess I am saying that TV is lazier really hahaha.

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