Multi-Tasking, Multi-Reading

I mentioned yesterday that I had been a little bit bonkers with poorly partners (who are back in hospital as I type), travelling here there and everywhere, mass reading for The Readers Summer Book Club and organising The Green Carnation Prize for 2012. Well I think somewhere in this mass of manic activity I seem to have completely lost where I am with reading and what I am reading. It wasn’t until sorting things out for new carpets to be fitted (how domestically unexciting does that sound) that I realised the extent to which my multi-reading has spread. I knew I was reading a few books at once for various reasons, though normally I am a one book boy, but I didn’t realise I was reading so many books at once. I was slightly horrified.

I have tried to protect the identity of these poor abused books, for I bet any book that gets picked up willy nilly and ditched with the same haphazard nature resents its reader, though I didn’t mind you knowing the top one was Mary Beard’s first collection of essays from her blog as that is the sort of book that should be dipped into. The others though I really have no excuse for. They are all fiction, which means somehow I am digesting five fictional stories at the moment and yet I don’t think I am getting confused with them, until I sit down with them. One of them I am actually possibly going to have to start again, I am that confused. Unimpressed.

I think the line of action to take now is to simply sit, and I have a lot of waiting to do while someone is under observations, and concentrate on getting all of these finished, yet of course being the book lover that I am (and the fact I have some books to read for work) I have a rather large pile of books looking at me hopefully, possibly even a little threateningly, to be read.

Any advice on this? How many books are too many to read at once? Do any of you have a secretly stashed pile of half read books collecting dust somewhere in your house hidden away? Do share; make me feel less guilty/bad/naughty/inept.


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

33 responses to “Multi-Tasking, Multi-Reading

  1. I try to just read one at a time but sometimes fall into three or four at a time. I did finally figure out that four is too many for my brain. GoodReads helps me sort it out. Currently, I am doing two at a time. I am reading one that is serious reading and is over 500 pages so to get relief from that I started one that is much lighter but still has 377 pages. I am trying to make progress in the next two days when a third book is to arrive.

    • I have to say that so far Carol I have been really lucky in the fact that when I have ended up reading a mixture, something I am still trying to kick almost a month on, they are all very different which is one good thing. I also agree with you about Good Reads being a really helpful way to sort out what I am reading too.

  2. As you probably know, I’m always happy to read lots of books at once – but there are increasing numbers which somehow (through no fault of their own) never got finished… so I got halfway about a year ago, and fully intend to finish eventually. Oh dear.

  3. I do this all the time with library books. I’m a completist, so I have a hard time admitting defeat and putting a book aside when I don’t love it, which only bogs my reading down further.

    Like with debt, when you pay off the smallest first to feel progress, I say read the one where you have the least amount of pages left. Once it’s finished, move on to the next one with the least amount of pages, etc.

    • With debts though shouldn’t you try and pay off as much as you can in one go? 😉 I oddly like and dislike the idea of book debt all at once.

      • Yes, I think so! But in the US I think small debts are much more accepted and common–the “snowball” theory above is a common strategy for dealing with it. Sometimes I do think of my nightstand as a pile of debt. Presently, with War and Peace and Middlemarch sitting there, I feel like Greece.

      • Hahahaha that just made me laugh so much, and so topical too.

  4. I always read several books at once. I start a book, then find references to other works, and begin them, and I get books I want from the library, which have to be started immediately (and the same applies to any ‘new’ books I acquire), and there are books that people recommend so I think ‘Oh, I must read that’, or for some reason I suddenly get an urge to revisit an old favourite…

    • Interesting how differently we all use/prioritise library books. Even though I am borrowing them they always seem to be bottom of my priority. Hence why I am always getting cross when other people order them in and i have to take them back. Hahaha.

  5. Until about a year ago I was always a one book at a time reader, but recently that has changed and I find it worrying because I think it says something about diminishing powers of concentration. I’m trying to go back to just one book, but at the moment it isn’t working.

  6. JanaNav

    I’m not sure what my limit of multiple reads is, but it was up to 8 awhile ago. I admit, that is out of control. However, if…IF…they are not similar in setting or subject I think anyone can do 4 or more. Right now mine include a historical novel (Bring up the Bodies), another historical novel (Augustus; TOTALLY different, so no problem there), a graphic novel, and I’m about to start a mystery (Now You See Me). It can be done!

    And wishes for a speedy recovery to your partner.


  7. I’m a multi-reader and quite content to be so, some books are meant for slow reading others for dipping in and out of, some require dedication, some just a weekend stint and be done with, others for inspiration to spur you on, enticing you to be done with that slow read. Some get moved around, teased into thinking they are going to be read, but find they’re temporarily on the TBR pile. Some come to work with me, others never leave the bedside, I could go on, but I think you get the drift, not a monogamous reader sorry but love that pile, turn it round please.

    • I dont think that there is anything wrong with being a multi reader Claire, far from it, I just wonder if there is ever too many books one can be reading at once?

      • I think when you get that drowning feeling, you’ve touched the limit, but I’m not sure the number is the same for everyone, I couldn’t be reading too many novels at the same time.

  8. Louise Trolle

    I usually read 3-6 books and listen to 2-3 audiobooks at a time. On top of that I have a few half-finished biographies, that have been lying around for ages. Chet Baker and Sammy Davies Jr.
    One of the reasons is that I can’t get my audible audiobooks to work in my car, so I’m listening to an mp3 audiobook in the car, and audible at home.

    I like reading different things, and I also feel better if I’m reading at least one book for each Goodreads challenge I’m doing, and for my book club. Usually I’m reading at least one short story collection and then, well whatever chatches my eye 🙂

    • Having just experienced a really, really good audiobook I can see how you can mark a difference in audiobooks and books. However I have to really really concentrate on audiobooks, I couldnt multi-listen to them as I have to rewind enough as it is hahaha.

  9. When I was younger I got into the bad habit of starting book after book, I had about 10 on the go often, and never finished any. The pressure becomes too much and you start to get confused on characters and stories at that point. Recently I’ve been a one-book girl, but I’ve been able to change that to two, and it works best when the genres are different. I think it depends on how many stories you can read at once whilst remembering each separately and able to define them well enough.

    • I can understand the pressure feeling you mention, that is why I was relieved to really lessen the amount I had got up to. I just have a few more to get through now (reviews for work/reading for podcast etc has meant juggling) and then I will be backto a one book boy.Well one fiction one non fiction.

  10. sharkell

    Wow, I’m so impressed with everyone being able to read more than one book at a time. I don’t think my brain has that much capacity! Occasionally, I put one book down to pick up another that I have to read by a certain date, usually a library or book club book. By the time I’ve finished my second book, I find it really hard to get back into the first book and find that I don’t really enjoy it. So, I avoid it as much as possible.

    • I bet you would be surprised how many books you could read at the same time, well have on the go at the same time, if they are all different. I couldnt do it if I didn’t have an eclectic mix of books on my reading periphery.

  11. Rhian

    I always have at least two books on the go, one in my bag for reading while commuting (I never ever go anywhere without something to read and some crossstitch, just in case) and at then one at home. Sometimes it’s more than one at home.

    At the moment it’s two at home (Bringing up the Bodies and Jazz Giants) and trashy paperback in the bag.

    I don’t usually have a problem remembering and distinguishing stories, although if any one book drags on too long I’m apt to forget some of the details.

    The trouble is whenever I get a new book I want to start it NOW! Maybe I should only buy books when I haven’t finished what I am reading? (Now that’s never going to work)

    • Louise Trolle

      Oh I know that feeling, even though you have tons of other books waiting, those new once just lie there and call out to you 🙂

    • Oh the days of commuting reads. I used to have two books in my bag though as I was always worried I might finish one or struggle with one and not get on with it… so infact sometimes it was three books. They were the same books as I was reading at home. I didn’t have different reads for different places, thats an interesting thought though.

  12. I just read one at a time ,I still read 130 plus books a year so don’t feel need to multi read as I just end up like this with loads on go when I m reading one I just sit and read for couple of hours if I want finish a book to get on another book ,all the best stu

    • I don’t think people multi read in order to read more, I think it is just (in my case I guess) a way of juggling lots of different reads for lonts of different things.

  13. Blimey Simon…one at a time! Well…I suppose non fiction/poetry/short stories can be forgiven (dippable into?) but I really can’t concentrate on more than one thing at once. 🙂 I’m easily distracted/confused, like a fish.

  14. I will normally have 2-3 books on the go at once (1 fiction, 1 classic/non-fiction and perhaps 1 coffee-table like book), but I say there’s no limit!

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