Do you read more than one book at a time?

I’m a strong believer in having more than one book going at a time. It gives me options. If one book is super heavy (metaphorically speaking), the other book can provide a mood change. Or if one book is quite sad or sends my brain into overdrive, I can have a lighter book to read at bedtime.

Read just one book at a time? I say laugh in the face of stuffy convention that dictates that’s how it’s done!


Anyway…this is what I said to myself last week when I was strolling through Barnes and Noble – with no intention whatsoever of buying any books at all – until I saw this book:

This week, I realized I cannot read two novels at the same time. Do you read more than one book at a time? How about multiple novels?

I’ve seen it, heard about it, wondered about it. Granted, I couldn’t recall anything specific about it, just general praise and a vague notion that the book sounded interesting.

It’s a cool cover, isn’t it? It might actually be my favorite of 2016. You have the vaguely 1970s vibe of the photo. The title text is bold, but the notes and arrows annotate it in a way that seems to play foil.

So I picked the book up and read the jacket copy. I learned this is a fantasy YA novel set in the 16th century. Conveniently enough, that’s the one category left in my When Are You Reading? challenge. I learned it is comical. I learned it takes Liberties with History, specifically with the story of Lady Jane Grey. She lost her head (literally) during the English succession drama of 1553.

Usually, when I read historical fiction, I prefer it render history faithfully. I’m not expecting factual accuracy in every regard, but a spirit of faithfulness to the period would be nice. However…My Lady Jane just sounded too entertaining to pass up. (Also, my reading challenge!)

This week, I realized I cannot read two novels at the same time. Do you read more than one book at a time? How about multiple novels?So I bought it and brought it home and was super excited to read it, and…I couldn’t do it. I was still only 100 pages into Jane Eyre at the time. (I’m now only just over 300…with about 250 still to go.) I worried My Lady Jane would distract me from Jane Eyre. I worried that shuffling between the two worlds would dilute my experience of both. Especially with two very different Janes to keep track of. Part of me wanted to test the theory by pushing myself to read the novels together. In the end, though, I couldn’t do it. I’m sticking with Jane Eyre to the bitter (ahem) end. 

This whole thing surprised me. What happened to laughing maniacally in the face of convention? I asked myself. But when I looked at the books I’ve read in pairs, it seems I typically pair fiction with nonfiction. I can’t actually think of a time I read two novels actively at the same time. I sometimes take breaks from books I’m not feeling. Other times, for bedtime reading, I’ll reread favorite chapters from favorite books. But full-scale engagement in two fiction worlds, simultaneously? No.

Someone who follows me on Goodreads might say, Hang on, haven’t I seen rows of novels on your “currently reading” shelf? Admittedly, that’s quite likely. In truth, though, a novel sitting on my “currently reading” shelf for three months is not a novel I’m actively reading. It’s one I started, got distracted from, but want to return to. It stays on the shelf as a reminder because, for a long time, I refused to keep a “want to read” section. I was (justifiably) afraid of what it would become. But…I finally caved. So now, it I haven’t picked a book up in a month or so, I move it to “want to read.”

What about you? Do you read multiple books at once? If so, what genres? Do you read more than one novel at the same time?

4 Replies to “Do you read more than one book at a time?”

  1. Really great discussion! I generally like to stick to one book at a time. The only time I really read multiple books at once is if I’m in a rush and trying to finish books on a deadline.

    I’d really like to know what you think of the Jane Grey book! I kind of accidentally stumbled upon her for a research project in high school and am kind of obsessed with any topics on her! The lack of historical accuracy might be a little off-putting but it’s a good read, it might be worth it!

    1. Thank you, Sam! I have My Lady Jane on my nightstand and am constantly staring at it, haha. I can’t wait to start it. It’s definitely going to be my next read!

  2. So for me it is one book at a time. Imagine watching half of the new tv show This is Us, pausing it to turn on the middle of Leah Remini’s Scientology special on A & E and then back to This is Us! My investment and absorbsion in each is deep and I like to allow my emotions to swell for every book and tv show without breaking up the momentum. This is probably why I get through books quickly and also why I find myself locked in the bathroom toward the end of a novel to avoid my husband’s small talk as he often doesn’t seem to notice the book in my hands ?

    1. Hahaha, your last sentence made me laugh so hard. I have long suspected that my hubs has an urge to chat just as I’m getting to a good part. 🙂 Interesting analogy with the tv shows too! You have reinforced for me why I can’t stand putting a book down when I’m in the middle of a chapter.

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