Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Reading Habits #17: How many books do you read at a time?

Since I started blogging nearly six years ago, I have been reading a minimum of two to three books at a time. However, I don’t finish them all at the same time. Some spill over into next week or next month, and even next year. 

As of today, I think I have three or four half-read books going back to 2012 and 2013. Frankly, I'm not even sure how many. I could attribute it to a case of out of sight, out of mind, but I can’t because I see them almost every day, on my bookshelf or on my tab, the bookmarks still in place.

I have not learnt my reading lesson. I still read two to three books. I'm currently reading The Accused by Harold R. Daniels (hardboiled), Air Force One is Down by John Denis, Alistair MacLean John Edwards and Denis Frost in real life (thriller), and Me Tanner, You Jane by Lawrence Block (spy). So far I have read thirty-odd pages of all three novels. They are easy to read and comprehend. 

However, reading so many books at a time can be disorienting, especially when you are jumping from the plot and characters of one book to another within a span of half an hour. This morning, for instance, I read six pages of my paper edition of the Block novel and then immediately read six pages of the MacLean ebook. It didn't help. I had to go back a few pages to recall the story and the characters. As I read, characters from Daniels' noir novel popped into my head.


This is the reading equivalent of tailgating on the road. You know what that’s like and how annoying it can be for the driver in the front car. He’d be cursing, “Get off my back!” I guess that’s pretty much how the first book I'm reading must feel. "Maintain book discipline!" Too many books spoil the plot.

How many books do you read at a time?

20 comments:

  1. Usually one but right now two and on occasion three.

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    1. Patti, I don't think reading more than one book at a time is such a good idea. I'd have a better chance of finishing just one book.

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  2. I tend to always read at least 2 books at the same time, and generally 3 at a time. However, often I'm reading a collection of stories and a novel. The stories are read at odd times and mostly I read on the novel. Or I may throw a nonfiction book into the mix, particularly science, which need to be read slowly for full understanding.

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    1. Charles, I read a collection of stories over a period of time, often treating it like a reference book. I also read the stories at random. I haven't read good nonfiction in a couple of years. I enjoy reading historical books.

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  3. I'm a one book at a time reader. In the old days I read two or more at a time, but I realized my finish rate decreased significantly so now I do my best to stick with one, and if it doesn't hold my attention I move on.

    I, like Charles, will often read short stories and a novel at the same time, but usually no more than that. Well, one more caveat. Sometimes I read a novel and non fiction simultaneously, but that is actually pretty rare unless I'm just reading portions of the non fiction work.

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    1. Ben, I used to read faster in my youth, finishing at least two novels a day. Back then I was single and had almost no responsibilities. As I grow old I find myself reading fewer books and slower too, not to mention having an erratic attention span. However, once I pick up a book I'll read it till the end, even if I find that I don't like it. I suffer books gladly. There is something good in every book. I'm seriously thinking of reading one book at a time. I'll read more that way.

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  4. I often have three books going, but only one is fiction. The others are nonfiction and I let them sit for days or weeks.

    I have only read two fiction books at a time. And only when I started a book I could not finish until I had better reading conditions. That happened to me twice on my trip to Alabama last year.

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    1. Tracy, there are moments when I don't feel like reading even if I have the time and the "reading conditions" are right. The irony is that a good book can often put you back in the mood to read more books. I think reading a fiction and a nonfiction book at a time is a good balance. Reading a single novel also makes it easier to review. I prefer to read nonfiction in paper form. I find e-reader suitable for novels of short length, say, up to 250 pages.

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    2. I try only to read shorter novels on the e-reader also. I won't buy a novel in e-book format if it is very long.

      I also meant to say what wonderful book covers you had included, especially the top one.

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    3. Tracy, I found THE ACCUSED online and in public domain. Covers of many mid-20th century paperbacks were illustrated by professional artists. I'm holding on to a few such novels, mostly westerns, from that era.

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  5. Two sometimes three at a time. Sometimes the mood isn't right for reading one of them so you turn to something else instead. At one point I had a list of about 20 books I had part read and discarded. I did go back and finish them, so I do try and stay on top of them now.

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    1. Col, I uually manage to read most of the books I set out to read and the number of half-read books accumulated over three or four years isn't much. I'll eventually finish them. There are some books that I have barely read, like MOLL FLANDERS by Daniel Defoe, in which case I start from the beginning and treat it as new reading. Earlier, whenever I tired of reading books, I used to switch over to a bunch of comics but now I hardly read any comic-books. It's a medium I've neglected in recent years.

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  6. I TRY to read one book at a time, but in reality that means 1 novel (or non-fiction book) and a short story collection. I truth, I seem to have a herd of books with bookmarks in them stacked about the place, and am having a hard time getting them cleaned up, read, finished. So though I aim for the stars, my arrows always seem to fall to the ground.

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    1. Richard, one book at a time seems to be the norm. That's how people used to read once upon a time. I remember borrowing just one book from a small private circulating library. Now we have so many books and ebooks at our disposal that we want to read all of them simultaneously.

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  7. Very funny post, Prashant. Mostly one at a time, for me, but occasionally two novels. And I do also sometimes have a more serious non-fiction book on the go, so it could be 3. But I start getting antsy if I have too many books half-completed.

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    1. Moira, thank you, I seriously need to read just one book at a time. That way I'll give the book the respect and attention it deserves and also finish reading it.

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  8. Usually one at a time, with a couple on the back burner waiting for my full attention. (Note the different metaphor; no tailgating.)

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    1. Ron, actually I started reading more than one book since acquiring my tablet. Too many books at my fingertips, I guess.

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  9. I usually start off with two or three and as always, one book will pull ahead and I'll go on to read just that one till I finish it.

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    1. Keishon, that's pretty much how I have been reading lately. You can't read and finish two or three books at one and the same time.

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