One of the things book blogging has opened my eyes to is the wide diversity in people’s reading habits, and one area where I see a lot of variety is in the number of books people might have on the go at any one time. Some folks are definitely in the one-book-at-a-time camps, and others have nightstands ready to buckle at the weight of all the books they’re working on.
Me, I tend to be a book monogamist. I like to focus on one book and only one book. However, in practice, I can’t quite manage a pure monogamous state. I always have my “main” book (starting The Dream Kingdom by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles today), but I also usually have an audiobook on the go (The Piano Teacher by Janice Y.K. Lee). And since joining my church’s book club, which discusses 100 or so pages each week, I also have a book club book on the pile (Silence by Shusaku Endo). For some, this may not seem like much to be reading at one, but I’ve figured out that more than three books, for me, can often become reading chaos.
Last year, I went through a four-book-at-a-time period because I was also rereading books over my lunch break at work. I really enjoyed those rereads, and keeping a separate book at the office was great because I didn’t have to worry about leaving reading material at home. However, I haven’t been doing that this year for a couple of reasons. The main one is that lately I haven’t been able to take my full lunch break as consistently as I’d like, so several days might go by when I don’t read at lunch at all. It would be silly to keep a book at work if I’m not going to get more than an hour of reading done all week. But that’s only one reason I’m putting the habit aside: Last year, when I joined my church book club and added a fourth book to my pile. I sometimes felt like I had more books than I could handle. I was doing a lot of reading and not making much actual progress. What’s more, sometimes my passion for my reread in progress ended up coloring my opinion of the main book I was reading at home. Despite these disadvantages, I may take up the reread at work habit again at some point, just because it was a good way to get some rereading in, but it’s probably a practice I’ll avoid when I’m feeling scattered.
I think this inability to juggle may have to do with my general methodical tendencies. I like to start a task and work consistently at it until I’m done. I hate having several projects happening at once. At work, I do often have to manage several tasks, but I try even there to organize my day so I’m devoting large blocks of time to a single task. I can happily work away at one thing all day long, although I like some variety from one day to the next. If I keep having to set aside some task to do something else, I end up having to orient myself to that task all over again—I never achieve “flow.”
I do sometimes wish I were a better book juggler. I’d like to be able to dip into several books at once. I miss my rereading at work. I also know that certain kinds of books—heavy non-narrative nonfiction or short story anthologies—don’t lend themselves so well to reading straight through. I’ve tried different ways of integrating these kinds of books into my reading life (short stories at breakfast, a chapter of heavy nonfiction each week), but even when the books are good, I don’t find these kinds of reading experiences as satisfying as reading straight through, one book at a time.
How many books do you tend to have on the go at once? If you’re a juggler, how do you manage it? At what point do you feel like you have too many books in your currently reading pile?
In other news: After all my dithering last week, I ended up going ahead and buying an e-reader this week. I still think it’s kind of a silly purchase on my part when I have so many books on my TBR pile, but I knew I’d like one eventually, and I was wasting way too much time comparison shopping, scanning eBay auctions, and so on. So, when I spotted a Sony Touch (PRS-600, so not the latest model) for $99, I went ahead and grabbed it. It arrived on Friday, and I’ve already loaded about a billion (or 144) free classics from Project Gutenberg, Girlebooks, and Manybooks.net onto the reader; and I’ve acquired e-galleys for several upcoming releases from Netgalley. That process was extremely easy. It may be a while before I read anything on it because I’m holding firm to the TBR Dare until April 1, but I’m considering reading one of the heavier books on my TBR pile on it in the next month or two. Once I’ve read something on it and can better assess that experience, I’ll offer a full report.