Riot Headline The Best Hardcover and Paperback Deals of the Amazon Book Sale (UPDATED May 17, 2024)
Our Reading Lives

Why I Have To Read Multiple Books At One Time

Brandi Bailey

Staff Writer

Brandi can be found writing about books and dreaming up outfits on her blog, Book Style. She'll probably be reading something with mythology, Brits, unicorns, a feisty heroine, or (ideally) all of the above. She has lived in too many cities, but has settled down in Portland with her awesome husband and almost-as-awesome cat. Follow her on Instagram @PinkBBWhiskey.

Look, I know a lot of people read a couple books simultaneously, particularly the people who are really into books. I also know that people who aren’t full-fledged books nerds often look absolutely perplexed when they learn that someone can read more than one book at a time. And then there are people like me who have to read multiple books at one time, all the time.

Part of my need is personality based. I’ve never been good at total immersion in any form of entertainment. It’s a rare TV show that I can binge watch from Season 1, Episode 1 all the way up to the series finale. If I’m not in a darkened theater, the odds of me making it through a single movie without picking up my phone or laptop half way through are pretty slim. I play through at least two video games (story mode) at the same time… Well not at the exact same time, you know what I mean! Honestly, most of us are used to processing multiple plot lines over several weeks just fine. Even the people who insist that reading two books simultaneously is pure insanity are probably watching at least a handful of television sitcoms and dramas during a single viewing season.

The other part of my multiple books habit is occupational. I’m a book blogger, I review books professionally, and I used to be a bookseller being pitched hundreds of titles a month. I also just really love books. So the books I want to read, or reread, have to be squeezed in between assigned titles. That means that I am often reading a few books at a time, many that I won’t love wholeheartedly, which slows my reading speed way down. I accept up to four books at a time for my review gig, and I typically have between two to three weeks to read them. It can often take me that long, too. To clarify, a book I don’t love doesn’t slow me down because of a difficult reading level; it slows me down because I keep making excuses not to pay attention, or even pick the book back up at all. Inversely, if I have fallen in love with a novel, had my vision tunneled down to the nothing but the fictional images in front of me on the page, I can finish the densest of tomes in mere hours.

There’s also my non-fiction issue. Narrative non-fiction is fine. Reads like a novel? I read it like a novel. But if it’s a little more academic or sweeping, it takes me foooooorevvvvvver. Looking back over my last two years of reading data – yeah, I’m part of the spreadsheet scene – I read roughly one non-fiction title for every ten fiction titles. Not for a lack of trying, either! I went to college to study history. I relax at night with every Planet Earth-esque documentary I can find, binges of Bill Nye, and TEDx Talks. I can be very engaged and entertained with more serious subjects. I have shelves of non-fiction books I’m itching to read, or finish reading. I just can’t seem to consume them quickly, or as quickly as I’d like, if it’s longer than an article.

Which all works itself out to around 100 completed books a year. Let’s be real honest, if a book isn’t grabbing my attention, and I’m not reading it for work, I’ll put it down for years before I give it another shot. I tend to give them all another shot at some point, but I don’t feel obligated. So I read far more than 100 books worth of pages per year, since I don’t count unfinished titles in my yearly total. I also don’t count picture books  – what? I like picture books, you don’t need kids to like picture books, stop judging me and my picture book hoarding! –  or single issue comics.

So I’m reading fiction and non-fiction that I get paid to read at a pace of approximately four per month. Simultaneously I have my pleasure reading, typically mysteries, YA or fantasy, that averages a book every four days. Finally we have my non-fiction reading, still for pleasure, that averages around ten books a year. You can toss in the occasional graphic novel which usually takes a couple of hours to read. And that, all of that, is why and how I always read multiple titles at once. I’m a fairly fast reader who gets bored easily and who also reads for a paycheck. I also like to push myself into reading things that aren’t easy reads (for me at least).

Now, I know several of you must also read multiple books at a time. What are your reasons? Do you get bored like me? Do you just like a challenge? Do you forget to bring a book with you someplace and are forced to start something new because not having a book in your hand is painful? Maybe you have your commute audiobook, you lunch book and your bedtime book?



Get a box of YA books and bookish goodies in the mail every quarter with our new YA Quarterly Box! Sign up here.

ya quarterly box image