The benefits of reading are undisputed: you broaden your perspective by reading from different points of view, escape the stresses of the day, and even sharpen your mind and thought process.
But is it enough just to say you will read, without thinking about how to tackle your boo list? Or is there a way to read more efficiently?
Should You Read Multiple Books at Once?
Any true book lover has probably been tempted at least once by the wealth of choices on their shelves—even when they already have a great book in their hands! At times like these, you may wonder: should you reach for the next book, or finish the one you’re reading first?
Both camps have lots of proponents, but generally, we tend to favor the argument that yes, you can and should read multiple books at once!
In fact, 19th century educator-reformer Charlotte Mason advocated giving her schoolchildren a wide banquet of ideas to chew on by giving them multiple books to read at the same time.
While you may well argue that school books are different, the books that Charlotte Mason’s students used during that time were classic literature, akin to the books we read for entertainment these days.
The Benefits of Reading Multiple Books at Once
Here are 4 potential benefits of having several books going at once:
1. You’re less likely to get bored.
Reading only one book means that you will have to stick with it to the end. While it may be good encouragement for some people to finish what they started, if you get bored with the book, it will mean slugging through it—or giving up on the book altogether.
But, if you have multiple books going, you can switch between them. That way, you can come back to the first one refreshed and ready to read more. This is especially helpful if the book in question is heavy reading, because it allows you time and space to digest what you’ve read so far.
2. Your reading list will be well-rounded.
One reason why Charlotte Mason advocated the use of several books per school subject is so that the students would be able to broaden their horizons. The same principle works for you as an adult reader.
For example, you might read five books all on different subjects: an inspirational book, a classic set during the French Revolution, an easy-read romantic chick-lit, a book on how to do programming, and a nutritional cookbook.
With this selection, over the same timeframe, you will learn more about your well-being, history, and health, while also learning new skills like programming and cooking.
3. You can balance learning with pleasure.
If you have a required reading list for school or work, reading multiple books at once will allow you to add some entertainment into the mix and make the overall experience feel less like a chore.
4. You will have time to contemplate.
Reading several books at a time means that you will finish one book over a longer period of time compared to when you read only one book. This allows you to mull over the things you’ve read, instead of just breezing through a book without really thinking about it.
5. You learn to make connections between ideas.
The human mind is a powerful thing: it has the ability to make connections all on its own. When you read through multiple books at once—for example, when you read about World War II in one book, and a Holocaust survivor in an entirely different book—your mind can process this information together to give you a clearer picture of what really happened during that tragic time.
The same can be said of nonfiction. Your brain will be better able to connect key ideas, lessons, and themes between different books so you can get the most from your reading.
Is It Possible to Read More Than One Book at a Time?
Yes! Some people are afraid that reading more than one book at a time will make them confused about what’s happening in each book. But the human mind is actually more than able to keep facts straight.
Of course, that’s not to discount the fact that sometimes we may muddle up some of the information, especially when we leave a book for too long. But certain strategies can help us improve our attention to keep the details in line.
How Do You Read Multiple Books at Once?
Here are some tips to help you get the most out of reading several books simultaneously:
1. Consider a mix of genres.
Reading books of different genres is a great way to get through several over the same timeframe, and it can also help to relieve potential boredom.
If you only read self-help books or only Old English classics, your mind will not get the same rest it can experience when switching between different books.
This tip applies to both fiction and non-fiction. If you exclusively read fantasy novels with complicated worldbuilding elements, it wouldn’t be surprising if you start to confuse the details. But if you have, say, one fantasy novel, one romance, and one historical fiction, it will be much easier to distinguish them.
2. Read mindfully.
The reason you may tend to mix up characters or facts between books is not because your mind is incapable of keeping the stories straight, but rather, you may not have been giving the books your full attention.
By making an effort to stay mindfully present while you’re reading, you won’t feel the need to reread the same passage as often. Train yourself to read everything only once, so you will grow used to giving your full attention to the book.
You’ll probably find that reading as a mindful practice is actually pretty relaxing, and you’ll get much more out of your books when your whole heart is in it.
3. Practice narration.
Another way to ensure that you’re giving a book your full attention is by stopping every few pages to summarize what you’ve read. This helps to cement the information you’ve read, so that when you come back to the same book (perhaps a few days later), you will still remember what you read in the previous pages.
Book journaling is a form of written narration. Keeping a reading journal can help improve retention, and it also encourages you to chew over the material, making for a more productive experience.
4. Try different formats.
Sometimes, reading books in different formats also helps keep characters and events separate in your mind. This may include reading in paperback, on an e-reader like a Kindle, or even “reading” by listening to Audiobooks.
There’s one caveat to note, though: many readers still find it easier to locate scenes they want to revisit on a hardcopy book than on a Kindle. But, on the other hand, the Kindle does have a Search function you can use in case you ever need to find something you’ve previously read.
5. Stay consistent.
No matter how many different genres you read, if you only pick up a book every three weeks, you will inevitably have trouble jumping right back in.
That’s why consistency is key. A good way of making sure you keep reading from each book is to rotate them and read only a short bit per day. A chapter a day from several books may be a good estimate, depending on your free time.
If one chapter is not feasible, try a few pages per book each day or every two days. But remember to keep rotating between the books so that you don’t go too long between reading any one book.
Reading Several Books at Once
By learning to read multiple books at once, you can knock out your reading list in less time and even reap a few benefits for your brain.
And if you’re in need of a few recommendations for what to read next, be sure to check out our list of 100 books to read before you die!
Do you enjoy juggling multiple books at once, or do you prefer sticking to one at a time? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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