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This is not my nightstand (click on photo for original link) but it could very well be. I have a similar pile and even have The Family Fang close by! Neat ;).

This is not my nightstand (click on photo for original link) but it could very well be. I have a similar pile and even have The Family Fang close by! Neat ;).

I’ve mentioned before that when I was younger, I had much more preferable book habits. I would go to the store, pick up a book, go home, read it, finish, then go back to the store for something else. Then, Goodreads came into the picture and though I love it, it is both a blessing and a curse.

I also have this thing I like to call “book jealousy”. When I hear of, or see someone reading a book they are absolutely loving, I immediately want to be reading it too. I start to lust over the idea of the new book and all the potential it holds. Typically, it would lead to me going to the bookstore later, buying that book, starting it and leaving my own half-read book on my night stand with the promise that I will return to it ..but never do. This is how I ended up with so many books in my house and many of them are half read.

With my new perspective on my own book buying habits, I began to analyze other bookish things about myself, mainly the issue of reading multiple books at once. Thanks to my book jealousy, and my tendency to get bored with things very quickly, I tend to have between 2-5 books going at once. I USUALLY have one that takes prominence over the others, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. I’m trying to get myself back into focusing on one book at a time, and the last month, buddy reading has helped! I buddy read Dark Places by Gillian Flynn along with my friend Natalie (Browsing Bookshelves) and am now buddy reading The Secret History with my friend Deni (From the Shelf). Since reading these two books, I have hardly touched any other reads. occasionally I slip a graphic novel in between, but not often.

I’ve noticed that when I focus on just one book at a time, my engagement with the book is tenfold. Because I am only thinking of one set of characters, one plot, one setting, I find that I am almost living in that world as I read. I don’t have to worry about keeping track of where I am with each book, or what happened in the last 10 pages when I hadn’t touched the book in a few weeks.

Though I know bad habits are tough to break, I am going to keep trying to focus on one book at a time. I will most likely keep a few small things on the side (graphic novels, short story collections or the gigantic collected works of Nora Ephron that I am loving right now) but as a rule, only one novel at a time!

I would love to hear how you guys read? One at a time? A few at a time? Tons at once? Let me know in the comments!

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9 thoughts on “The Art of Reading One Book at a Time

  1. I’m also a fan of reading one book at a time. At most, I’ll do two because I can read an ebook while Greyson goes to sleep at night. But inevitably that before-bed book morphs into my next “one book” naturally. I agree that engagement goes up like crazy. If I do end up with more books going at once (like now, 4 of them), it’s usually because I’m fending off a reading funk or life is getting to me and disturbing my reading groove. Since I know this about myself I can usually “reboot” my reading by starting over with something brand new (and and only one book) or I can hone in on one fave from the bunch.

  2. I have only ever read one book at a time for most of my life! I can only imagine the chaos that would ensue if I tried more than one, but that’s just me. The only way I can double- or triple-up is if they’re different genres or formats. For example, my train read is usually in Kindle form to save space in my bag or a collection of short stories I can read quickly on my commute. You’re right though: reading one book at a time greatly increases engagement and enjoyment!

  3. Hi, I have started reading your blog recently after watching your videos and I really like it :) I have a blog where I write about the books I read too, but it is in portuguese.
    I do read lots of books at a time, but I guess when I do this I tend to leave them half read too. My interest also changes quickly, I’m afraid I have the same book jealousy of yours :) But there are some books that take me over completely, and then I finish them quickly, not reading anything else. I like to follow my desire, so I read whatever I feel like reading, sometimes buddy reading doesn’t work for me for the same reason, it feels like an obligation, and maybe a great book appears in front of me and that’s what I want to read, but then I can’t, because of the buddy reading. Sometimes it can be good to have a motivation to read something and discuss it later. If I start a book and I’m not excited about it I leave it for another time in the future. I do believe we have a right time to read each book, you know. And there are so many great books to be read, we can’t waste our time with something that is not pleasing us at the moment. Maybe in the future it changes, maybe not. But no regrets.
    =]

    Paula (Brazil)

  4. I prefer to keep myself to one book at a time as well. I find that when I have more than one going at a time, all I’m doing is spending my energy trying to finish my pile instead of just enjoying the stories. It feels too chaotic and less manageable for my reading goals. There’s nothing I love more than having this one fantastic book going, and not having to think about anything else.
    I totally agree that the experience is so much more engaging. One of the big reasons that I don’t really like flying through books in one or two sittings is because I feel like I get half the book’s worth during those in-between moments when I’m not reading, to reflect on what I’ve read so far and decide how I felt about it, and wonder what will happen next.

  5. I’m usually a one book at a time kind of girl….but for the first time ever I’m actually reading 3 different books at once! During the day I’m re-reading Green Rider, at night I’m reading North and South, and during my commute to work for the past two weeks (working at a high school outside the city temporarily), I’ve been listening to an audio book! I’m actually enjoying the book juggling more than I thought I would….but I don’t think it’s something I’ll do very often.

  6. I’ve tried reading multiple books at a time, but I find it rarely works for me unless they’re very different type of books. Like, I have no problems reading one non-fiction book and one novel. Or a poem collection, or short-story collection on the side. But every time I try to read more than one novel at a time I end up abandoning one of them.

  7. Chels, you are TOTALLY on point with this post. I have the insanely bad habit of reading about 5 books at once as well *SIGH*, and it IS rather draining. I really like the idea of putting your entire being into reading one narrative, it’s so much more satisfying that way.

    I have over 200+ unread books myself so, let’s see if I can do this too!

  8. I’m definitely mainly a ‘one-book-at-a-time’ type of reader. That said, I often read two books at a time—-one fiction, another non-fiction, e.g. a novel, and a book on, say, Architecture (a lifetime passion of mine)

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