There are a lot of things that book-lovers argue over — like whether physical books are better than e-books, or whether or not listening to audiobooks actually counts as reading. But perhaps one of the most hotly debated topic among bibliophiles is whether or not you should read more than one book at a time. Alas, dear reader, I am here to settle the argument and tell you that, yes, you most definitely should.
In my experience, the book world is filled with monogamous readers who only read one book at a time. In fact, I was once one of them, but the struggle of limiting myself to just one title at a time became far too real. I missed out on popular books everyone else was reading because I was already committed to something else. Despite my desire to join a new book club, I found keeping up with the rigid reading demands in addition to the requirements of my work and my pleasure reading were impossible keep up with. Often times, I missed out on the joy of picking up of my favorite author's new titles when it came out, because I was already midway through a different book that demanded my attention. Spoilers often ensued. My TBR pile was constantly growing and never, ever shrinking.
Gradually, I began to realize: If I only read one book at a time, how could I ever hope to get to all of the amazing books on my ever-expanding wish list? The simple answer: I couldn't. That's why I started reading multiple books at once, and now that I do, I couldn't imagine doing it any other way.
As a professional book writer and reviewer, and as a lifelong book-nerd, I rely on the multiple-books-at-once method, and over the past few years, I have developed a system that works for me. In the mornings, I start the day with coffee and a title I plan to review or write about. If I take a break at lunch, or have time to read in the afternoon, I pick up a different title, but one that is the same genre as my morning read and thus can inform my earlier reading. I reserve my evenings for strictly pleasure reading: books I want to read just for me, favorite titles I've been meaning to re-read, book club picks, and the like.
For me, reading multiple books at once opens up a whole world of possibilities. For starters, it has helped me get through my massive TBR pile more quickly and more efficiently. It's also let me to enjoy multiple genres, and multiple authors, at once. For those times that I'm mid-book and a new title comes out that everyone can't stop talking about, allowing myself to pick it up and dive right in gives me the chance to not only participate in the cultural moment as it happens, but enjoy the constant conversation about the popular book and avoid spoilers.
Of course, there are plenty of people who think this style of reading is crazy. The biggest arguments against reading multiple books at once is that you cannot keep the narratives straight, and that you cannot retain either story, but neither of those things are necessarily the case. Of course, if you read two novels that are very similar in theme, style, and plot, it can be easy to mix up the details, but the opposite can also be true. Reading two books at a time can actually enrich your experience with both.
If you haven't tried it yet, there are some strategies readers can implement that make reading multiple books easier, more enjoyable, and more valuable. Assigning certain books to certain situations, like reading one book on your commute to work while reading a different one before bed at home, helps keep your goals clear and achievable. Exploring different genres at the same time, like true crime and romance or fantasy and historical fiction, keeps your reading experiences distinct, not to mention allows you to explore different styles of books. On the other hand, thoughtfully pairing similar titles can not only reduce your decision fatigue, but it can enrich the reading experience of both titles. (If you're looking for a good place to start with, look no further than this curated a fantastic list of feminist book pairings from Bustle's Maddy Foley.)
From speed reading to audiobook listening, there are a lot of tips, tricks, and reading rules that you can follow if you want to increase the number of books you cross off your TBR list every week. But take it from me: the very best way to not only get through more books, but to enjoy the process, is by reading multiple titles at once.