Just like there is no one right kind of book or one right kind of reader, there is no one right way to read. Some people prefer to read good-old-fashioned paper-and-cloth novels, while others like to skim e-books or listen to audiobooks, but no matter what form your reading takes, you should try reading more than one book at a time. Although it may sound intimidating or confusing for the novice literary multi-taser, reading several of your TBR titles at once has some pretty incredible benefits.
A habit I picked up as a young girl struggling to balance book report books with my Nancy Drew and Harry Potter addiction, I have always read several books at the same time. It's a skill that helped me get through a heavy required reading list in college, and now, it's one that I rely on every day as a professional book reviewer.
Whenever I tell people I read multiple titles at the same time, I always hear the same kind of comments: Don't you get confused? How do you split your focus like that? Doesn't it just take you longer to read each book? And while my answer to most of the questions are the same — practice makes perfect — I am always surprised no one asks what, to me, is the most obvious question of all: Why?
Believe it or not, there are a lot of really wonderful benefits to reading multiple books at once. Here are some of my favorites.
1Reading multiple books at once helps you get through your TBR pile faster.
It may seem contradictory, but when you are reading more than one book at once, you can actually get through your To Be Read pile faster than if you took it one title at a time. Often times, readers get hung up on a challenging or boring book, and they are unable to move on to a new story until they've forced their way to the end of the current one. But when you're reading more than one book at once, you have the opportunity to take a break from whatever title is slowing you down and instead find something that is easier, more enjoyable, or just a quicker read. Don't worry, the challenging title will still be waiting for you after you've read something else.
2It lets you balance your pleasure reading with your required reading.
Whether you have to read a book for school, work, or book club, having "required reading" can really damper your plans to read just for fun. That is, unless you read multiple books at once. By reading your Have To titles at the same time as your Want To titles, you can get through your To Do list while still finding time to enjoy the true joy of pleasure reading every week.
3Likewise, it can give you an opportunity to balance emotional reads with more lighthearted books.
Have you ever been reading a really serious book and been tempted to give up because it's just too emotional? Trust me when I say you are not alone. Titles that deal with heavy or sensitive topics can certainly take their toll, which is why reading multiple books at once can make getting through the tough reads a little bit easier. Instead of abandoning a depressing books all together when you're feeling low, you can take a turn spending time with a title that is lighthearted, funny, romantic, or just plain happy. Sometimes, a break to recharge is all you need to get to the end of a difficult read.
4It can reveal unexpected connections between unrelated titles.
When you read multiple books at once, some kind of literary magic happens, and suddenly they come together to equal more than just the sum of their parts. Whether it happened on accident or you did it on purpose by choosing a memoir about a WWII fighter pilot and a historical fiction novel about nurses at the front line, this "literary synergy," as book critic Julia Keller describes it, is like the perfect meal: just the right combination of smells, tastes, and textures that balance and compliment each other in new and exciting ways.
5It allows you to take advantage of all of the benefits of reading.
Whether it's for educational purposes or pleasure, stress relief or entertainment, work or fun, people read for all different reasons, and the books they choose reflect that. When you need a pick-me-up after a long week, lighthearted fiction and humorous essays are just the break you need. When you want to travel to another world, historical fiction or sci-fi are you ticket out of here. If you are trying to stay inspired to support the resistance, empowering memoirs and informative nonfiction are your cheerleaders. And if you want it all? Read it all, and read it all at the same time, because there is no rule that says you can only enjoy one benefit of books at once. By reading multiple kinds of titles at once, you can take advantage of them all.
6It allows you to enjoy books' many mediums.
Reading multiple books at once is not only fun, interesting, and beneficial, it's easy, especially because of the many different forms books come in. By taking advantage of all of them — listening to one audiobook at the gym, clicking through a different e-book on your commute, and reading a physical title at home — you can experience all of the wonderful mediums in which the written word is shared while plowing through your TBR pile at the same time.
7Variety is the spice of life, especially everyday life.
Let's face it: life can be pretty monotonous. Between work, chores, bills, and all the other daily to-dos you have to get through, finding the spontaneity in the everyday is a small pleasure that makes a big difference. By reading multiple books at once, you are building into your day the choice to do something different: read the nonfiction novel on the way to work, but pick up your new poetry collection before bed. It's the little things in life that make the biggest difference — especially if that little thing is variety.