Which one of us hasn’t started a book only to realise that it is not their cup of tea? Whether it was a mandatory read in school, or simply a bad choice we made at the library, we’ve all faced the fact that not all books are as fun to read. Could reading multiple books at once be the solution to actually manage to get through difficult reads?
That’s a bit of a controversial subject among experts. There are certain benefits, as well as drawbacks to reading more than one book at a time. But that is why we are here! We looked at all aspects and compiled a great list of pros and cons for you.
Can you read multiple books at once?
First, let’s look a bit into our physical ability of reading two books at once (or even more). The short answer is yes, you can definitely read more than one book at a time. There is nothing stopping you from reading a difficult book and alternating it with an easier, more fun read from time to time.
Just like being able to play multiple sports and being good at them, you can also read multiple books at once and still obtain useful information from each one. However, just like being good at multiple sports doesn’t simply just happen, and requires regular practice, reading multiple books at once will not automatically be an efficient way of going through your to-read list. You need to work on it and be conscientious.
Many of us probably believed that the right way to go is to only read one book at a time. The thought process on this probably included lines like: “You can’t remember the details correctly if your mind is split between multiple books”, “You’ll forget things and get them mixed up”, or “You’ll end up never finishing some of the books”, and so on.
While these arguments do seem to make sense, they don’t completely rule out the possibility that reading multiple books at once might actually provide some benefits. As to the possible gains which can be obtained from doing this, it probably mostly depends on each reader’s seriousness, focus and determination. Reading two books at once or more can work out great for you, but you can also end up in a bit of a pickle.
Should you read multiple books at once?
Before going into the tips and tricks for reading more than one book at a time, let’s take a look at whether you should consider including this technique in your reading habits.
Advantages of reading more books at once
Being involved in two or more books at once can have certain benefits, and it is up to you to decide whether they are worth it or not. Here are some of the most important ones.
Keeps your desire to read alive
We are all well aware of the effects of a tiring, difficult or simply boring book on our desire to keep reading.
While it is inevitable to find books you simply don’t like or to have mandatory reads that don’t match your taste, alternating your reading sessions between the one you dislike and one that you enjoy could be of great help in overcoming the situation.
This way, you can still benefit from the actual joy of reading while also getting through your mandatory reading list or a difficult classic that is simply a must-read for your general knowledge.
Allows you to match what you’re reading to your mood
Reading Dostoevsky after a long day of work or simply when your mind is preoccupied by daily events is probably not the best idea. If you started reading a difficult book when your mood was different doesn’t mean you should stop reading until you get back in that mood.
You can simply switch from reading the book that requires your full attention to reading an easier one. That way you won’t completely miss out on reading for the day, and you can simply return to the difficult read whenever your mood dictates.
You will get through your to-read list quicker
Believe it or not, many readers have found that titles on their reading lists were being ticked off a lot quicker while reading multiple ones at the same time. Contrary to some popular beliefs, being involved in more novels at once, doesn’t really slow you down.
While some books slow us down, others pick us up and improve our pace. Finding the right balance between those can help us go through our reading lists a lot quicker than if we were to stick to one single title at a time.
Allows you to be flexible about where you’re reading
Did you ever realize that you forgot to take the book you were currently reading with you and have nothing to read on your commute to work? We probably all did, and it’s frustrating. Having nothing to read on the bus, train or subway leaves us looking out the window aimlessly or scrolling on our phones and gaining nothing from our time spent on our way to work.
A possible solution to this is to simply read a book at home and to have another one to read when we leave the house. Simply keep a book in your backpack or purse and read from it whenever you have some free time. Once you get back home, you can continue reading the other title. That way no time is wasted and we avoid the inconvenience of forgetting our book at home.
Improves your focus and short-term memory
Reading multiple books at once has certain benefits for your focus and short-term memory as well. While some believe that this practice reduces the amount of information you gain through reading and your ability to focus on all the titles you’re reading at the same time, this is only partially true.
Through practice, quite the opposite can be achieved. Being actively involved in several novels and storylines for extended periods of time is a great way of keeping our brains constantly engaged and active.
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Disadvantages of reading more books at once
Now that you’re aware of the most important benefits of reading more books at once, you should also keep in mind that there are some drawbacks to this practice you should be aware of. Here are the most notable ones.
You are less invested in what you’re reading
There’s a Latin saying, published in the 1500s in Desiderium Erasmus’s collection of Latin and Greek proverbs that goes like this: “Duos insequens lepore’s neutrum capit”. Translated in English, it means “He who hunts two hares catches neither”. There is definitely some truth to that, and it partially applies to reading as well.
While reading several books at once, it’s quite likely you will not pay the same level of attention to all of them and you will probably won’t be as involved in all the storylines to the same extent.
This is definitely not a tragedy or something that should prevent you from alternating your reads, but it is something you should keep in mind.
You may forget details from books you’re reading
Whenever you’re reading more than one book, you will have to remember at least twice the amount of information you would if you were focusing on a single title.
Without proper practice and involvement, this may lead to a lot of information being missed or forgotten. Depending on what you read and why, this can be an issue.
To avoid this, the best approach would be to start your multi-title reading sessions with some easy titles at first. Read two fun and easy books at once first, and then increase the difficulty.
You may get things confused
Similarly, even though you may not necessarily forget the details from the several titles you’re reading at once, there’s a chance you can actually simply remember them wrong or attribute certain information to the wrong book in your mind.
I don’t even have to tell you why that’s bad, as I’m sure you can easily imagine what monstrous confusions this can lead to.
You could end up with a couple of unfinished books
Another reason why some recommend against reading multiple books at once is that of the increased chances of abandoning some of them and leaving them unfinished.
Alternating a very enjoyable read with one that you deeply dislike could end up with you completely abandoning the book you don’t like. While we at Basmo believe that it’s better to read only what you like than not read at all, we also understand how things can get problematic, especially if you’re dealing with mandatory reading lists.
How to read multiple books at once?
If, after weighing the pros and cons above, you came to the conclusion that reading multiple books at once can be beneficial for your reading habits, here’s a couple of the best tips to make sure your multitasking journey is a success.
Make a reading list and stick to it
Since one of the reasons for reading multiple books at once is so that you have a way of fighting boredom and unpleasantness while still being able to read, the very obvious first step is to choose some books and write them down.
You can start with just a couple of titles, and then continue to develop your reading list. Of course, this list must also contain books which you probably don’t really want to read, but have to. You should keep the list quite diverse, with topics on multiple subjects and different levels of difficulty.
If you want an easier and safer way of creating your reading list, you could try out a reading app. Most of them allow you to easily create reading lists and update them according to your progress.
Basmo, for example, allows users to make their own book lists with just a couple of taps.:
- Go to the My Books tab on your Basmo home screen.
- Scroll down to Book Collections and tap View all collections.
- Tap + Create book collection to add a new collection.
- You can name it anything you want and start adding books to it.
Moreover, the books on your list can be marked as read and more books can be added anytime. Once you finish reading a book, you can mark it as finished and it will be automatically removed from the Currently Reading list.
You can add books to the Finished list in two ways:
- Tap on any book in any collection. Tap the 3 dot icon from the right top corner. Tap Mark as Finished and the book will be automatically added to your Finished list.
- From the home screen in your Basmo app, go to Book Collections and tap Finished. Then, use the + sign at the top right-hand corner of your screen to add any book to this list.
Plus, you can also set start and finish dates for each book you read and the app will generate stats of your reading progress.
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Read different genres, switch from pleasure reading to learning
Reading multiple genres at once can be helpful because switching from a sad or serious read to a fun one is a good way of keeping your desire to read alive. Also, by alternating genres, you can take advantage of the different benefits and appeal of each genre at the same time.
Whether you want to alternate historical books with science fiction, or romance and thrillers, it is up to you. The choice is yours and you have full liberty to follow your instincts.
The important aspect here is that at least one of the books you are reading is a mandatory read or one that is important for your general knowledge.
Read different books in different places and always have a book handy
As mentioned before, being involved in several books at the same time in different locations is a good way of not wasting any time. Make sure that wherever you are, you have a book handy and this will also make switching from one book to another a lot easier.
We are all in different states of mind depending on our location. Your level of focus and even your taste may differ depending on whether you’re in bed at home or on the subway on your way to and from work.
Follow your instincts and adjust your reading to your mood
Our bodies and especially our brains are natural wonders. Learn to read the signs your mind is giving you and adjust your reading to your mood to maximize your reading time and efficiency.
One day you may be too tired for a difficult read, or you may be slightly preoccupied with something else and regardless of how hard you try, you simply cannot stick to the book you started. Rather than powering through and eventually starting to hate that particular title or reading without actually understanding it and gathering any information, switch to a simpler book or one that is more fun to read.
Don’t force yourself to go through a book unless it’s absolutely necessary and always give yourself a choice. There’s a lot to benefit from if you stick to this rule of thumb.
Use a reading app to track the books you are currently reading
Ultimately, once you get in the habit of reading several titles at once, you may find yourself facing a completely different problem: not being able to keep track of them.
Having a couple of books “in progress” can turn out to be a challenge if you are the kind of reader who also tries to keep track of the books they read.
Luckily, the solution can be as simple as installing an app on your phone. Reading apps are a great tool in general, but especially for those who enjoy reading multiple books at once.
Let’s take Basmo for example. Among many other very useful features which can make the reading experience a lot better and efficient, it offers its users a Currently reading section. Once you start reading a book, this is automatically added to the Currently Reading section, which is actually the first thing you see when you open the app, making it very accessible.
To track your reading time in Basmo:
- Simply tap on any book in any collection.
- Then tap the Start session button if it’s a new book or the Continue from page X if it’s a book you’ve already started. This will start the counter.
- As soon as you tap End session the statistics will appear on your dashboard.
You can add as many books to this list as you want, and the app will show a progress bar for each one, which indicates how much you read from each book. On top of this, by tapping on each book you can see your own reading statistics and the notes you made while reading it.
How many books to read at once?
Even though no official studies have been made in this area, the general consensus between readers on Reddit seems to be that anything between 3 and a whopping 15 books is an acceptable number of books to be involved in at once. It ultimately depends on you, the books you are reading and your experience. For a beginner, juggling between 2 or 3 books can be a challenge, but with practice and perseverance, this number can be increased.
As much as I would like to give you an exact number of books you should read at once, unfortunately nobody else but yourself can decide this.
To quickly sum up all of the above, reading multiple books at once is ultimately a practice for which, in our opinion, the advantages outweigh the drawbacks. If you start slow, make wise choices regarding the titles you alternate and stick to the rules of thumb I mentioned, you can benefit from it too.
Especially with apps out there like Basmo, which provide you with the Currently Reading section that helps you keep track of the books you are reading at the same time it would be a shame not to give it at least a shot.
On top of this Basmo can help you be successful in organizing your books, make notes about each particular book and create a reading journal. The app can also be used to set reading goals and even daily reminders so you never miss out on your reading sessions.
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