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nebule's avatar

Do you devote all your attention to one book or have a few on the go at any one time?

Asked by nebule (16149 points ) April 30th, 2013

…And can you tell me your reasons why you read this way and how it works for you?

I have always been a ‘one-book-at-a-time’ person, devoting all my attention to one book. I have recently tried to have one fiction book on the go and one non-fiction book…but seem to gravitate to the fiction book. I think this question has arisen because I’m on page 422 of a 600 ish page novel that I’m not overly impressed with…but feel like I simply must finish it.

I’d love to be the sort of person that has several books on the go, but I’m wondering whether this is just because I’m bored by the current book I’m reading and it would give me a reason to put it down, whilst not entirely giving up on it. (I also have a few books that I can’t wait to read, sitting patiently on the shelf) This led me to wonder about my fellow jellies.

Are on a one book person or a multiple book reader? If the latter, does it not feel rather messy or perhaps like your cheating on the other books?? :-)

Thank you in advance x

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56 Answers

bookish1's avatar

Last weekend, I devoted my attention to 1 book at a time, blowing through about 20 every day. Grad school doesn’t let you be a one book at a time person, I guess.

I miss reading for fun and not compunction…having a choice in how I approach books.

bkcunningham's avatar

I am a faithful lover. I devote all of my time and attention to one book at a time. I could count on one hand the number of books I’ve started and never finished. It is a compulsion to finish a book even if it isn’t interesting to me anymore. I think it is like giving it one last chance; all the way to the last punctuation mark.

Recently in my life, my attention span isn’t what it once was. I’m hoping it is hormonal, but anyway, I’ve started more than one book at a time, but even then I put them in order and finish the first one first and then the other one or two I randomly started.

zenvelo's avatar

I had to learn in college to have several books going at once. It is not my preferred method, but I can do it if I have to.

I usually have one fiction I am focusing on, and then maybe another that I am dipping into for other reasons, such as a spiritual guidebook that I read a chapter at a time.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Since I’m a speedreader, I typically read one book per day or two. I’m currently slowing down to get all the details on the Jefferson book, it’s so neta learning more about our country’s history, but it gets to be a little much sometimes on long days.

At times, if I read a book like this that’s intense or very informative, I will pick up an old faithful like Pride & Prejudice or something, to give my brain a rest/ comfort, or even a Janet Evonovich for funzies. Depends on my mood, but I don’t feel like I’m cheating because they’re always there waiting on me to come back.

janbb's avatar

I used to be a one book at a time person but since my life has become so fragmented, I seem to have either none on the go or about four. For a while, I wasn’t able to read at all. At the moment, I just finished “A Lesson Before Dying” which was our county’s “Big Read”, I’m Interviewing “Brooklyn” and “World’s Fair” for my Fall class on novels of immigration and rereading “Still Alice” for book club. In addition, I have two books on Buddhism by Pema Chodron on my night table that I am dipping into. This is not the way I usually roll but I seem to have the attention span of a gnat just now.

Leanne1986's avatar

I usually have two books on the go and I try to read a little bit of each most nights. There’s no reason, I’ve just always done it. At the moment I am reading two autobiographies.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Leanne1986 Can I ask whose they are?

The only thing I truly hate to read are self-help books. I wonder if they have a self-help book for that?! :)

Leanne1986's avatar

@KNOWITALL I’m reading the second book in the trilogy of Paul O’Grady’s biographies, The Devil Rides Out, for the first time and I am rereading Maggie Thatcher’s first memoir.

Seek's avatar

I tend to drink books like Bugs Bunny in a desert oasis.

And I do it one at a time. If a book loses my attention in favor for another, it’ll probably be some time before I make it back to the one I left. For some reason, I have had the hardest time making it through Dune: Messiah. Just haven’t had the right day for it, I guess. I did Dune in less than two days. Weird.

marinelife's avatar

Generally, I am a one book at a time gal, but every once in a while (like right now) I have two going at once, usually when the first one hasn’t captured me fully.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Really helps you shake all that negative stuff off sometimes doesn’t it? I can be in the worst mood, go out on the patio and read for an hour and it all just fades away. By the time I’m done, the issue is still there, but my mind if relaxed and clear again.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

I typically devote my attention to one at a time, and blow through them like there’s no tomorrow. When I’m focused on only one, I can do an 800 page book in about 4–5 hours, so it feels more exciting to read a long series quickly. If I had multiple books going, I wouldn’t be able to do that.

El_Cadejo's avatar

As others have said, if it’s for school I’m usually reading more than one book at a time but when its leisure reading I’d rather just read one book at a time. I can generally get through a book in 2–3 days tops so I don’t see any reason for starting multiple books at once anyway.

Seek's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate I recommend Jack Whyte’s Camulod Chronicles for that. A historically plausible account of the King Arthur mythos. It’s wonderful.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Ooooh, I’ll have to look into that.

wildpotato's avatar

I read pleasure books all willy-nilly – never know how many I’m in the middle of. It’s probably half a dozen, more or less, at any given time. I also don’t bother to finish them if they bore me or pound their point into my head incessantly, like Stranger in a Strange Land and Atlas Shrugged – I quit each of those in exasperation about 20 pages from the end.

For school I mostly do one book at a time – philosophy is difficult enough to read without stacking it all up at once in the brain. Some of this stuff is so friggin dense, it takes a large amount of study time to make it through a small amount of text.

rojo's avatar

I usually have several going at one time. Right now there are four, one at work, one in my library, one in my bedroom and one in the little upstairs room euphemistically called the “Upstairs Library”.
Unless it is a novel, then I usually just concentrate on the one. Been several months since I read one though.

augustlan's avatar

If I’m reading a new (to me) fiction book, it’s got my full attention. I can dip into a short story anthology, a book of poetry or a magazine when I only have a minute or two, but otherwise, I’m just reading the one main book. Now, if I’m re-reading something (which I am forced to do too often), I can re-read other things at the same time.

Seek's avatar

@augustlan – Are you starved for reading material? I can contribute to the cause!

augustlan's avatar

I’m famished! Can’t buy books, can’t get to the library often enough. :(

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Do you like smut? I have a lot of smut that I’m finished with…

KNOWITALL's avatar

@WillWorkForChocolate By which author, may I ask?

flutherother's avatar

I often have two or three on the go that I read at different times of the day but right now I have just one, an Inspector Rebus novel. I know what you mean about being faithful to a book. Once I start one I am very reluctant to give up on it even if I start to lose interest.

Shenandoah's avatar

I usually have 3 or more going at the same time. 1 primary book for fiction reading, the others are a secondary fiction book that I’ll back to now and then, and the others are reference or non-fiction books, mostly historical.

nebule's avatar

I’ve spent all evening on Fluther (I’ve got through 63 activities for you) and now it’s 10pm and I don’t have much time to read that blasted book!! hee hee…all these answers are fascinating though…

So, for those who read more than one at a time, how do you decide which one to pick up? Do you not find that you still end up having a favourite? (apart from those of course that have said they keep them in different parts of the house…I suspect that’s a decider!)

Pandora's avatar

One at a time, when I have time. I’ve tried reading more than one and I found, that the better story would keep me away from the other story and then I would lose interest.

augustlan's avatar

Good smut is good. ;)

nebule's avatar

I could do with some good smut ;-)

KNOWITALL's avatar

@nebule @augustlan Ever read the Beauty series of books written by Ann Rocquelaire/ Anne Rice? Interesting read, trust me.

augustlan's avatar

@KNOWITALL I’m not a big Anne Rice fan, so I didn’t even knew about that series. Maybe I’ll look it up. :p

KNOWITALL's avatar

@augustlan A lot of people don’t know about her other books since they’re under the different name. And much different than the vampire or christian books. I think it’s Sleeping Beauty Series, I can check later.

rojo's avatar

@nebule I was going to say it depends on which room I am in but in truth, I have been known to change rooms to read what sounded interesting at that moment..

@nebule , @augustlan Is good smut bad or is bad smut good? Being I guy, I would rather watch smut than read it.

augustlan's avatar

Watching it is good, too!

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

@KNOWITALL Oh, a lot of different authors. Nora Roberts, Jude Devereaux, Julie Garwood, even more Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, Catherine Coulter, and a few others.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I have three going right now. Did have 4, but I finished All Quiet on the Western front. I have two in the car for when I get trapped.

Brian1946's avatar

I usually have a few on the go, because it’s easy for me to keep them separated in my mind.

One of the books that I’m currently reading is Fifty Shades of the Grayed Gatsby Shrugged, or something like that. ;-)

josie's avatar

I always have a few going at the same time. Short attention span.

Jeruba's avatar

It’s usually six for me, sometimes just five:

•  One on the bedside table, the main current bedtime book, which I basically just steam through at about 40 or 50 pages per night; probably about 75% of those are fiction.
•  One more leisurely ongoing read on the coffee table for sofa reading.
•  At least one nonfiction work, often fairly heavy, on some subject of current interest.
•  One or two that I’m nibbling at and that may take months or I may never finish at all.
•  The current book for my weekly read-aloud time with my husband.

I will ditch without hesitation any book that for any reason seems not to be worth my time and attention. I have never felt I had to finish anything, not even when I was in school.

bkcunningham's avatar

I admire read aloud time with your husband, @Jeruba. My neighbors have an audiobook they listen to each morning and share. I admire that too.

Unbroken's avatar

I currently have about 7 books going. As a child I escaped outside weather permitting and otherwise into every book I could get my hands on.

But there was always a book shortage, the library was miles away with no sidewalks and a trip like that was even to far for me to risk at that age. I had read all the books on hand and had dipped into dictionaries and encyclopedias. I would read labels, the more languages the better, in the bathroom and labels and cereal boxes at the table. My parents had to hide books they thought weren’t age appropriate and frequently I would find those and read them in the closet or wherever. When I went to the library I would get my limit and have blown through them before the rest of the family all readers had finished one or two.

So now I have shelves of books, the first thing I pack every time I move, though I always keep the one’s I’m reading in my car or til the last moment even digging into a box or such. They are also the first thing I unpack. I go to second hand book stores, and have my nook filled with books, we have book exchanges at work, I go to the library, I may not blow my money shopping for clothes and shoes but I can easily get into trouble in the book store.. I always have friends recommending me books and giving me copies of this and that. Plus my own interests.

Now there are audiobooks and I do a few of those too. I like music and news but if I am busy on a long task I will probably throw something in, or avoid the task until I have something to throw in. I even have been guilty of reading at stop lights and when I am supposed to be socializing. I like reading in the tub, I always have to have something to read to enjoy a good meal unless I am in conversation with someone.

Some of these behaviors I dialed back, but they pop up at odd times. I will always be a reader. I will always want more. And I have so much to read and might not have my current dogearred book with me I will pick up another.

bkcunningham's avatar

One vote for supporting your local library. Remember when the economy was booming and the local library systems could support the local mobile book mobiles? Gawd I loved that. That is what you need now, @augustlan. You can order books through the library system and have them waiting for you at the local library. Support your local librarian guys. Seriously.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I am smarter than the average bear but poorer at multitasking than most. When I try and read more than one book for pleasure, I tend to get lost or confused between the plots. I never had that problem with text books. I read books for pleasure one at a time.

Unbroken's avatar

@bkcunningham, they still do book mobiles here for the elderly and really young. Supplementing limited school libraries and such with a greta traveling crew.

Another option is our library and probably many others have a website to download books onto computers and devices as well as audio. They just disappear when they are due, if you haven’t “returned” them.

Maybe limited to degree but they also do special orders. Love the library!

muppetish's avatar

English Literature Graduate student reporting for duty: I am required to read more than one book at once (and, during the quarter, return to some of those books a second or third time for seminar papers.) I am also rereading the texts that I am currently teaching.

Then there is what I read for leisure…

Usually, I have one Bedtime Story. This is a book that my significant other and I pick up on occasion before bed. We typically read 1–2 chapters together, silly voices and all.

Sometimes I will start one book, but then find a Distraction Book. It’s the book that I stumble into and can’t book down. It will suck up a day or two of reading until I hit the last page. Then I can return to whatever else I have going at the time.

Then there’s the collection of “Shelved” titles—books that I started years ago, but haven’t managed to finished, but wholly intend to one day (100 pages left of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle! I started that one in 2008.)

Similarly, there’s the stack of Almost Finished books—usually texts assigned in classes that I had a few chapters left, but was unable to complete because I had to move on to the next week’s assignment.

Then there are the Recommendations that I read a chapter or two of to test pilot, but may have put on hold to complete whatever else I had already been reading at the moment.

Sometimes I will forget patches of a book and need to start over. If it’s a good book, then it’s worth it. Sometimes, I get in the mood to reread a book that I have already completed, even if I’m already reading a brand-new book..

It’s a bit like channel surfing, but with my bookshelf.

nebule's avatar

Love all your answers guys and girlies!! Wish I had time to reply to them all individually, but it’s my long day at work today, so I’m leaving the house in ten minutes. I am also filled with a sense of disgruntlement that I can’t sit at home all day and read read read…but am grateful that I have a job to go to of course.

I love the idea of having read aloud time with your partners. I don’t have a partner but I read to my son aloud every night. I also support my local library but being able to keep a book on your shelf has something of a romantic air about it. Someone told me once that they couldn’t read second hand books or books from the library for fear of the book having previously been in the hands of someone who read on the toilet! I’d rather not think about it but I get a lot of books out of the library that invariably end up only dipping into. I also spend money on books rather than clothes or shoes. Some people think I’m bonkers!

Oh if only there was more time!!.... Thank you all who have commented on this thread. I wish I could stop reading this book I’m with at the moment (@Jeruba), but with 200 pages from the end I can’t help thinking that I might miss something cataclysmic if I shelve it now! Hope you ALL have a fabulous sparkly day, filled with wonderful words of wisdom :-)

Bellatrix's avatar

I always have a pile of books going at the same time.

I finished a novel in bed last night. I’ll start a new one tonight.

I’m reading Stiff by Mary Roach (a recommendation from @syz) too. Overshare but that’s my bathroom book. I read a few pages a day. I actually have a pile of books in there ready to read…

I’m reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg about women in leadership roles (or how many of us are not in leadership roles). This is related to my work.

I have a lot of books I’m reading that relate to my research.

ucme's avatar

I make a point of finishing a colouring until my crayons are worn away, then i’ll move on to dot-to-dot books.

Seek's avatar

/me removes The Vampire Lestat and Servant of the Bones from @augustlan ‘s care package

Seek's avatar

By the way, if anyone is ever starved for reading material, just PM me. I’m happy to ship books to the bookless. ^_^ Media Mail is still cheap!

Dutchess_III's avatar

You know how you get so into your book that you start talking like the characters? That’s what confuses me. I don’t know whether to be Abigail Adams or Sacajawea.

Unbroken's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Media mail? please do explain.

Seek's avatar

In the continental US, you can mail books, CDs, DVDs, and vinyl records at a special “media mail” rate. It is shipped over land, so it can take up to a week to ship from Florida to California, but it is pretty inexpensive.

Unbroken's avatar

Oh good to know, Seems like a good way to encourage literacy. Though there probably is another reason for it.

Inspired_2write's avatar

I read several books at a time. It doesn’t bother me and I don’t get them mixed up either.
I used to read biographies,history books,craft books,how to books,cookbooks,novels(Robert Ludlum),New Age subjects,almost anything so as to get a round about feeling on the different types of Writing styles, genres, etc
I like unique writing styles. Always on the lookout for new material to soak up.
Currently taking a break from reading temporarily.
Usually pick up a book ( second hand stores) and can read it all within a week.

Paradox25's avatar

Always one thing at a time for me, including reading books. I generally only like nonfiction books since I like to read for educational rather than entertainment purposes. Either way, fiction or nonfiction, reading more than one book at a time screws with my concentration.

nebule's avatar

I’m nearly finished with this book…

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