Kernels of Nonsense is a bimonthly discussion feature where I tackle various bookish topics and encourage readers to join in the discussion. Today I want to talk about something that has been on my mind for a while: reading multiple books at once.
I’ve always thought I was pretty good at multitasking. I mean, I can walk and chew gum at the same time. I’m actually really good at getting things done simultaneously, but with reading, there’s some switch in my brain that won’t turn on because I find it extremely difficult to read more than one book at the same time. I just can’t divide my attention, whether it’s television or music or holding a conversation with someone who thinks it’s a good idea to talk to me when there’s a book in my hand, I can’t do both no matter how much I want to.
I often see other bloggers reading multiple books at once and it makes me wonder, how do you do it? I’ve tried and I find it a really frustrating thing to do. For me, I have to focus all my attention on a single book. The best way for me to describe it is that I have tunnel vision. I have one book and I start at the beginning and I can see the end of the tunnel so I head that way. Along the way I learn about the setting and characters, I contemplate themes and plot. I’m traveling along the tunnel when suddenly another path opens up, filled with other characters, setting, and plot, inviting me to join. But instead of feeling excited about the prospect, all I see is a distraction, on obstacle to my main goal of getting to the end of that first tunnel.
When, for whatever reason, I have to read more than one book at the same time, I feel like I’m being pulled in different directions which can be a tad overwhelming. I don’t have kids but I have nephews and a niece and if it’s been a while since I’ve seen them, I get bombarded with “Tía!” “Tía!” “Tía!” (that’s Spanish for aunt in case you were wondering) from all sides and I have to decide who to listen to first because it’s impossible to give the kind of attention I need to give to each at the same time.
I’m not a fan of having to pull myself out of one world, jarring me from the experience and having to focus all my energy into a different book when mentally I may still be in the other one. I just don’t enjoy hopping from one book to the other and back again. This is one of the reasons why I also never start a new book until I’ve written a review of the last one I’ve read. All my thoughts and feelings are fresh in my mind and it’s always best to put what I think down because there’s a strong possibility that if I wait, things might not so clear (have I mentioned I have a notoriously bad memory?).
Mathematically, because I like to consider all angles (feel free to think of me as a nerd from this point), reading multiple books at once shouldn’t save time because you still have to spend a particular number of hours reading each book to finish. Let’s say book one takes four hours to read, book two takes five. If I read them them separately, it will take nine hours. If I read them together, it will still take nine hours. Tell me I’m wrong here!
The only exception I make for this rule is readalongs. These books usually take longer to get through than if I were to read them by myself, so I usually read something else at the same time. Last August I did a readalong with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It was a month long, so of course it wasn’t going to be the only book I picked up that month.
Do you read multiple books at once? What are your reasons behind it? How do you divide your attention? Are you like me and can only read one book at a time? How do you handle readalongs that take longer than the average time it takes you to read a book? Please share your thoughts in the comments!