How many books do you read at once? (Not literally at once…)

I’m currently reading five books.

  • The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge (CD)
  • We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (audio)
  • The Mothers by Brit Bennett (hardcopy)
  • The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida (Kindle)
  • War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (hardcopy)

Is that odd? (I’m hoping I’m among friends here…)

Two reasons why I read multiple books at once.

Firstly, format. I usually have a hardcopy* novel and an e-book on the go at any one time (for reading at different times – Kindle in bed because it’s easier to hold and I don’t need the light on; hardcopy for when I’m watching television {I do both at the same time} so that I can easily pick it up and put it down; an audiobook on my phone that I listen to when I walk; and a CD in the car (usually non-fiction).

Sometimes I only have two or three books on the go at any one time; sometimes I finish up all the books I’m reading at around the same time and then I start over; at a certain point in a book (usually two-thirds through), I focus all my attention on that book and finish it.

Secondly, mood. My current mix is a good example – the Oates and the Bennett are grim (rape and abortion stories). I started the Vida to change the pace (it’s a thriller, oddly told in the second-person). Having different books on the go means I can choose depending on my mood. If I didn’t have the choice and felt like something other than what I was reading, I’d probably end up watching television instead.

So, how many books do you read at any one time?

*Technically, I shouldn’t count War and Peace because I have stalled (it’s just so big and heavy…) but I’m determined to chip away at it.

42 responses

  1. I can only read ONE book at a time.

    I listen to one while walk and work around the house, though.


    That is amazing that you can read FIVE at a time. I would forget what I was reading. LOL!

    ENJOY your week.

    Silver’s Reviews
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  2. Am reading –
    The Dinner
    Grapes of Wrath
    David Copperfield

    Usually have light or modern literary & heavier classic to alternate between…
    Sometime I just don’t have enough time to devote so carry a lighter read for in between.

  3. It depends, but at the moment I’m reading the following six books: huge volume of essays by Gore Vidal, novels by Jane Austen, Robert Stone, and Octavia Butler, and short stories by J.G. Ballard and Sylvia Townsend Warner. I commute by train an hour every day, so I need small books or kindle reads for those travels. I like short stories scattered in a couple of different rooms in my house. And I’m probably forgetting one or two but I’m too lazy to go check.

    • That sounds like a heavy load Chris! In the past I have tried to have short stories in the mix as well but find I often stall on them in favour of novels. If I am to read short stories, I usually take them on holiday when I still want to read in bursts but can focus on the collection as a whole.

  4. I usually read between three and five books at a time. Usually a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, review books and something light ‘just for fun’. Reading in this way enables me to space my thinking about what I’m reading, and digest some of the more complex information. It’s also a mood thing: some books lend themselves to reading in bed or in waiting rooms, others don’t. You are definitely amongst friends 😉

  5. I usually read 2 or 3 books on the go: 1 book to read during break at work or during the commute to and from places, 2 books at home (usually a fiction and a poetry collection). But it also depends on my mood and if I’m reading an ARC or whatnot. Format is important too, haha.

  6. I only read one book at a time – I’ve tried to juggle but I always end up focussing on one book more – the only exception is occasionally I’ll read one non-fiction and one fiction book at the same time – but it is rare – I’m in awe at the five books at one time!

  7. I will always have one audio book and one paper book on the go at the same time. If I am reading a ‘worthy’ book (Tench this week) then I’ll probably also be cheating with a light book (Kate Atkinson, Human Croquet). I might have a couple of others that I’ve started and put off – usually because I need to read something else for a post – but in that case I’ll probably have to at least skip read from the beginning to get restarted. For all those short intervals I find there’s always something on my phone – news, current affairs, blogs.

    • I think it’s filling in those short intervals that started me on all sorts of formats – I have the Kindle app on my phone so even if I don’t have my book with me, I can pick up reading where I left off, or listen to my audiobook. My main variation to this routine is when I binge on podcasts.

  8. I used to have multiple books on the go but I no longer have the bandwidth to cope with holding multiple stories in my head (I blame old age and a bonkers but challenging job in a start up), so now my reading is truly monogamous. One book and one book only.

  9. I only read one book at a time. At the moment it’s Lincoln in the Bardo. How are you finding We Were the Mulvaneys? I thought it was a wonderful and very very sad story.

    • Will look forward to your thoughts on Lincoln – sounds interesting.

      Only a quarter of the way into Mulvaneys and I’m sensing it’s about to ramp up. At first I wasn’t sure about the meandering back-stories but I’m getting used to her style (it’s my first JCO – chose between Mulvaneys and Blonde).

    • I think I do get more read, which isn’t necessarily logical (because if you read for x hours a day then it shouldn’t matter) but I think because I pick what suits my mood I choose reading over other things (like television or the interwebs).

  10. I always have more than one on the go, although when things get exciting I stick to just one till I finish it. But I usually have one on Kindle, one on my bedside table, a book of poetry, perhaps one of non-fiction, perhaps one in a foreign language… so I don’t mix them up.

  11. Three for me: one for the blog, usually due to be published or just out; one from the TBR shelves which I bought because I just *had* to have it though I sometimes wonder why when I get to it; one non-fiction. I think five would send me into a quandry.

    • I should take a leaf out of your book and be a bit more disciplined with the ‘new release and TBR stack’ mix – might make an effort to do that for the rest of the year (despite best intentions, my TBR stack hasn’t reduced much this year – it hasn’t grown but hasn’t gone down either).

  12. Three for me too – one physical book – usually fiction, one audiobook and one book of poetry. So my current threesome are Autumn by Ali Smith, audiobook of Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh, and Stags Leap by Sharon Olds.

    • Eileen as an audio would be interesting! Good narrator? I really enjoyed that book (perhaps ‘enjoy’ isn’t the right word) but imagine it wouldn’t be easy to strike the right tone.

  13. Usually just one, but sometimes I might have one on the Kindle for night-time reading and a print book. At one stage I tried reading short stories over breakfast and another book other times.

    So, generally, I prefer to devote my attention to one book, but if I’m being honest there’s often a partly finished book hanging around that I might suddenly decide to pick up and finish!

    • Oddly, I have a ‘breakfast’ book (and lunch) – usually the hardcopy fiction I’m reading. I can’t leave books partly finished – if I’m not compelled to finish it, I make a point of sitting down and knocking it off. That said, it doesn’t happen very often any more (I weed out books I’m unlikely to read by reading sample chapters first).

  14. I used to be more of a one book at a time girl, but that changed a few years ago. Now, I always have at least two books on the go-usually one physical book and one ebook. It’s rare that I’m actively reading more than three books at once, but sometimes it does happen-especially if one is a longer nonfiction work I’m dipping in and out of. I can definitely get more read now that I read multiple books at a time!

  15. Maximum of two – and like you they need to be in different formats so could be one on e reader and one in print or one in print and another in audio. any more than that and I get hopelessly confused

  16. The amount of books I read at any one time varies depending on my mood plus the books themselves… Also, of late, I’ve been trying to keep to reading just the one book at a time as it helps with slumpish feelings, which I noticed happened frequently when reading more than one book. So recently, I TRY to read one book at a time, but I have been known to read 3 or 4 all that the one time.

  17. According to my goodreads ‘currently reading’ about 10.

    A couple are stalled non-fiction reads that I plan to finish, but they’re moment has currently past (although I feel confident it will be found again).

    Like you I have one fiction by my bed (okay more than that) and one in my work bag. The rest are non fictions that I pick up when the mood takes me.

    I think you’re definitely amongst friends here & not odd at all 😊

  18. I’ve always been a faithful and monogomous reader. However… I’m currently in the midst of three. And have been for a while. I started on a Lee Child compilation of short stories which I’ve (ahem) misplaced somewhere. I suspect it’s at my mother’s but I’ve not looked for it so it’s sitting in Goodreads saying I’m part-way through it. Then I’m listening to an audiobook which is taking forever. I only listen on long drives and this is about 12hrs long and I’m 10hrs into it. And then there’s the book I’m ACTUALLY reading….

  19. I usually have an audiobook going, a physical book and an eBook on my phone – but one will get read much faster than the others. I also might have another physical book – backup for if the first one gets lost.

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  21. I am a mood and format reader, so I always have quite a few books going. Right now I’m rereading IT, because of the movie. I set aside My Absolute Darling for the moment, because of what particular scene and the grim story line, I’ve also got The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben (nonfiction) and State of Wonder by Ann Patchett going, to round things out.

    Sometimes more, sometimes less… You are definitely not alone, or odd, for having a selection.

  22. I used to have between 3 and 4 books going at any one time. An audiobook for my commute, then a non-fiction for day reading and a fiction or two for bedtime. Without a commute my audiobook usage has stopped completely and for whatever reason this year, I’ve only been able to manage one book at a time. I just can’t focus as well.

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