The hungry, hungry bookworm

Published 10:00 am Thursday, July 28, 2022

I have a habit of reading multiple books at one time.

I obviously don’t mean holding multiple books in my hands or lap and scanning a line from each simultaneously. I typically read a chapter or two of one book, then jump to another, read some there, jump to another, and so on.

I have books in my bedroom, my living room, my home office, and in the car. When I’m in one of those locations and can, I will probably read whatever book is within reach. If I finish it, I’ll replace it with another. If I’m not in any of those locations, I can always read one of the thousands I have access to on my phone or my tablet. If I don’t feel like reading, but would still like to “read,” I can listen to an audiobook or podcast.

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Blogger Robert Carr thinks most people shouldn’t read multiple books at once. He lists eight reasons why people might do it. Reason 1 is that the books they choose bore them. Reason 8 is an instructional guide for how to read a non-fiction book. Reasons 2-7 are all reworded versions of “You just can’t focus.”

I take his list to be like telling a child (or adult) with ADHD to “just focus.”

Yeah, sure. I’ll get right on that.

The Basmo “Become a Better Reader” blog provides some pros and cons of reading multiple books at once. Some advantages listed are: It keeps your desire to read alive; It allows you to match what you’re reading to your mood; You’ll get through your to-read list quicker; It allows you to be flexible about where you’re reading; and — get this — it can improve your focus and short-term memory.

“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.”

Some disadvantages of reading more than one book at a time include: You are less invested in what you’re reading; You may forget details from what you’re reading; You may get confused; You could end up with multiple unfinished books.

Multiple sites suggest making a reading list with an online app in order to help you keep track of what you are currently reading, have already read, or plan to read. I use Goodreads, but there are many from which to choose.

I am currently reading Stephen King’s “The Stand,” which I read many years ago but have mostly forgotten. I am reading it on Kindle.

I am also reading “The Guns of August,” a non-fiction history of the first 30 days of World War I. It’s a paperback copy I picked up for $1 at a local thrift store. It’s considered by the Modern Library to be one of the 100 best non-fiction books of all time. Renowned historian Barbara W. Tuchman won a Pulitzer for the book. As an avid fan of history, I was eager to read it, but hit a mental wall somewhere along the way and have yet to return to it, though it beckons me from its stack in the office.

I am also reading Greg Laurie’s latest, “Lennon, Dylan, Alice and Jesus: The Spiritual Biography of Rock and Roll.” There is nothing about this book that I haven’t enjoyed so far. If you’re curious about anything in its title, pick it up.

I could list about seven more books I am going back to regularly, but these three are at the top of the pile, so to speak. Then, of course, there’s my Bible, which I read from daily, or multiple times a day.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with reading multiple things, as long as my attention is focused where it should be at that moment. What do you think? What are you currently reading? What’s your approach to reading? I’m curious to know.

Brett Campbell can be reached at