Discussion: Reading Two Books at Once

I said this would be probably a post about The Handmaid’s Tale, which I figured I would finish soon this week. Well…I completely underestimated how little time I had with all the graduation festivities. Also, when  Some Kind of Happiness came in the mail, I started it, too, because I wanted to read the beginning and see what it was like. So, now that I’m reading two books at once, I’ve got a new topic!

I usually avoid reading two books in the same format at once. When I do read two books at the same time, one is usually for school and is read at a different speed and is associated with “homework” (aka, I won’t have to choose between the books in my free time), or it’s an audiobook that I listen to during times when I can’t read a normal book. In the few times where I do read two novels, one of them is usually shorter than the other (like a short middle grade book).

I’ve also tried reading a poetry collection at the same time as other books (a few poems every day), but I often forgot about it and it took me forever to finish (it didn’t help that the collection wasn’t really centered around subjects I was interested in). Still, when I hear of others reading two books at once, they’re often different genres/markets: a novel and a short story collection, a novel and nonfiction, a novel and an essay collection.

But the problem I’ve found is that, aside from when I have to read a book for school, the books just seem to go more slowly. It feels inefficient. I have to constantly choose between which to read, so I don’t feel fully immersed in one book and they drag on. It especially bothers me because for a long time, I planned my reading around a simple “book a week” schedule. That made me feel accomplished, but it was also limiting.

And yet, I think with more time on my hands this summer and beyond, I’ll be able to set aside time dedicated to one thing at a time. For instance, during the day I could read the novel, and then before bed I could read one or two short stories or essays. This is especially important to me because I have several complete short story collections (like Poe and Lovecraft) that I will just never get to if I expect to read them all the way through.

I think I’m going to focus on and finish off The Handmaid’s Tale before continuing Some Kind of Happiness, and then I really do want to start George Orwell’s essay collection!

What about you? How do you read multiple things at once, if all?

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