How to Successfully Read Several Books at Once

Austria 491

A presentation in four bulletpoints. 

  • Forget how you usually absorb a book.

You’re about to put your mind under some serious cognitive stress. This is bench-pressing way more than you should be, or finishing your casual morning jog with a two mile sprint. I don’t run though, so I don’t know if two miles is impressive- I don’t think I’ve ever bench-pressed anything, either.

You’re going to need a new plan of attack.

Try to tackle two works of fiction, high fantasy, nonfiction, biography, maybe you’re trying to move through a lengthy series while still whittling at your extensive to-read list, whatever your reasons for wanting to pick another one up, reading has a few fundamental reasons-for-being. I think one of the most forbearing reasons we read is to learn. Use these books to learn something. Use these books to learn several things at once. Think of it like a full schedule in school, in which you’re exposed to many subjects throughout your day or week- though you’re not only picking the subject matter, but the pace, the classroom location, and how often you have to show up.

  • Don’t apologize to a book

What I mean by that is don’t feel obligated. You aren’t married to one novel. So if you suddenly felt like after six or seven hundred pages of a particularly lengthy read you’re falling out of focus, start something else, something shorter or of a drastically different genre, something more exciting. What originally drew me to pick another book was that I was reading a series, the Lord of the Rings trilogy to be specific, and it was just getting really long. As gripping as Tolkien can absolutely be and is for so much of his work, I hit a deep corner of Two Towers where I was losing focus. So I started reading a book of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short stories called Tales of the Jazz Age, and after a few days I felt refreshed and ready to tackle the last few chapters of Frodo and Sam crossing into Mordor.

I compared it to school earlier- if we took one class at a time this degree would take way longer than four years.

  • Don’t use bookmarks

A bookmark is like autopilot, or cruise control. It is leading you straight ahead without remorse for whatever you absorbed last time you read. Set that little piece of laminated paper aside. It will pay off for you to take a second to remember what you last read, really focus on what book you’re reading, and recapture where you were the last time you picked this one up. If you’re forcing yourself to remember what book it is you’re reading, it will momentarily push the others aside, if you do this every time you read a different book, you can achieve total emersion as you move forward.

  •  Enjoy yourself

This isn’t for everyone. You just might not be the type of reader that wants to split their focus between stories. Its not a point of pride, the number of books you can read at once. Starting eight books in one month means nothing if you’re not learning anything, not enjoying yourself, not absorbing the material. Starting another book can be used as a tool to better appreciate a certain work, or compare authors- you may find yourself wondering how one author would work a situation from another author’s book. Also for relatively new readers, starting a few at a time can help develop your interests. You’ll know which one you keep coming back to. Try it for yourself; see if its something you’re in to. It helped me get through some really lengthy reads, and definitely helped me put off a bunch of schoolwork. Time management is another beast entirely, and I tend not to worry about it. The value I see in reading is the exploration, and if mankind only ever stayed on one continent, the world would be a very different place.

– Mike Kerr, Staff Writer



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