This article will walk you through important aspects of reading multiple books at a time before guiding you into practising this by yourself.
I’d like to set the context here that books are very much like people.
Each one of them have different temperaments
Each one of them evokes a different kind of emotion in you
Some of them teach you a lesson, some prevent you from one
So, do you talk to only one person for a limited period of time?
Many people advocate reading one book at a time to boost emotional stability and improve focus and, while I have tried this method myself considering the conventionality behind it, I find myself more inclined towards reading multiple books at a time.
It wasn’t easy to accept this reading habit or preference. At one point, I nearly questioned my appetite to shift in between books. I was able to fairly remember and continue with the same mood and turn of events in the book. It also made me wonder if it's normal to not get confused keeping track of all the books you were involved with. Was something wrong? Would this habit also transcend into other aspects of my life? Nope.
Being adequately self-aware, I pushed myself to look up online and apparently, there are many out there among the book enthusiasts community who advocate book polygamy (yes, its a made up word, I had no choice!). I have drawn a conclusion that it keeps my relationships with books healthy and happy without adding extra burden to my existence.
If you’re curious to know what could possibly positive come out of polygamy with books, here’s why i prefer it, unapologetically -
Expand your genre for the school 2.0
Remember when you were in school and every subject was important? You were switching between literature, social science, maths (oh god maths!!), science, arts and so much everyday. Although, you had limited say in choosing your own subjects back then, if you are a grown up already, you can now choose your own books and expand your genre and knowledge because why should learning stop?
This is your chance to run a school 2.0 for yourself on your own terms.
You’ve got a book for every mood
Let’s keep it real, we read books to either experience pleasure or because our education or profession demands it. But do you always prefer one type of book irrespective of how you are feeling?
The idea of switching between multiple books helps you sync your mood and gives you the much needed emotional break with comfort and a sense of certainty.
Don’t waste your time on uninspiring narratives
It’s true that a book should never be judged by its cover and it's vital to have patience while reading it, especially when the tonality of the book is intense or the plot is paced slow. But if the story is unable to hit your sweet spot for longer than estimated, respect your time and have a back up book that saves you during that hour.
Come back to the previous book when you are mentally prepared to give it one more shot. All books are worth it, after all!
Find a rhythm between your ‘reading list’ and ‘reading time’
I know many people who set a deadline for themselves to read at least 25 books per year, or 1 book per month - they eventually end up achieving the target as well I assume. While this surely works for the ones who push themselves to achieve a reading goal, my approach towards this practise is to find a balance - to take time with books and enjoy them. Interestingly, reading multiple books at my own pace also helps me finish my ‘to be read’ list significantly faster.
So, give yourself a deadline to finish a book, but don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep deadlines sacrosanct at work or for your assignment. Because if books are your friends, do you like to meet them with the timer on?
You get to practise tsundoku, wisely
If you have never heard of this japanese word ‘Tsundoku’, it means the act of buying many books without ever reading them, thus, leaving them untouched on the shelf. While this may be hinting at impulsive behaviour, if you are a book lover, you’d agree how difficult it is to let go of a book that has managed to catch your interest.
If it did and you sealed the deal anyway, don’t feel guilty as you can start reading it right away. You’ll just have to find a strategy to fit in between your act of book polygamy.
Over the course of time, I realised that perhaps the idea of reading multiple books at the same time is like the logic behind the idiom ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’. How? You read a book and keep it away until you want it back again. When you resume from the page you had paused, it all comes back to you like a flashback - making you feel excited to be reunited.
Now, If you are willing to give book polygamy a try but worried about ruining the experience of reading and losing track amidst the juggling, you’ll be surprised how effortless it is.
Here’s how you can practise book polygamy, kenny wise (wink!) until you find your own permutation and combination with the choice of books -
1. Organise your books as per the week.
If you are highly focused and confident that you can keep a time-table for yourself - you can assign 1 book to yourself daily. It’s okay if you can’t keep up and want to perhaps read the same book for a couple more days, just ensure you make a note of it and come back to the pending book soon.
Monday: A book that can motivate you to set the right tone for the week
Tuesday: A book that can help you upskill or learn any new concept
Wednesday: A book written in your mother tongue
Thursday: A book that promises to make you laugh
Friday: A book that can help you escape into a fictional story
Saturday: A book that is meant for young kids to boost imagination
Sunday: Read any of the books you liked reading during the week
2. Organise your books as per the genres
There will never be enough genres in the world that can quench your literary thirst but here’s a start - pick a bunch of them that you can consume at a time to help you expand your genre and keep your reading experience wholesome.
Emotional Intelligence: A book that teaches you good people skills
Thriller: A book that keeps you guessing and curious
Fiction / Fantasy: A book that promises a good story or an imaginative fantasy
Non-Fiction: A book about a topic that you do not agree with
Poetry / Philosophy / Spiritual: A book that makes you feel good or at peace
Scholarly subject: A book that challenges you or your profession demands it
Humor: A book that makes you laugh even when you don’t want to
3. Organise your books as per your mood
Your mood is the king here and that is the whole point of reading multiple books at a time. However, when you are organising your books as per your mood, avoid having long intervals between your two reading sessions. It’s a good idea to keep one book as your constant or the primary read and the others as your backup reads.
Happy or content: Re-read a book that made you feel happy or good
Exhausted or tired: Listen to a philosophical/spiritual audiobook
Sad or indifferent: Read a book recommended by a loved one
Demotivated or bored: Keep an inspiring biography or autobiography
Unidentified: Read a book that was later made into a movie you liked
Constant: That book that you intend to read everyday
4. Organise your books as per purpose
Having a purpose aligned to this type of reading style will not keep you guessing about which book to pick from the stack. You know what you want to do at a certain hour based on your energy and time, make the most of it and start or continue reading accordingly.
Upskill / Insight: Pick the book that you intend to give time daily
Pass time: Pick a light hearted book that has a predictable story
Travel: Pick a book you have been procrastinating to read
Inspire: Read a book based on nature
Spontaneous: Read about a topic or concept that is discussed by everyone currently
Following this will keep you excited to come back to the book you read, just like meeting a friend after a long time. I would love to know which one of the above struck a chord with you, ping away!
While this is another way of reading books, you will have to be careful about ending up with a pile of unfinished books and added expenditure on book buying so it's important that you set aside a monthly budget for it.
To conclude, I would have ideally said that you’ll perhaps feel more productive with this experiment but I would rather say - enjoy reading the way you like it, one at a time or many!