How Many Books Do You Read at a Time?

booksebooks For years I was a one-book woman. Once I started a book, I didn’t think of touching another until I finished the book, or discarded it into my DNF pile. I didn’t understand how people could jump back and forth between pleasure books, or why they would want to. Ah, the good old days.

The first change in my reading patterns came about five years ago when I began listening to audio books while driving. I had recently moved to a town with no decent radio stations, and quickly tired of my music CDs. Out of desperation, I borrowed a few audio books from the library. Within minutes of listening, I was hooked. I then began listening to one book while driving (usually a reread of an old favorite by authors such as Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nora Roberts, or Jayne Ann Krentz). Because these were rereads, I didn’t feel compelled to continue listening once I was home. Instead, I’d read a print book everywhere else – home, restaurants, waiting rooms, etc.

The second change in my reading came nearly four years ago when I began reviewing for AAR. I quickly learned that all review books are not created equal; I frequently picked duds. Plus, I refused to give up reading the books that I wanted to read – be they romance or mysteries – just because I was reading three to five review books a month. So, I came up with a compromise. I would carry one book with me everywhere to read away from home (usually my personal choice book). I would read another book (usually my review book) in my home. And I kept listening to a third book while driving.

But soon, a fourth book was added to the mix. Thanks to readers and staff at AAR, I became convinced of the wonders of Once I became a member, I began downloading books to my iPhone. Bravely, I began listening to new books on audio, not simply rereads. However, I have problems listening to books on my iPhone while driving (too much external noise), so I still “reread” old favorites on CDs in my car. While walking or working out, and sometimes late at night, I’ll listen to a new read on my iPhone. And then there are those other two books I juggle back and forth. And to be honest, because sometimes the books I read for review are real stinkers, I sometimes bounce back and forth between two different review books.

Right now, I’m “reading” four different books. I’m doing a reread, while driving, of Jasper Fforde’s Lost in a Good Book. While walking, exercising, and cleaning house, I’m doing a first-time listen to Meljean Brook’s The Iron Duke, and will be doing an audio review of it for AAR. For my fun reading, I’ve just started a mystery by M.L. Longworth, Death at the Chateau Bremont. And for print reviewing, I’m currently reading Rachel Bailey’s The Return of the Secret Heir.

Now there is one exception to my multiple-book reading habit. When there’s a long awaited, much anticipated book, I drop everything else I’m reading and focus just on it. If the book disappoints, I’m back to multiple reading. But if it doesn’t, I read it, and only it, until I’m finished. This doesn’t happen very often any more. But on November 1, I’ll be putting aside everything else I’m reading in favor of the audio version of Alan Bradley’s latest Flavia de Luce mystery, I am Half Sick of Shadows.

How about you? Are you a one-book-at-a-time reader, or do you bounce back and forth between books? And if you listen to audiobooks, do you also read a print book at the same time?

– LinnieGayl

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38 Responses to How Many Books Do You Read at a Time?

  1. Nifty says:

    One book a a time for me. I can’t multi-task. (The difference would be listening to an audio-book and reading a book. I really don’t consider those to be the same thing — I think they exercise different muscles in the brain! Certainly the two formats engage my emotions in a completely different way. So I could read a book and LISTEN to a book at the same time.)

  2. Sometimes three. Usually 1-2

  3. When it is an anticipated book, I read that only. However I have enjoyed reading 2 books simultaneously also.

  4. Julie L says:

    I used to be a one book only person, but like you when I discovered audiobooks that changed. Then, when I got a kindle I added another book. So, at any given moment I have three books going: print/paper, audio and on the kindle. This way no matter where I am, I have a book to read (kindle app helps a lot on my iPod Touch!) But, like you if there’s a big book out that I’ve been waiting for (like another Outlander book) I drop everything else!

  5. farmwifetwo says:

    Atleast 2. I currently have 3 – one being a NF on augmentative and alternative communication for the youngest. The other is a hqn blaze and the 3rd is “Joy for Beginners”.

  6. Currently I have four on the go. All slightly different genres and I pick up whichever one I’m in the mood for. If I get hold of a book I’ve been eagerly awaiting – I still might not read it straight away. I wait for the perfect night to start it! But then, don’t read any others until I’ve done with that one.

  7. Tee says:

    I think a couple of times I’ve read three simultaneously, but one book was usually non-fiction. I can vacillate between two books rather well, but would really prefer to read only one at a time, especially if it’s good. With the library system slowing during these economic times, not too many books arrive all together, which keeps my TBR pile down, allowing me the opportunity to read one book before going on to another.

  8. RobinB says:

    Multi-tasking is not my forte, so at the most, I can read two books at the same time. Usually, one of them is non-fiction–right now, I’m reading “Turn Right at Macchu Picchu” a fascinating history of how Hiram Bingham found the lost city of the Incas 100 years ago. And for fun–I’m reading “Once a Hero”, an older book by Katherine Sutcliffe that I picked up at my local gym’s “swap library”.

  9. Heather says:

    I have always waffled between books. I have 3 going on my nook, 3 in print and sometimes an audio book at work. I think what I read is based on my mood and if I am interested in the book. If it’s boring I will pick something else up and ultimately put some books on my stalled list.

  10. LeeB. says:

    One at a time for me. Guess I’m in the minority. ;)

  11. maggie b. says:

    I do three – one listening, a review book and whatever I am reading for fun. If the review book is especially hard I stop reading the “fun” book to concentrate on it.

    maggie b.

  12. Susan says:

    I have two books going at any one time. On on the Kindle and one on audio, whether it’s a library listen or from Audible.

    Right now I’m reading A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh on my Kindle and listening to Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie (dark fantasy, excellent narration).

  13. elainec says:

    I’ve been listening to audio books since the early ’90′s in my car. I am often reading two books at home – especially if one is a hardcover. I don’t read those very expensive books while bathing and don’t take them to appointments, etc.. When I’m reading a mystery or NF, I still have a romance to turn to for comfort and joy. Oh, and now that the holidays approach, I like to have a Christmas book to read. My husband and I are listening to a fabulous audio book when we’re in the car together. It is “A Christmas Carol”, narrated by Tim Curry. He’s my favorite male narrator so far. I plan to look for other audio books that he’s done. It doesn’t seem to be a problem keeping the various plots straight for me.

  14. dick says:

    One at a time, all at one time.

  15. Carrie says:

    I almost always have at least two going, one print and one audio. while I never have more than one audiobook going at a time, I often have two print books, especially if one is heavy, or dark, or angsty. I might take a break from that to read a lighter, humorous book. And since I love to read before bed, sometimes I know what I’m reading won’t make for restful sleep, so I keep something else by my bed at times. Another quirk with me is how far I am from the end of a book. If I have an hour wait at music lessons and am reading a print book, I’ll take a new one if the one I’m currently reading won’t last me an hour. ;-) If I have my kindle that’s not a problem. I just start a new book.

    The only other times I start a second book is if the one I’m reading doesn’t keep my interest. And while I usually go back to the original book and finish it eventually, sometimes I decide life is too short and put the book on my DNF list.

  16. Ell says:

    I’m like many of you. If a book grabs me, then I read it all the way through, sometimes until much, much later than I should. I will, on the other hand, flip back and forth between “meh” books, and hope that one or both will improve.

    Otherwise….I have been reading gothic, and horror lately – they do tend to show up around Halloween – and since I don’t want those to be the last images in my mind before I fall asleep, I will usually pick up a comforting favorite, and read at least a few pages of that before bedtime.

  17. Marianne McA says:

    When I was tiny, loads at a time – I’d always have several books half-read beside my bed. As I got older, I only read one at a time – though, as I’m a fast reader, I could get through two or more books on a quiet day. Now, my reading rate has slowed right down: I can still read quickly, but too much of my reading time is spent on the internet, and it can take me days to finish a book.
    And somehow that’s led me full circle – now that I don’t power through books the same way, I’ve a pile of half-read books on my bedside table again, and I’ll read a little of whichever takes my fancy each night.
    So, I’m bouncing between 4 at the moment (2 new, 2 rereads) and I am also half-way through an audio book, though I don’t count that as reading – just background noise while I’m internetting.

  18. xina says:

    Anywhere between 2 and 4. I do have a little voice that gives me some rules though…as an example, if I am reading a historical romance, I might pair it with a contemporary setting and maybe a general fiction. I find it very easy to jump back and forth between books. I can choose between whichever one I am in the mood for at the time. To me, it’s like choosing a movie or TV show to watch. I’ve always read this way.

  19. wenmc says:

    I am always reading/ listening to multiple books at a time. There’s the audio at home, the audio in the car, and usually one or two Kindle or print books. I also will drop everything to read a must read. This summer I happened upon the Kate Daniels series and quickly downloaded and read all five in a row.

  20. Renee says:

    I typically read at least two at a time (one audio/one in print). This is a change for me because I use to have at least 3 books going at a time, one which I would read during my commute on the train. Now that I am using the audible app on my phone, I find myself totally consumed with my most recent audio download (often a re-read) and find myself listening to it before I go to bed at night to the exclusion of television, other books, music, etc.

  21. Kay says:

    I used to be a one book at at time reader. But now, like you, I go back and forth from Audible and books-on-CD during my long commute as well as print and ebooks at home. I rarely re-read old books and I noticed my TBR pile hasn’t gotten noticeable smaller. If anything it’s bigger than it used to be. I think that is thanks to the internet since I can get so many recommendations about different authors out there from websites like this.

  22. Diane says:

    I usually have 2 on the go but I also listen to an audio in the car and have one on my IPod to listen while walking.

  23. LinnieGayl says:

    Thanks for all the great comments. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one who reads multiple books at a time.

  24. lauren says:

    One book at a time and in sequence if its a series…that’s me! I did try reading more than one book at a time a while back…it just made my head hurt. Since I read about 3 books a week (actually down from a book a day) it has been much less difficult to follow a story…but I always have that little voice in my head…”so many books…so little time”. 8>D

  25. I can’t even tell how many books I have going at one time. I seem to bounce around from one to the other like Pinkie Pie (of My Little Pony) on speed. Sometimes I’ll pull a book off the nightstand and realized I made it to the first 100 pages, or the first 20, and I’ll remember that I really meant to keep reading it, until another shiny light came along. And now that I have a Nook (and the Nook app and the Kindle app on my iPad), it’s even worse. Even worse, there are always new books coming out! :o

  26. Kristie(J) says:

    Because I read all genre’s and a short attention span, and getting shorter every year it seems, I usually have about 3 or 4 on the go at various stages and depending in which world I feel like visiting, means which which book. At this very moment, other than checking out AAR and recharging my IPad, I’m visiting the Old West at the moment. I’m also in a very bleak post apocalyptic world and when that gets too gloomy, I’ve been visiting the English Coastline that Napoleon is planning something after escaping from Elba.

  27. Linh Nguyen says:

    I’m in the minority; ONE BOOK PER TIME!

    Unlike the majority within the minority, I am a multitasking maniac. Flexibility and doing multiple tasks within a short time frame is something I’ve mastered as a full time student with a full time job (I don’t sleep much). Because I spend so much of my active waking moments doing SO MUCH, I tend to like my leisure time to be as stress free as possible. For the most part; I only read books that seems good or came highly recommended, therefore, I almost always finish my book in one seating.

    Even when I’m listening to an audiobook (which isn’t often), I find myself faithful to just it (well, at least for the length of the novel). I don’t think I’ll ever get into the trend of reading multiple books at a time; but hey, it works just fine for me! =]

  28. Carlotta says:

    Just over the last 6 months or so I’ve been reading multiple books. If I get several books from the library, I’m thinking maybe one of those is better than the one I’m reading and I will start a new one. If I really get into it, I’ll finish it and then go back to the one that was just ok instead of really good.

  29. merrymay says:

    Sad to say I do multi-task reading. As of today I am involved with 3 novels – reading a book in hand, [i]a Lorraine Heath novel[/i], or reading a book on the Kindle, a [i] Laura Lee Guhrke novel[/i] and listening to an audiblebook, [i]Anne Stuart novel[/i] on my iPod. I must say that I do get a lot more tasks or jobs completed listening to an audiobook on the iPod. Whether working around the home, standing in line at the grocery store or in a doctor’s or dentist’s office even my daily walk, the audiobook really wins out. Because whittling down my TBR …..goes down much more quickly listening on the iPod.

  30. Eggletina says:

    One at a time and all at once is my preferred way of reading.

    Sometimes I get bored at work and start reading a classic online while I’m waiting on stuff to happen, but I can’t read very fast on a PC and my attn is too divided by constant interruptions (how dare my employer make me actually work!). I don’t have the kind of job where I can just pull out my book or kindle and start reading. That would be a big no-no, so discreet reading in snatches on the PC is the only option I have.

    At home, I definitely read one book at a time. Once I’m pulled into a story I find it painful to get pulled out and pay attention to anything else.

  31. library addict says:

    I normally read one book at a time.

    There are times I will set a current book aside before finishing and read another much anticipated release. Or if for some readon I don’t have the book I’m currently reading I always have a paperback in my purse (this doesn’t happen as often as it once did now that I have my Sony though).

  32. Karen W. says:

    I can only do one book at a time.

  33. Laura says:

    One on audio and one on Kindle.
    I find that if I read 2 or more books at the same time, I lose interest in one or the other. I have to start and finish a book in 2 or 3 days, otherwise I get bored.
    Audiobooks are different – I usually listen at the gym, where I go 2 times a week, and sometimes at home when I’m doing housework. The book lasts me for a long time, even a couple of months but it doesn’t bother me. Guess I’m strange that way

  34. Sherylgod says:

    As the library now has ebooks and audiobooks, I now try to read at least 2 ebooks at a time (1 from library & 1 Kindle or iBook) and 2 audiobooks (1 from library & 1 Audible). Usually one of the audiobooks I listen to in the car with my husband and it is a mystery or suspense genre. The other audio I listen to while working in the garden or while cleaning house. This one is usually general fiction, romance, or suspense. The ebooks I read in the evening or during appointments. These are current best sellers or favorite authors.

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