Is it OK to Read Multiple Books at Once?

We have all been in a situation where wanted to stop reading a book at least for some time and considered starting another one instead. However is it a good idea?

As a general rule, it is recommended to read multiple books at the same time. People who read multiple books feel more engaged, find the process more enjoyable, and end up reading more books. However, if done incorrectly, potential issues might arise such as getting mixed up between different titles.

To understand why reading multiple books could be beneficial for you continue reading below.

What does it mean to read multiple books at once?

Reading multiple books at once does not mean that you are reading two or more books exactly at the same time – that is essentially impossible. What it actually means is that you have several books handy and you might switch from book to book depending on your mood and goals. The frequency of switching is generally up to you – you might want to spend one whole day reading Sapiens and the next day reading Harry Potter, or you might want to read Dostoyevsky in the morning and Adam Smith in the evening.

How Mark Manson categorizes his books – mentioned in his YouTube video

For example, Mark Manson, a famous writer1, generally reads 3 books at a time and divides them into three categories: one philosophical book, one non-fiction, and one light-reading book. He switches between the books whenever he feels like it – if he really likes a particular book he might spend the whole morning or day reading it and if he is not in the mood for a book he might not read it for a whole week and read other books instead.

Why you should multiple books at once?

If you are reading only one book at a time you seriously need to stop right now. I have read thousands of books in my life and out all the experiments that I have run with my reading being to effectively read multiple books in parellel is one that has allowed me to read so much more so much better and so much faster.

Elizabeth Filip – youtuber, a medical student at King’s College London2

The main reason for reading multiple books is that (as stated in the quote above) it is extremely beneficial, while the disadvantages of doing so are rather minimal. In fact, for most people, it will be very difficult to read just one book at a time. Just think about it, when you read only one book at a time, what happens when you are not in the mood for reading it or what happens when you stumble on another really interesting book etc?

Forcing oneself to finish a book before starting another one can be extremely difficult and boring. When you have several books handy, you can switch to a different book whenever you get bored. This will make reading a lot more enjoyable and you will end up reading more books as a result.

While making reading more enjoyable and reading more are probably the main benefits of reading multiple books – there are a lot more benefits to doing so and I discuss them below. Of course, there are disadvantages too, such as getting mixed up between different books. However, in most cases these advantages can be avoided – for example, to not get mixed up, you could choose your books to be very different from each other.

The bottom line is that, while there is no hard and fast rule on reading multiple books, if you are not doing so yet – you should definitely try it out. Most people will find that this will enrich their reading experience. And if for some sort of reason you do not like it – you can always switch back.

If you want learn how to effectively read multiple books see this article!

The benefits of reading several books at the same time

1. You will find reading more enjoyable

Our moods and energy levels tend to fluctuate from day to day and from hour to hour. Therefore, when you read multiple books, you can choose books that correspond to your mood. If you are feeling rather sad and want to lift up your mood – you can pick up and start reading a fun book (e.g. Harry Potter). If you are energized and are in the mood for a difficult text – you can pick up a more complicated non-fiction book (e.g. Thinking Fast and Slow).

The bottom line is that you will be able to choose books that will bring you the most joy at that particular time.

2. You will be able to enjoy books in multiple formats

When you read multiple books you can choose to read them in different formats. For example, one book could be an audiobook, another one could be a paperback, and a third one an e-book. This is great because you will always have a book handy to read. Maybe you are traveling and you forgot to take your paperback book – then you can read your e-book on kindle or your phone. Maybe you are going for a walk – then you can listen to the audiobook.

Not only you will end up reading more, as books will become more accessible, but also you might end up finding this more enjoyable since switching up the format can help break the monotony of sticking to a single format for a long time.

3. You can make connections between the books and learn more

Depending on how you choose your books you can end up in a situation where different books that you are reading complement each other. In some cases, these connections could be planned – for example, maybe you might decide to read Adam Smith’s biography together with The Wealth of Nations (by Adam Smith), since understanding the author’s biography could provide you with more context behind the book by that author.

Sometimes these connections can arise unexpectedly. For example, Elizabeth Philips in her youtube video2 mentions how when reading a book about food she started thinking about the morality of the food industry because she was reading another book about morality.

These connections between the books can enrich your reading experience as they will allow you to have more context, make new insights, and as a result learn more.

4. It could help you get through a complicated book

Sometimes we find some books very difficult to finish. Maybe the book is extremely long, maybe it is rather boring or maybe it is just very difficult. Whatever the reason, when you get stuck, switching to a different book might provide you with the needed respite. And once you are refreshed you can come back with renewed motivation to the difficult book.

For example, booktuber jessethereader in his video on reading multiple books3 mentions that he gets a motivation boost whenever he finishes a book. And whenever he is stuck with a longer book he loves to switch to a shorter one and finish it so that he could keep his motivation up.

5. You will end up reading more books

As mentioned above reading multiple books will not only, make reading more enjoyable, but will also create more opportunities to read as you will be able to enjoy books in multiple formats. And as reading becomes more enjoyable and accessible you will start reading more.

Potential disadvantages of reading multiple books

While there are many advantages to reading multiple books simultaneously, there are also potential issues that could arise. With that being said, most of these issues can be mitigated if you learn how to read multiple books.

1. Could be more difficult to immerse yourself in a book

If you are switching books too often, you might find it more difficult to immerse yourself in a particular book. Depending on the type of the book and your mood you might want to read the whole book without any interventions to truly appreciate it.

2. You might end up mixing the books

Getting confused between two or more books is a rather common issue when reading multiple books, especially if you are reading books that are of a similar genre – for example, reading two detective books set in the Victorian era. An easy way to fix this is just to choose books that are from different genres and are in different formats (e.g. audiobook vs paperback).

3. Book ditching

If you keep constantly getting bored by what you are reading and instead are adding new books to what you are already reading it can become very tempting to ditch the boring books. While there is no reason to force yourself to keep reading bad books if you keep quitting and switching books too often this might lead to forming a bad habit.

4. Reading multiple books requires time

If you are not planning to read books regularly and pick up a book only once per week or less, then reading multiple books might not be for you. There shouldn’t be that large of an interval between your book reading sessions, as otherwise, you might start forgetting what you have been reading.

Reference list

  1. Mark Manson. How to Read Faster
  2. Elizabeth Filips. The best reading skill no one ever taught you
  3. jessethereader. READING MULTIPLE BOOKS AT ONCE!

Danielius Korsakas

Has a BSc in Economics and currently is pursuing a double master's degree in very fluffy but interesting subjects. Loves learning and building stuff.

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