Why (and How) I Read Six Books at the Same Time

Photo by  Claudia  on  Unsplash

Photo by Claudia on Unsplash

People always think I am exaggerating when I say I read six books at the same time. But I’m not. I’m also not actually reading two books at the same time. Like one eye on each one. That would be pretty special, but no.

I read six books at the same time because I truly believe that different moods require different stories. I never wanted to feel forced to read my only pending book. Because then I would opt to do something else.

By having six options every time I sit down to do book reading, I give myself a smorgasbord to lean into. And I leave myself without an excuse not to read. There is a book for every mood.

I buy a lot of books to do this. I prefer to read actual books. I like holding them in my hands. Touching the pages. Highlighting. Making notes. And Amazon Prime is my lover.

Side note: I love independent bookstores and used bookstores. I wish I could buy all of my books there. But the prices in my area aren’t even close. And I buy a lot of books. I feel bad about it, but like I said, Amazon Prime is my lover.

More About Why I Read Six Books at the Same Time

I get bored easily. It’s why I don’t go out that much. It’s just not entertaining enough for my mind. And it’s the same with books. If I am not in the mood for a particular book, I turn off right away. I can’t even read a page.

So having five other options makes it easier to find the literary fit for that point in time. I am always reading at least one self-help or parenting book, but there are times when I don’t want to read them. I am always reading one or two fiction novels and I tend to like those before bed. Or when sitting outside.

I read work/life balance type of books and I need to be in that mindset to read them. Sometimes right as the balance tips the wrong way, I open one up. I also read nonfiction books and memoirs. And that requires a certain kind of attention.

The hardest part of reading so many books at the same time is keeping up with where I was in each one. To combat this I generally read one page back to start. To remind myself of where I was. It helps.

“Reading is a conversation. All books talk. But a good book listens as well.” — Mark Haddon

I Used to Barely Read Books

For years I read maybe one or two books a year. Always saying I didn’t have the time to read. But the truth was, I didn’t have the interest. I didn’t think it was worthwhile. I relied on television and movies for stories and discarded books as excess. I was wrong. Oh so wrong.

I couldn’t shut my mind off when I was reading. But it’s because I wasn’t trying to. I wasn’t trying to enter the world of which I was reading. It was like I was reading to say I was reading a book. Not for knowledge. Not for pleasure.

So when I committed in 2017 to reading a f*ck ton more than I ever had, I had to change how I read. And honestly, it was easy. It was easy because I opened myself up to the art of reading.

I allowed myself to be transported into a book. Without distraction. And with a renewed sense of attentiveness. Because I started to realize how much I could gain from reading.

It made me sad that I used to barely read books. Because I had lost out on so much. So many beautiful words. Never read. Never seen. Never imbibed.

How I Read Six Books at the Same Time

It’s not that easy to actually read all of the books at the same time. But it gets easier with practice. As I said, I always read back one page to refresh my memory about what happened.

I also use index cards as bookmarks. And sometimes I will write a reminder on the bookmark that will jog my memory back to where it needs to be to start reading again. This helps more than you think because you are able to guide yourself with your own words. Try it.

I leave all of the books on my nightstand at night. And in the morning, I bring them all downstairs. I want to have the option of reading any of them when the time comes. It’s another way to avoid the excuse of, oh that one is upstairs. I’ll just eat something instead.

I like to be able to see all of the options because it helps when I assess my reading mood. If I am feeling like I need a kick in the ass I opt for something that will do that. If I want to escape, I reach for fiction right away.

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero

The how is in making them available at all times. But it’s also about making time available for yourself.

When I started my quest in 2017 (I ended up reading about 75 books that year), I began by scheduling reading time two to three times a day on my calendar. Always a spot in the early morning, during lunch and before bed.

Think about it. If you just schedule 15 minutes in each of those timeframes, you will have read 45 minutes by the end of the day. That will enable you to read a lot more books than you think.

And that’s why the how inspired me. I started finishing more books than I ever had in my life. One after the other. Some books I got obsessed with and shunned the onlookers until I was done. Others took months. And others got dropped.

One last major point as to how I read six books at the same time. I allow myself to give up on a book. If I try to read a book three times and never select it for the next month, it goes back on the shelf and out of the rotation.

To be an efficient multi-reader, you have to give yourself the option to selectively reduce your pile when necessary.

This Doesn’t Count My Audible Consumption

I also consume books on Audible. Mostly in the car on longer trips. On walks. Sometimes before bed. Sometimes when I just don’t feel like holding a book in my hands. But these aren’t counted in the six. These are extra.

I never have a book on Audible that I own. I choose different types of books on Audible. Generally, I select books on Audible that will be a good listen in the car or on a walk. But I also choose books that I don’t really need to have. Ones I won’t want to highlight or write notes in.

Like I said, I love books. So I have a lot of books around my house. I like owning books. I don’t want to lend them out because I like the way they look around the house. Also because no one ever returns books.

When I look at them all around now I feel a sense of accomplishment. Because of all the ones I have read. So the books I get on Audible are sometimes trials. Ones I don’t want to commit to my lover, Amazon Prime, bringing me in two days time.

I love Audible so much though. And now it seems I am usually reading seven books at the same time if I count this. Maybe eight. Because I do the same thing on Audible. Damn, maybe I am reading ten books at the same time.

There is No Excuse

When you multi-read, there is no excuse. No excuse for opting out. Because you have so many options. If you plan time to read and you have a variety of stories available and ready for you, you will skip reading so much less. Hopefully not at all.

If you’ve read this far, I will assume you are a reader or very much want to be. Remember, I was a sh*t reader for most of my life. Meditation has helped me become a better reader as well. By learning how to quiet my mind, it made reading easier for me.

So if you want to read more, do it. There is no excuse. Give yourself some options. And allow yourself the freedom to read.

As of the date of publishing this in 2019, I have completed 14 books and finished 11 more on Audible. I am currently reading 8 books and listening to 1. Five years ago I was reading one or two books a year. You can do this.