Here’s the thing. I used to read as many books as I could get my hands on, all at once. Trips to the library would see my younger self walking in empty-handed and walking out with as many books a ten-year-old can carry. (I think that would equate to eight or nine?? Either way, it was a lot.)

image of Brian Jacques' book cover "Redwall" with an illustrated image of a mouse wielding a sword and shield

And these would be books of all kinds. A lot of Brian Jacques, that’s for sure. All of that aside, I would wind my way through a handful of books at the same time. The cycle would continue: read, return, borrow, read, return, borrow. . .

But after a while, I would only read a book at a time. School kind of takes it out of you, ya know? It got to a point where I would really only be reading one book at a time, if I was reading at all. 

It stuck with me so much that even as I started reading more and more, I was only reading a single book at a time. I got nervous that if I picked up another book (or even two) that I would confuse plot lines, switch characters, and generally end up spinning myself in literary circles.

Friends and other avid readers said that I was being ridiculous. They compared it to watching multiple tv shows at once—“You don’t get confused when you switch from one show to the next, do you?”

In a way, I guess it makes sense. But hey, let’s not make too many assumptions about how smart I am.

Regardless, I scared myself out of reading multiple books at a time. It came hand-in-hand with my desire to never DNF a book. I was nervous that if I ever started a book and didn’t like it, that I would start another one and never finish the first. So, I kept to reading only one book at a time.

That is until I was given an assignment at my internship. It was more of an exercise—I’m an avid reader of science fiction, historical fiction, and literary novels, but a lot of my work revolves around the young adult market. I was given a handful of books as “homework” to read into the style and tone of successful YA books. This, of course, meant breaking my “one-at-a-time” rule in order to accommodate the extra reading.

I soon found myself in the middle of three books. One that was my own pleasure reading and two for work. But after I finished one of the books I was reading for work, I figured, why not pick up another one to take its place? I also read on the train on my way into work, and after putting my bedside book into my backpack, I figured I should leave one designated for “before bed” reading and one to keep in my backpack.

I’m still working through two books, and I’m about to start reading Martha Wells’ All Systems Red as a buddy read with a good friend of mine. That makes three (again!)

Do you strictly read one book at a time? Or do you prefer to take on as many books as possible? Leave a comment! And happy reading!