Bookish Musings | Polyamorous Reading?

Posted By Whitney | 12 comments

I’m a monogamous reader.

To a fault almost, I am the type of person who dedicates myself to reading one book at a time. I do the same thing with series! That’s how I plowed through at least 8 of Patricia Briggs’ novels over the course of one spring and summer, without bothering to pick up anything else.

I know not everyone reads the way that I do.

Lots of folks out there will find reading two, three, even four books at a time to be stimulating and manageable. I know that y’all are out there! I see it in your goodreads updates! But me? Nope, that’s not how I typically read.

Sure, I’ll buy boatloads of random books all at once.

That seems completely normal to me. Then I’ll pick them up, one at a time, and completely dive in. I get so sucked into a book that I’m completely consumed by it. I live in the world of Hag-seed for a week. Or I become a temporary resident of Holcomb. Getting lost inside those worlds is one of my favorite parts of being a dedicated reader. Nothing feels quite the same as letting the entirety of your life fall away, and being subsumed by a character’s wants and needs and emotions.

That’s why my current reading habits are really throwing me off!

For the first time in a long time, I’m reading a lot of different books at the same time.

I think it started when I picked up Kindred for book club last month. Along with the general stress of the world happening now, Kindred was too emotionally draining for me to read before bed (when I do some of my best binging). Normally, I think I’d just binge read a book like that in the daytime. Like I forced myself to do with The Shining.

This time I picked up a second book.

Instead of sinking completely into Dana’s tribulations in Kindred, I bounced back and forth between two worlds. During the day, I was right there with Dana and Rufus, fearing for her life and worrying about what was going to happen on the next page. But at night? At night I was getting life lessons from Eleanor Roosevelt.

Not that I have a problem with Eleanor Roosevelt, but man, was that a complicated emotional upheaval for a monogamous reader!

I’m not sure I’m in a better position now – bouncing between Middlesex and two other novels (I started The Year of Magical Thinking before I realized it wasn’t a great vacation read, and then picked up Lake Wobegon Days to make myself feel better…). Now that I’m in this mode of switching between books, I don’t know how to get back to monogamy!

Yet all the switching back and forth makes me feel like I’m never 100% committed to one book. I never feel like I’m completely consumed by the characters. I even find myself getting a little lost coming from one world into the other. It’s definitely not my preferred method of reading.

How do you manage your reading list? One at a time? Free for all?


  1. Because I speak more than one language, I feel bad *not* reading more than one book at a time, for I like to keep a balance between my English and French lit. However, when I read two English books at a time, or two French books, I have a very odd sensation of reading with my left hand. As if I’m not totally there. Hope this makes sense!

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    • I totally understand that feeling Laure! When I was a lot more comfortable with French I also tried to read one French book and one English book. Then when I was learning Russian, I read one Russian children’s book while reading other English books.

      It is still hard to switch back and forth!

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  2. In general, I read one at a time but currently I have expanded so I have one for me and one for my son! I have a hard time not binging but 6 month olds don’t quite have the focus to read entire books in one sitting, a chapter at a time or if fussy a few pages, but that leaves me wanting more. Solution is I read my books and we have one we read together.

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    • That is a good way of meeting both of your reading needs! Eventually little man is going to be reading his own binge-books, I’m sure!

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  3. If the book is AMAZING (like Americanah or A Little Life), I refuse to read anything else. I will probably also refuse to DO anything other than read! But for most of the books I read, I read multiples at a time. I like balancing heavy, aching tomes with lightweight cozies.

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    • Me too! I also LOVED both Americanah and A Little Life. Those are ones that I voraciously and exclusively consumed.

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  4. I typically have one main fiction read, one main nonfiction read, and a couple of relaxing reads (romance novels or rereads of comfort books), where the fiction book is the main event but I’m constantly scampering off to read bits and pieces of my other books. That’s the usual pattern, but it often happens that I have several fiction books on the go at once. I’m happily polygamous!

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    • That’s a happy way of managing multiple reads! I do sometimes keep a non-fiction going on the side while I have my main fiction read as my primary focus!

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      • I typically have more than one book going as well. As a kid, this happened mostly because I’d be in a new place and needing a book to read, either because I’d finished mine earlier or couldn’t bring it.

        Since I have to do a lot of non-fiction reading for my research and for my dissertation, I’ve been consuming more fiction than I used to. Pre-grad school, I’d also have a non-fiction read and a fiction read occurring simultaneously.

        Like you, Whitney, I tend to do this when books are a bit more distressing to me, emotionally. (or boring required reading!). As an adult, I did this first in undergrad when I was reading “The History of Torture” for my History of Human Rights Course and “Beloved” for my Slavery in Modern Literature course…

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  5. While I only read one book at a time, never flipping from book to book in the same day, I always have my more challenging read running in the background. I am a member of two book clubs and read each of those book choices each month, when those books do not fill up my reading time, I read a more classic novel. It is how I have gotten through Les Miserables, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings in the past two years. I am currently reading George Elliot’s Middlemarch, it is not too difficult to put classics down to read a more current book, then pick it up again.

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    • Oooh! Interesting approach! I have *kind of* done that with Les Mis, but really I think it’s more like I just stopped reading Les Mis and don’t want to admit it to myself…

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  6. I’m a monogamous reader through and through. I find it hard to pick a book back up if I’m reading something in between. But while I’ve been reading my last through fiction books, I’ve been making my way through Dancing with Mrs. Dalloway which is a collection of stories about how authors came up with the ideas for their most famous works. I think because those stories are so short, and they’re non-fiction, it makes it easier for me to pick up where I left off on my main read! But apart from that, I can’t remember the last time i read two books at once!

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