Some readers take books one at a time, full concentration, beginning to end, then on to the next. Sometimes, those same readers (and others) will take the same approach to connected books; wait for a series to come to completion, then read through, in order, beginning to end all in one go (well, one assumes breaks for family, work, school, personal hygiene, that sort of thing.) There’s a lot to be said for that approach; clarity of focus, knowing what one will be reading at a particular time, immersion in the story world, carryover when reading connected books, so the memory of previous stories and characters are still fresh in the reader’s minds. Some readers even like to extend this to works of a particular author; start with their first, go through to their last, or most current (though, with some especially prolific authors, it’s quite the investment of time) and nothing else until there is no more (at least for now.) Then there are the rest of us.
The rest of us perform a juggling act. Maybe we read romance novels and YA, or fantasy, mystery, science fiction, graphic novels, manga, classics, literary fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and pretty much anything else out there. Almost all of us have more than one series (in any genre) that we follow, and I have yet to meet the reader who reads only one author and nothing else. This means that we have to strike some sort of balance and/or decide what to read, when, and in what order.
Sometimes, we multitask. The fact that there have never been more options regarding what formats we can choose for our various reading adventures goes a long way in helping us find the proper rhythm for each individual reader. Some of us read one book in paper format (and some may differentiate between hardcover, paperback and library books) while listening to another in audio form, reading another on a dedicated e-reader, yet another on our phone, another on tablet, and, maybe, even an e-reader app on our desktop or laptop computers. There is literally never a second in the day when we need to be without one of our beloved books, and that can only be a good thing, even when there’s too much of it.
What constitutes too much of a good thing? That’s going to vary from reader to reader. Every day, we’re bombarded with images of luscious covers, blurbs of intriguing stories, and some of them are even dangled before us at the irresistible price of…nothing. Oh, free e-books, how much space do you take in our devices, and how much time would it take to read you all? The virtual TBR struggle is real, dear readers, and some of us do get the guilty sweats when we scroll through yet another page of books we have not yet read, even as we eye the towering shelves or stacks of paper books. When the TBR shelves/files/crates/storage units/small islands in habited only by tree frogs get too much to bear, we need a plan to whittle that down, because why else do we have books but to experience the pleasure of reading them at some point?
That’s when we get to the next level of juggling. What do we read, and when? For those of us who review, or read books to write about for other websites, we have deadlines, and those help. Getting the word out by a certain time is obviously a motivator, as are other social outlets like book clubs, discussion groups, or websites like Buried Under Romance, where we get to share about the books we love with others who share our interest. Even a date to chatter over coffee or ice cream with a friend or neighbor, about the latest read by a mutual favorite, or latest installment in an ongoing series allows or some focus. What about those other times, though, when it’s only the reader and a towering TBR? How do we pick what’s next?
Some readers have this down to a science. They’ll read a historical first, then a contemporary, then a paranormal, a YA, couple of magazines, and back to historical again. Never the same thing twice in a row. Others read a romance and then something that is not romance -nonfiction, humor, science fiction, mystery, graphic novel, etc- then romance again, non-romance, and keep switching off because that’s what works for them. One reader has been known to arrange all historicals in a timeline, from farthest back in history, to most recent, contemporary being the theoretical end of the line, but exceptions made for futuristic romance, which would obviously be past that. This does not work especially well when all historicals on a particular bookstore/library run are in the same period; that’s more like a stack than a timeline, but, when there is some variety, it provides a nice sense of order, if one is into that sort of thing. Other readers don’t have a system, and happily take whatever’s at hand, whenever it’s there, making the reading experience akin to the proverbial box of chocolates, which they may also incorporate into the experience. (The reader with the timeline approach prefers gummi bears, but variety is the spice of life. Also of reading snacks, but that’s another story.)
Some readers like to use tools to help them juggle the reading of various books, whether it be spreadsheets to keep track of what’s read, to be read, and yet to come out, or sites where one can log not only one’s current read, but one’s progress in that read (useful to see if there’s a particular point where one gets stuck on a book, but, again, another post in its own right, right there.) Others, again, have no records but the ones in their head and/or the tracking on their e-reader or physical bookmark. Maybe what one reads at a particular time depends on how much battery life one’s device has, or if one remembered to tuck the paper book into one’s bag or tote. Whatever it is, the fact that there are so many different books, that we can read in so many different formats, means our options truly do have no limits. It’s all in how we choose to juggle them (or do the one at a time thing, because that is equally valid.)
So, dear readers, I turn it now over to you. Do you read more than one book/author/series/genre at a time? If so, how do you juggle things? Do you ever get storylines and/or characters mixed up between reads? Do you prefer to vary genres or formats? Have a secret juggling trick we haven’t mentioned here, or are proud to be a one at a time reader? We want to hear about that, too. Pull up a chair in the comments section and tell us all about it. There’s room for everybody at this table