I don’t mean simultaneously reading several books, maybe two at a time, one with each eye. That would be awesome in some ways, as I’d get to read a lot more, but I can also imagine it would just melt my brain. But, quite obviously, I mean having several different books on the go at once. I’ve always done it, but a conversation I had with someone the other day surprised me. They were astounded that I could do such a thing, their reasoning being that they couldn’t imagine remembering two or more different stories at once.
I don’t get that. I’m currently reading George R R Martin’s A Game Of Thrones in paperback. I mentioned before how I’d been putting off reading the series even though I had it because I was waiting for it to be finished. However, I’m reading it now before the HBO TV series starts, as I want to read before I watch. I’m also reading Peter Watts’ Blindsight on my iPhone. Peter makes all his books available as free ebooks on his website, so I converted Blindsight to epub and I’m reading that. I’m also reading a non-fiction book, Mysterious Cornwall, by Rupert Matthews. I picked that up in hardcover on my recent trip to the UK and it’s all about the various magical myths and legends of the West Country. Which, incidentally, are uniformly awesome. Great fodder for the imagination that I’ll be co-opting into my own writing here and there, I’m sure.
I don’t have any trouble following these different books. Game Of Thrones is my current main read. When I sit down to read, that’s the book I pick up. But I don’t usually carry books around any more. When I’m out and about I’ll read Blindsight, because it’s right there on my phone and very handy to read anywhere. Sometimes I’ll be at home and the urge to read one or the other will hit me, so I’ll read whichever one I find myself in the mood for.
If I’m in the mood to read, but not either of those two, I’ll pick up Mysterious Cornwall. Or if I have ten minutes to kill, I’ll read a quick chapter from it as it’s easier to read in bite-sized time gaps, being a book about stuff rather than a long story. It’s always better, for me anyway, to read novels in bigger chunks.
Then again, I’ll read three pages of a novel if I have five minutes spare and the story has me gripped. I used to walk to school reading a book, which is probably something that helped me develop the incredible peripheral vision skills I’ve since used successfully in martial arts. Books rule in so many ways.
As well as these three books I’m reading, I’m also reading the latest couple of issues of Aurealis magazine and a couple of anthologies I picked up at Worldcon. I get the urge to read a short story and pick one of those up and enjoy a quick short yarn. None of these things overlap each other or strike me as difficult and this is where the conversation I mentioned at the start of this post surprised me.
We watch TV shows mixed up all the time. You might watch Battlestar Galactica on a Monday night, Deadwood on a Tuesday and Fringe on a Wednesday. You don’t get to the following Monday and complain that you can’t remember what was happening in BSG because you watched Deadwood and it messed up your memory. For me, books are the same. Game Of Thrones and Blindsight are two very different stories. One does nothing to interrupt the other. Nor do the short stories or non-fiction I read interfere with either novel I currently have on the go.
Sometimes, when a book really gets under my skin, as many good books do, I’ll forsake all other reading and just voraciously consume that one novel. That’s always an indicator to me of a really good book. But even then, with one book making me put aside all other stuff and read it single-mindedly, if I’m out without that book and have time to read, I’ll pull out my iPhone and read some of an ebook I’m currently into.
Truth is, I’m just addicted to reading. Which is a pretty healthy vice, really.
So what about you? Do you read lots of stuff at once or are you novel-monogamous? I’d love to hear your thoughts.