Learn the best practices for reading multiple books at once here, from the pros and cons to my personal tips for how to read multiple books at once, and answers to frequently asked questions about reading two books at once.

woman reading more than one book

I have spent most of my reading life reading multiple books at once, and I’m a reader of 100+ books per year. So, I’m definitely an advocate of reading multiple books at once vs. one at a time. While I discuss this in more detail below, in short, I believe it’s helped me read a lot more books overall and enjoy my experience better.

Below I draw upon my personal experience to share the pros and cons of reading multiple books at once, tips for reading multiple books at a time, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Pros and Cons of Reading Multiple Books at Once

Pros

  • You can read more books.
  • You can read faster.
  • You can read in different formats.
  • Reading can be a more enjoyable experience.
  • You can tailor your reading to your current mood.
  • You reap the reading benefits of improved memory and focus.

Reasonable minds differ, but personally, I find that I read so many more books (and that I read faster) when I read more than one book at a time. This occurs for many reasons, including the fact that I can utilize different formats at different times of the day. For example, while I can’t read a hardcover while I’m driving in the car, I can listen to an audiobook!

I’m also able to mix lighter reads in with heavy, hard, and dense books I’m trying to work my way through. One of the ways I am able to read “harder” books is by only reading a few pages a day. (This can include classics, required reading, or book club books you aren’t that into but feel you need to finish.) For me, this leaves extra time to read something else that’s lighter and easier, which also makes reading more fun.

Similarly, some nights I sit down and look at one of my books and think, “Not tonight.” But, then I look at another of my current reads and think, “I can read that!” In other words, you can read based on your mood at that exact moment.

Lastly, while many people find it hard to read multiple books at once, I look at it as a mental exercise for my brain by which I’m forcing myself to learn how to remember more and focus better on reading over time.


Cons

  • Some readers find it to be confusing.
  • Some readers find it to be harder to focus.
  • Some readers believe reading takes longer this way.

Unlike me, not everyone likes to read more than one book at a time. I personally disagree that it can take longer to read multiple books based on the points I mentioned above, but I understand the logic as, either way, you are reading the same amount of pages.

Some readers also find it to be confusing and harder to focus on more than one story at a time. So, below I share my top book reading tips on how to read multiple books at once with ease.

Tips for Reading Multiple Books at Once

Read different types of books.

If you have a reading goal of reading multiple books at the same time, it can help to first consider choosing different types of books — fiction and nonfiction.

So, perhaps you are reading a dense nonfiction book for work or school. It may be hard to mix in another nonfiction text, but it may feel easier and more enjoyable to read a fictional escape read at the same time.


Read different genres.

Even as a more experienced reader of multiple books, I still try to read different genres of books at the same time.

For example, I can’t imagine myself ever reading two thrillers at once, because you really need to focus on the characters and clues in this type of book.

Nor would I recommend pairing similar genres, even if one is fiction and the other is nonfiction. For example, a fictional thriller and a nonfiction true crime book may still have too much overlap.

Right now, I am working on a classic romance (ten pages a day), a mystery/thriller, and a diverse historical fiction read, and I feel no confusion. Beyond the differing genres, all have different settings of time and place as well. This is a good example of diversifying your reading of multiple books in a way that keeps you highly engaged in each story.


Read different reading levels.

It can also be helpful to differentiate the levels of the books you are reading in order to successfully read multiple books at the same time. For example, you can mix an adult-level book with a young adult, middle-grade, or even children’s book.

The differences in language and themes in these different reading levels also help the books feel different from each other and less confusing. I do this often myself!


Read different formats.

I definitely recommend reading different formats (print, digital, audiobook) of books at one time as well. Not only does this help me read more books overall (as discussed above), but it also helps me differ the experience of reading different books at the same time.

You may find it hard to read two hardcovers at the same time, but one print copy and one audiobook copy just may be what does the trick for you. This works especially well if the audiobook has a well-known or memorable narrator(s). The voice of a famous celebrity narrating one book may be less likely to impose on your print or digital reading of another book.

Learn More: The Differences Between Paperback and Mass Market Paperback | The Differences Between Paperback and Hardcover


Read in different locations.

This may sound a bit weird, but trust me on this one. Reading different books in different locations can help you more quickly and easily get in the frame of mind to return to that particular book.

While my reading is very intermixed at this point, I still like thinking of books as my “car” book or my “reading room” book and use this tactic regularly. It really helps you create a reading habit.


Take notes.

Lastly, it can help to take notes, particularly if one of the two or more books you are reading is difficult. I’m known to write character guides on post-its for books with a lot of characters and, while this tip isn’t only for reading multiple books, it can definitely help you read more than one book at a time too.

You can also jot down a one or two-line summary of where you left off to remind yourself the next time you pick it back up.

Or, you can highlight important points in nonfiction text to refer back to later.

Frequently Asked Questions About Reading Multiple Books at Once

Should you read multiple books at once?

Yes. Reading multiple books at once can help you read more books, faster, and in different formats. Mixing different books at the same time can also be a more enjoyable experience, particularly if you are required to read one book that you don’t enjoy, and you can tailor your reading to your current mood. Lastly, you can reap the benefits of improved memory and focus earned by forcing your brain to work harder.

How do you manage reading multiple books at once?

The key to effectively reading multiple books at once is reading different books. Differ the type, genre, and format of your books as much as possible. You can even differentiate where you read each book to create good reading habits that become more and more natural over time. Lastly, take notes on your books so that you can quickly remind yourself of things like the characters’ names and where you left off the last time you put one of your books down.

How many books is too many to read at once?

Reasonable minds may differ; however, as an experienced reader of multiple books at once and 100+ total books per year, I find reading 2-3 books at once to work well, especially if the books are very different. Once you read 4 or more books at once, it becomes harder to differentiate them and work through them at reasonable speeds.


Conclusion

Now you know how to read multiple books at once! If you remember one thing about reading more than one book, remember to try to keep your books and reading experiences as different as possible for each book that you read at the same time.

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4 Comments

  1. I enjoyed this article. I’m always reading two books at once, one audiobook and one digital or physical copy. I never get confused and I read 100+ books a year.

  2. I have done this for years! My “to read” stack may have a dozen or more books in it at any given time. It’s like a literary smorgasbord – I can pick and choose what I’m hungry for that day. And I make sure I have a healthy portion of books from a wide variety of genres including children’s picture books and fiction books in my stack which adults overlook. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one that uses this approach to reading. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love this! I was just thinking about reading multiple books a few days ago. This article is perfect timing and very helpful. Thank you!