Monday, March 16, 2009

How many books I read at once

George at Bookninja points to a post asking "how many books do you read at once?"(from the Los Angeles Times). I don't read it them all at once, but I do read more than one book at the same time, so to speak. Now this debate is an old one. Some people say you should just concentrate on one thing at a time. Others say you should read as your mood moves you. I fall more into the latter camp. The author of the LA Times article reads a lot because that is her job; she is a reviewer. I am not. I read for professional reasons, and I read for personal reasons. Let's look at the personal stuff. For this, I have a bit of an informal "rule," or maybe labeling it as a "routine" is more like it since it is not strict. Anyhow, at any given time I am reading the following for pleasure: a piece of nonfiction, a piece of fiction, and a graphic novel or manga. The graphic novel or manga can be fiction or it can be nonfiction, such a memoir (for example, Alison Bechdel's Fun Home). I added the graphic novel or manga option recently as I have been reading more in that area.

Now, the variant for the routine is when I am borrowing books, usually from the library (mostly via ILL (Interlibrary Loan for my non-librarian readers, and I will let readers ponder that one). When I am borrowing, I can go up to four to six books at a time if I am borrowing one from each of my categories. The reason is that anything I borrow usually has a deadline to be returned. A lot of ILL books often do not allow a renewal. It means I have to pick these books and start on them right away to get them back by the deadline. So, I can't let them sit. As a result, anything from my own shelves I was reading at the time is put aside briefly while I get through borrowed items. After all, if I bought it, it is not going anywhere, so it can wait. What often happens is that I find a book that sounds interesting which I want to read. However, it is not the type of book I want to keep, which means it is a book I want to read once and move on. So, I put in the ILL request. Since the delivery time can vary, I often put in more than one request. Sometimes they get staggered, and sometimes they all arrive at the same time. When that happens, I get more books added to the reading pile. My record may be up to 8 at a time when I got four requested graphic novels come in at about the same time. On the positive side, I often read graphic novels and manga faster, so I was able to get everything back in on time.

Oh, by the way, if I get to pick up an LIS book, that often is one over the nonfiction quota. So, I could be reading two nonfiction items, although LIS books count as professional reading for me like LIS articles do. We barely collect LIS books at my workplace, so these are often ILL requests for me, thus they add to the reading pile.

Anyhow, that is the somewhat complex answer to how many books I am reading at any one time. Usually, it is three, but it can go up depending on my mood or if I borrowed something. At the end of the day, it's what works for me in terms of reading. I am willing to bet that a lot of librarians like me probably read more than one item at a time. For me, it is a matter of mood. Sometimes I feel like reading something in nonfiction, like history, and sometimes I need some escapism via fiction. The other factor can be length. If one book is very lengthy, the others may be short things. So there you have it in a big nutshell: how many books am I reading at the same time.

And for the curious, here is what I am reading as of this writing:

  • Don Miguel Ruiz, The Mastery of Love.
  • Marc Gascoigne and Christian Dunn, eds., Let the Galaxy Burn (short fiction collection, Warhammer 40,000 series). Since this is short fiction, I can easily pick it up or put it aside if something else more pressing comes along. I am not a fast reader, and this book is 0ver 700 pages long. So it is taking me a while, but it is a good entertaining ride so far.
  • Bill Willingham, Robin: Days of Fire and Madness. This is my current graphic novel selection. I will probably get it done in a day or two once I get to it.
  • Roméo Dallaire, Shake Hands with the Devil. This is my current library book, which I borrowed via ILL. I have been wanting to read this one for a while, and I finally got around to requesting it.
By the way, I am registered in GoodReads, and I have their widget on this blog's right side column. That way, readers here can hop over and see what I am reading or what I have recently read. How about others out there? Do you read more than one book at once? Or is it just one at a time?

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