How Many Books Can You Read at Once?

When you love books and literature, picking just one thing to read at a time can be challenging. It can be tempting to start two, three, four books – maybe even more! – and have them all going at once. After all, we tend to watch several Netflix and Hulu series at once, so why not read multiple books as well?

There’s no specific limit on how many books you can read at once. However, keeping the plots and characters straight might be hard if you try to read more than four or five books concurrently. The books’ complexity and difficulty levels also contribute to how many you can read at once.

Reading more than one book at a time may present a challenge for some people. On the other hand, for serious literary fanatics and scholars, having a half dozen books or more open at once isn’t unusual. This article will further explain why some people read more than one book at a time and the benefits and disadvantages of doing so.

Why Some People Read More Than One Book Simultaneously

Unless your brain operates on a whole other level from most people’s, reading more than one book at the exact same time is pretty much impossible. Sure, anyone can have two books open in front of them and read one sentence from each. However, there’s no real reason to do that. What would be the point?

However, there are numerous reasons people start multiple books before finishing another.

Professional/Educational Reasons

College students, scholars, historians, and other professionals – including bloggers like myself! – often find themselves reading and researching from multiple books on a central topic.

Doing so allows them to study whatever they’re writing about extensively, getting different authors’ thoughts and opinions on the matter. This lets them write a more thorough and well-balanced article, blog post, research paper, etc., without plagiarizing.

Furthermore, if you want to learn how to do something, like start a garden, you may pick up a dozen different books on the subject and read them together to learn all you can about your new hobby.

Different Book Formats

Another reason people undertake multiple books at once is that they’re reading different formats of books.

For example, if you have a long commute, you may decide to start a lengthy audiobook to engage your mind during an otherwise dull trip. You likely won’t finish it in one go, especially if you’re only listening during your daily commutes to and from work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a Kindle ebook on your lunch break.

Furthermore, you may like to read before bed, but the blue LED light from your phone might keep you awake. Therefore, you may reach for a traditional paperback instead.

That’s just one example of why a person may dive into three different books on the same day.

Large TBR Pile

Some people just love to read (guilty!). For true literary aficionados, reading one book just might not be an option. After all, whenever a new and exciting book comes out, we feel like we have to add it to our TBR (‘to be read’) pile or our Goodreads ‘Want to Read’ shelf.

When your TBR and ‘Want to Read’ lists keep growing, getting them down to a manageable level without reading multiple books at once is hard.

Reading multiple books for pleasure also allows people to experience different genres for different moods. For example, some horror fans don’t like reading horror right before sleep. Therefore, they may devour Stephen King all day but swap over to Tolkien’s beautiful fantasy worlds before bed.

The Benefits of Reading Multiple Books

Now that we know why people read multiple books, let’s look at a few of the advantages of doing so. Obviously, it helps you get through your massive TBR pile faster, but that’s not the only benefit.

It Keeps Reading Interesting

If you’re a student or a professional whose job requires reading multiple heavy tomes, reading numerous books at once can help keep you from burning out on reading.

That sounds contradictory, right? It seems like more books would make you burn out faster. However, that’s not necessarily the case.

Imagine you have to read the following books for school or work:

  • Quantum Computation and Quantum Information
  • Causality: Models, Reasoning, and Inference
  • Gravitation
  • A Collection of Questions and Problems in Physics

Even if you’ve never heard of any of these books, you can probably tell from the titles that they might be challenging to get through. So why not come home and enjoy something easy and hilarious, like Good Omens, Sh*t My Dad Says, or What Would Skeletor Do?

Coming home to a lighthearted, easy-to-read, genuinely funny book can help make the tougher stuff easier to digest.

It Can Give You a Balanced View on Things

If you’re trying to get more information on a subject, reading multiple books at once can help you get the most – and most comprehensive – information possible. This is especially true if you’re trying to learn about non-fiction events in history or politics.

Want to tackle a complex issue like abortion from both sides of the spectrum? Pick up Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement Before Roe v. Wade and Liberty and Sexuality: The Right to Privacy and the Making of Roe v. Wade at the same time. They explain both pro-lifers’ and pro-choicers’ rationales.

If you’re searching for spiritual meaning, try The Bible, The Bhagavad Gita, and The Qur’an. Reading through different philosophies simultaneously allows you to compare and contrast them to see which one best fits your values and beliefs.

Other Benefits

Other benefits to reading multiple books include:

  • It allows you to enjoy a variety of genres at once.
  • It can help you find unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated books.
  • You can explore parallel themes and symbols.
  • Keeping track of multiple books can help strengthen your memory and brain function.
  • You’ll never be bored or run out of things to read.

The Disadvantages of Reading Multiple Books

There are no serious disadvantages to reading multiple books simultaneously as long as you can keep track of them. However, if you start too many and try to juggle them all, you may eventually lose track of the plots and characters or confuse them with plots and characters from other books you’re reading.

Just don’t try to overdo it. As long as you don’t stretch yourself past your ability to keep things balanced, you should be fine.

A few of the less severe disadvantages to reading multiple books at once include:

  • Reading dozens of books at one time can get expensive!
  • It may give you the reputation for being a bookworm or even a – GASP – nerd! (Don’t worry about it if it does; nerds are cool.)
  • There’s an increased risk of papercuts.

Finally, you may leave one or two of your books behind if you read several at once. After all, if you’re reading five books simultaneously and three of them are really good, you might put off coming back to the two that aren’t so good. If you keep putting off returning to them for too long, you’ll eventually forget about them and have to start them all over again.

Final Thoughts

You can read one book at a time or multiple books simultaneously. Read at your own pace, in your own style, however you like to do it. That’s the beauty of reading; as long as you’re doing it, no one can tell you that you’re doing it wrong.

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