How to Read Multiple Books at the Same Time

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Many a dedicated bibliophile want to know how to read multiple books at the same time, and it’s easy to see why!

Whether it be the need to tamper your TBR stack, avoid boredom when books get slow, or even to manage required reading with pleasure reading, learning this skill can and does come in handy.

The key to success when reading multiple books at once is simple: separation.

What challenges most readers who attempt polyreading for the first time? Confusion. Confusion between storylines and characters. Confusion with what happened when and by whom. Before you know it, you’re hardly sure which way is up!

It’s true that reading multiple books at the same time isn’t for everyone. And that’s okay! But if you want to try it for yourself then I hope you’ll find this post helpful.

Without further ado, here are a few tips for reading multiple books at once. Become the quintessential poly-reader!

Up Next: How to Read More Books | 11 Simple tricks I use to read 100+ books a year

Create Separation by Reading Different Genres

If you try reading two similar books at once, you’re going to get confused. That’s just facts. Don’t try to read one mystery/thriller with a female detective lead and another psychological thriller with a female protagonist. It’s not going to work.

You will absolutely, without a doubt, confuse the two storylines.

Instead, think carefully about which books you choose to read in tandem. Use it as an opportunity to have different reading experiences and different moods whenever you pick up something to read.

For example, at the time of this posting I am reading:

  • One modern mystery/thriller with a psychological edge
  • One American classic set in the Salinas Valley (hello, Steinbeck)
  • One children’s fantasy/historical fiction

Read in Multiple Formats

Maybe you think we polyreaders only peruse paperbacks, surrounded by endless half-completed stacks, bookmarks tucked at ease in every available free space. That, my friend, is a farce.

It is more likely that if you ask a polyreader how they’re reading, they’ll give you more than one answer.

  • Audiobooks
  • E-books
  • Paperbacks
  • Hardcovers

All these formats are yet another way to create degrees of separation between the books you read. Different tactile experiences can help your mind separate which story belongs where.

Maybe your audiobook is a cozy classic that keeps you company on your morning commute, while you’re doing dishes, or tidying up in the evenings. Perhaps your mystery/thriller is a comfortable paperback, your fantasy a strong hardcover, your contemporary fiction at home in your favorite e-reader. Take advantage of all the different mediums we have to our advantage in which to enjoy great story.

Break Up Longer Books with Smaller Ones

This trick is a personal favorite of mine. Though I read a great number of books, I still fear those longer tomes. In fact, I know that any book over 500 pages is doomed to a much longer wait on my TBR stack than its more approachable opposition.

But I have to read those intimidating bigger books eventually, right?

One way I break up big books is by first setting goal markers at ‘x’ intervals, usually by a number of pages that splits the book in two or three parts.

Then I set aside of stack of much smaller books, usually shorter than average at around 300 pages or less.

Whenever I reach the goal marker for each section of the long book, I stop. I put that book down for a little while and pick up one of my smaller reads instead.

This strategy helps me tackle intimidating tomes without getting burned out on what are usually more epic, if also more exhausting, stories. Plus, it keeps my TBR stack shrinking as I quickly check off smaller books. The perfect motivator!

Read Different Books at Different Times of Day

A while back, I made a post with tips and tricks on how to read more books. In the comments section of that article, Chauncey Rogers, a talented author and friend, added his own tip. A tip so helpful I think it applies here as well. Here’s what he had to say:

“I keep a nightstand book. It’s not something I read anywhere else–just when I’m in bed, usually waiting for my wife to finish brushing her teeth or taking off her makeup. It’s usually something nonfiction. For example, right now it’s “The Making of Jurassic Park.” That way I can read a page or two, and then close it without feeling like a plot point needs to be wrapped up before I can sleep.”

Needless to say, I loved this idea and tried it out myself earlier in the year with a wildlife-themed miscellany titled The Bedside Book of Beasts. It was immensely enjoyable to have a book designed with bedtime in mind. You can be sure that these books will take much longer to read, but what’s your rush anyways? It would be no struggle to read a few lines of poetry every night, a short story perhaps, or maybe an excerpt from Grimm’s fairytales. Before the month was out you would have steadily and steathily read a book in small, perfect doses.

And who says it has to be bedtime? You could have a book for breakfast, for lunch, solely for your commute. It’s up to you! There are tons of ways to fit a unique read into your busy schedule.

Up Next: How to Read More Books | 11 Simple tricks I use to read 100+ books a year

I hope these tips will help you read more books at once, whatever your reason! If you found this post helpful, share it on social for your bookish friends 🙂

Til next time,


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Bex Skoog

Bex Skoog

Bex Skoog is the creator of the 'Out of the Bex' website, a guide to a more thoughtful life through books and simple living. If she had three wishes they would be for teacups to never empty, to possess an unending supply of classic films, and have access to the world's greatest libraries. Bex lives in Virginia outside of Washington D.C. with her husband and hundreds of stray books.

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2 thoughts on “How to Read Multiple Books at the Same Time”

  1. This is fantastic advice! I can keep school books separate from each other and my current pleasure reading, but I struggle with keeping my “free” books separate from each other. I especially loved the idea about picking books from different genres. Thanks for writing!

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