Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Salon: How many books do you read at a time?

Sunday Salon
Note:  Apologies!  This wasn't supposed to post until tomorrow, but I scheduled it for 1/3/09 instead of 1/3/10.  Oops!  Sorry :-)

I have always been one of those people who only reads one book at a time.  I am always amazed by people who can read more than one and keep things straight in their heads.  That has never been me.

However, I ended 2009 and started off the new year biting off more than I could chew, and am currently in the midst of reading three books.  This is not going well.  I started reading Team of Rivals during Christmas, thinking it would be a great book to end the year with, nice and chunky.  However, I have only gotten about half-way through the book.  I also signed up to read Dead Souls with my friend in Minneapolis over the course of five weeks.  So I'm reading that one now as well.  And Zibilee and I agreed months ago to read The Bone People by Keri Hulme together because it is a very intimidating book.  So, er, today I delve into that one as well.

Team of Rivals
Seriously, how do you multi-tasking readers do it?!  I am feeling completely overwhelmed and have no idea what book I should be reading when.  I wanted to finish Team of Rivals first, but the more I read it, the more I know that to really enjoy it (which is one of my goals for 2010!) is that I must read it slowly.  Which means I probably won't finish it for quite some time.  I really enjoy the book and I'm loving learning more about my beloved Abraham Lincoln.  (I'm from Illinois.  We're very proud of him here.)  But the book is pretty dense, full of a lot of names that I would never have recognized 300 pages ago, and it's just not something I can read quickly.  So, I've resigned myself to the fact that I'll probably finish it in March some time...

Dead Souls isn't stressing me out (yet) because it's a pretty slow read we paced ourselves for and the book is fantastic.  Like, really pretty fantastic.  It flows really well, is easy to follow, and is absolutely hilarious.  I have noted down all sorts of quotes from there that have made me snort in an undignified way.  And others that I read and just think, "That's so true!"  Here are a few I'll share with you, just so you are not intimidated by dead Russian authors:
Dead SoulsIt is so much easier to describe characters larger than life: there you need only hurl the paints on to the canvas- gleaming black eyes, beetling eyebrows, a furrowed brow, a cloak, black or flame-red, thrown over the shoulder- and the portrait is complete; but as for that great multitude of gentlemen who are so similar in appearance, yet who on closer inspection show many highly elusive and distinctive features- these gentlemen are the devil of a job to portray. Here you must make a supreme effort of mind to bring into clear focus all these subtle, almost imperceptible features, and even eyes adept in the science of observation have to be strained to the utmost.
 Here Manilov, with a slight motion of his head, cast a very meaningful look at Chichikov, all his features and his pursed lips taking on an expression of such profundity as had perhaps never before been beheld on a human face, except perhaps for that of some excessively clever Minister of State, and even then at a moment of the utmost mental exertion.
Excellent stuff!  I'm really enjoying this book and I'm thrilled that I started this classics read-a-long with my friend.  However, as we're reading it over the course of five weeks, a review won't be going up until February.

The Bone People
And then there's The Bone People.  I am so excited to read this book with the amazing Zibilee because, to be quite frank, I'm not sure I could read it on my own.  I tried reading the book once before and put it down almost immediately.  I'm not sure if I remember correctly, but I feel that Hulme does not use quotation marks.  I am terrified by books that do not use quotation marks.  There, I said it.  I don't know why authors feel they are allowed to disregard textual clues as to when something is being spoken and when something is not, but apparently, Hulme thinks she is Above The Law with regards to proper punctuation.  And as I am a bit of a goody-two-shoes, people who so blatantly flaunt the rules everyone else follows worry me.

Robin Hood
Of course, now that I say that, I don't actually properly recall whether The Bone People uses quotation marks or not, so the above may be a completely unjustified tirade.  Because I have not yet opened the book.  Why is that?

Well, the BBC series Robin Hood has been made available on Netflix "watch instantly" recently, and I am completely addicted.  I initially started watching because I adore Richard Armitage (who is, I almost wept to find out, the villain in this series).  However, now I'm watching because the show is fabulous.  And I've been watching a lot.  I am almost through the first season now.  This disturbs me because there are two full other seasons to go and I show no signs of slowing down.

All this is really just my way of telling you all that I have absolutely no idea when my first book review for 2010 will go up.  I am reading.  A lot!  And I'm quite proud of the very meaty and difficult books I'm starting the year off with.  But at the same time, I have no idea when I'll actually finish any of these.  Hopefully at least The Bone People will be done within a week, but I have no real idea!  I do know that, going forward, I will definitely not be reading three books at once any more!  Two is my limit.

What about you?  What sort of book are you starting 2010 with?


  1. I sometimes read more than one at a time, but that usually happens only when I'm not to crazy about a book, so I start another, and then maybe I'm not crazy about it either, so I pick up a third, and try to switch back and forth so I stay awake and make progress! But if I am really enjoying a book, I'll stick with that one!

  2. I tend to read more than one at once, but make sure they are very different from each other. Sometimes I take on too many, though. I can't wait to read The Bone People.

  3. I made a similar mistake last month and ended up posting a half written post before it was ready to be posted. I ended up completely scraping it and starting over. I always wondered if anyone noticed. LOL

    I generally only read one book at a time. Sometimes I will juggle two. The times I've tried to read more than that haven't worked out. I think what makes it difficult for me to read multiple books at once is that I get so little time to read as it is. Plus, I tend to get so engrossed with a book that I don't want to set it aside to get back to another. It never fails that when I try to juggle more than one book at once, one of the books ends up getting neglected.

    I'm really curious about The Bone People and look forward to your thoughts on it when you finish it.

    My dad loves the Robin Hood series. I haven't seen it at all. I may have to give it a try through Netflix. Thanks for the heads up!

    If it makes you feel better, I haven't even started a book yet this new year. Pathetic, I know. I hope to change that today.

  4. I have one audio book and two print version books going right now, but usually it is just one audio book and one print book.

    I've heard good reports on The Bone People...enjoy

  5. I too have one audiobook going for when I'm driving or working out, and then I have one print book I read at home, and then I have a book on my iTouch Kindle, most often reading it at the gym and if I'm really into the book, I read it whenever I can, whether it's home or not. So, for most of the time I have three books going, but if one of them turns out to be really good and a "can't put down" type of book, I "find ways" to listen to or read it as often as I can. I like the choice of having three, so that if one is kind of dull or I'm not into it, I have the option to go with one of the others for a while. I admit, it took me a little while to get used to this method, I was a one book only type of reader too, but now I'm used to it and love it!

  6. We saw an episode of Robin Hood when were in England earlier this year and thought it looked really good so I was thrilled to find that our library had seasons 1 and 2 on DVD. We've watched both seasons (sometimes 3 or 4 episodes on a Friday or Saturday night!!) and can't wait for season three. We think it's a lot of fun to watch!

  7. I usually have a non-fiction (or three), an audio book and a fiction book going at the same time. I listen to the audio book in the morning while getting ready/eating breakfast and while I'm walking, I read the non-fiction during the day and the non-fiction before bed and during the day when I need a break. Like previous posters have said the books need to be different for me to be able to have them on the go at the same time.

    Currently my audio book is House of Mirth by Edith Wharton for the Classic Circuit, the non-fiction is the History of the Medieval World by Susan Wise Bauer (which is a Galley from the publisher) and the fiction is Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb. I'm enjoying all three books :)

  8. I normally have two books on the go at the same time, but I always get sucked more into one than the other and tend to finish that one. I am not very good at reading more than one at a time.

  9. I normally try and break up my non-fiction by reading other books at the same time. I'll commit to a chapter or two of the non and then reward myself with two to five chapters of a fiction book. This way I can't possibly get confused on a plot line! I also switch books more quickly that way I have no problems remembering where I was. I've recently been switching it up with a short story in between, which has been nice.

    I loved watching the Robin Hood series! I have to say, I was not pleased with the final season or the way the series ended. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that though. I actually was introduced to Richard Armitage through this series, and I loved his acting in this. Keep you eye on his character, he's more than he appears. And, that's all I'll say on that.

  10. Rhapsody- That makes sense to me, and if I were to read more than one book at a time, that's probably how I'd do it. Though now, I basically just drop the book I'm not interested in and try it again another day.

    Amanda- Yes, a lot of people seem to read books in different genres together. I'm about 20 pages into Bone People. It's good, but definitely hard to get the rhythm.

    Wendy- I never even thought about deleting and posting again! Next time...
    I think I am a book neglecter as well. Team of Rivals is probably feeling quite abandoned at the moment, but I hope to read at least a chapter or two tonight, after I get into the rhythm of Bone People.

    Diane- An audio and a print make sense together, I think. I like the new 2010 icon :-)

    Julie- That sounds like you've got a fail-proof system for yourself! I'm glad you found a way that is successful for you.

    Daphne- Yes, I think I could easily watch 3 or 4 episodes a day! Er, I'm pretty sure I already have. I'm pumped to get to season 2!

    Zee- Those books all sound excellent! I think reading books in different genres is key.

    Vivienne- I'm glad I'm not alone in my difficulties!

    Bitsy- Yes, I think that's the method I'm going to try, too. At least, I started that way with Team of Rivals, and now there's too much going on that I'm not sure what my system will be.
    I highly recommend seeing Armitage in North & South!

  11. For me it is a mood thing. Sometimes I only read one book at a time, but other times I read several.

  12. I am a one book at a time girl, too. I just can't focus on that many at one time. You can do it though! ! !

  13. I'll occasionally read two books at a time, but it's tough for me. It can work if I'm juggling one fiction/one nonfiction, or if one of the books is on my Kindle, but given my limited time for reading, I do best with one book at a time. Good luck with your multitasking :-)!

  14. I normally read from 3 to 7 books all at once-sometimes one book with really catch on for me and I will read it straight through-what I normally do is to sort of rank the books in reading priority-one book is the main book-when it is completed I advance the others etc-I try to read at least a page or two in each book a day-right now I am reading Jeanette Winterson's Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, Jean Rhys's Saragossa Sea, Naomi by Junichiro Tanizaki, and a work of history of 19th century Japan-when ever I finish one of my books I will add a new one to what I am reading-as a side benefit some times the books will illuminate each other-Naomi-from the 1920s in Japan is partially about the loss of cultural identity identity of a young woman to the culture of a dominate power (in the this case hollywood movies) Oranges are not the only fruit is about a young woman escape from the dominance of as religious culture and Saragosa Sea is about the effect of a dominant cutlure -English-on people of English Carib heritage-

  15. Earlier this year I had like 6 books going at the same time and that was too much for me. But I can usually handle 2 or 3 -- one small book to carry around with me, and then one or two going at home (usually big or hardcovers that I don't want to carry around). They're usually all different, so it's not too difficult keeping stuff straight and staying into them.

  16. *Giggles*
    I adore Armitage and loved all seasons of RH. Great show!!

  17. Oh Oh Oh!!! I am so THRILLED to see that you're reading The Bone People :D I read that one back in college and absolutely fell in love with it :) I hope you enjoy it Aarti :) And of course if you don't, there will be no hard feelings ;)

  18. I have to admit, the Sunday thing did confuse me. I read Sunday and thought - it IS Sat. isn't it? Then I saw the OOPS.

    I read a book once without quotation marks and it was very confusing!

    I looked "The Bone People" up on Amazon and it looks very interesting, and sad, disturbing. It got real mixed reviews! So I will be very interested to see what you will have to say about the book.

  19. I tend to have two books on the go most of the time. There is the one that I am carrying around on the train with me, and then the other one is the one I read at night before I go to sleep. They tend to be completely different genres and settings. Occasionally I will have more on the go, but generally it will only be two.

    As to Richard being the bad guy. It doesn't really matter. He looks so good in black leather! Did you see the trailer for the new series coming out this year? He looks good in army fatigues too.

  20. Anonymous1/02/2010

    I've got 5 books going right now, which is about 4 more than I prefer. It works for awhile, but once I hit the halfway point of a book, I'll usually focus on that one.

  21. I agree about Richard Armitage! (esp. in N&S) Well worth watching anything he is in ;)

    As for my first book(s) of the year, on my break this week I have begun eight! I'm now choosing which to focus on after reading the first 30 pgs of each. But I love having lots on the go at the same time.

  22. I can only read one book at a time otherwise I get confused, but maybe that is just my small brain not coping!
    Although, I tend to read books in one go. I wait till my son goes to sleep at around 7pm, cook dinner, then sit down with my book and read till I finish (which is usually around 1-2am). But this is for books up to 500pages, anything over that I do in 2 nights.
    So it isn't practical for me to read more than 1 book at a time.

  23. I'll watch Richard Armitage in anything, as anything. Hero, villain or underused extra.

    The best thing about RH for me was 3 seasons of Guy of Gisborne.

  24. I usually read more than one books at a time, up until one really grabs me, or gets into a very intense section.

    I usually keep an anthology or two in the (sorry about this) bathroom. I have one in the car for when I get stuck waiting. I'm currently reading two separate novels to classes at work (library) and I have my main book that I focus on - currently The Better Part of Darkness.

  25. I can only read one book at a time - I get too confused if I try to do multiple books.

    The Bone People is of my favorite books...although it is not an easy read. Reading this with other people would have been something I would have appreciated. Here is my review if you're interested.

  26. Hmm, I usually have several books going at one time, but I typically have one that I'm focusing on on any given day.

    I must have picked up and put down The Bone People at least 6 times in the past two years. I really really want to read it, but it scares me. Also, I have a thing about quotation marks too. (Although, like you, I'm not actually sure if TBP has them or not.) That's why I could never finish Blindness. Good luck! I will be inspired to try it if you found the work worth it!

  27. This was an interesting post. I too have one audio book in my car and one book by my bedside. I think I am going to pick up Ayn Rand "Atlas Shrugged" to read and listen to "A Short History of Myth."

  28. When I was a child, Saturday afternoons were spent visiting my grandparents. They weren't formal so I could take books, toys, anything to keep me amused. Sometimes I could have three books on the go. My Gran was always amazed that I could put down one book and pick another one straight up. And remember what the story had been.

    Bless her, my Gran didn't enjoy school and would take an entire day to read her morning newspaper ;)

    On a side note, I can remember where I am in books but other than that, I have no short term memory!

  29. Mmmm Richard Armitage. Brilliant in North & South. Mmm. :)


    Good luck with reading so many books at the same time - I find, when I do that, that it helps to read books that are SO DIFFERENT from each other that there's no way to get them mixed up (ie a fantasy book and a nonfiction, or a scary book with a feel good book).

  30. Yay for more people standing up for the Russians! hehe And I watched seasons one and two of Robin Hood SO fast, because I was in love. Then the season two finale made me so mad I refuse to watch season three. lol

  31. Hi! I just discovered your blog via the flashback challenge, but I've enjoyed your other content as well!

    I sometimes like to read more than one book at a time -- it helps to keep me engaged if the book I'm reading is slow going/hard to get through, and then I switch to something different and come back to it. Usually when I do that the other book is a quick read. Sometimes, though, I do end up neglecting one of the books (Anna Karenina has been sitting on my shelf half-read for months now, arg).

    Also -- thank's for posting about the Robin Hood series. I spent last week devouring Legend of the Seeker on netflix, and now that I'm done with that I need a new obsession, so I'm going to give Robin Hood a try!

  32. You know what I love about your approach to reading?
    You still have a sense of wonder. I can almost here you delight at open to the first page of a new novel. You truly enjoy reading and those of us who frequent here I think do so because get that.
    Thanks for sharing your passion with me.
    Warmest regards,

  33. The only way I can multitask is by making sure I don't read more than one novel at the same time. I can do novel and non-fic and novel and short stories, but two novels confuse me too :P

    I can't wait to see what you and Zibilee think of The Bone People! To be honest that book scares me a little bit too, even though Chris has been telling me to read it for literally years :P

  34. Hey Aarti!
    First off, I LOOOOOVED this post. LOVED. Like huge. Secondly, I am one of those multiple reader types, and I look at it like switching channels on a TV. But here's the thing, inevitably one book starts to really grab my buns more than the other and I end up going solo till I finish it. Right now I am reading Lion Among Men, Lament, Shiver and Wolf Hall. I have a feeling Wolf Hall will be the grab-your-buns type this go round.

    I hear you about the meaty books. I picked up Atlas Shrugged the other night thinking it was perfect to make a knick into the 3 challenges I have going (chunky, recommended, and clearing of shelves), but I just can't get into it. I've had it for 5 years so I'll keep trying till one day it takes.


    There is one book I have called The In Between World of Vikram Lull by M.G. Vassanji. Now I am a HUGE fan of this type of genre, but the lack of the quotes drove me bananas so I put it down and have yet to pick it up. The ONLY book that I have forgiven in this is The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I love it. I have sworn a solemn oath to love it forever till the day I die.

    ANYway, good lord this comment is looong. Sorry about that. But your post was so inspiring! :0)

  35. I have 3 on the go but one is for book club and I've already met this week's milestone. 2 are classics and one is women's fiction.

  36. The only time I have two books going at once is when one is an audio book and one is a written book. I'm like you - I just can't keep it all straight in my head. Good luck with your multi-tasking and have a Happy New Year!

  37. Hi! I have an award for you here: :)

  38. Aarti, I am amazed at the book juggling you are doing! I must say that I am in the middle of The Bone People and Dead Souls as well, but Dead Souls has taken a backseat for the last few days because The Bone People has me hooked. I find her writing intimidating in general, not only for her lack of quotation marks, but the story is very engrossing and almost gut-wrenching at times as well. It is a great read though. I am also finding Dead Souls hilarious and very modern feeling despite it's being written so long ago. I really admire you for tacking all these books at once, it will be a huge accomplishment when you finish them, I bet! And don't worry about slowing down with The Bone People, it can take as much time as we need. Very inspiring post!

  39. I don't usually read more than one piece of fiction at a time, but I do try to have one novel and one less involved nonfiction on the go at once. I carry the novel around with me as my primary book and read maybe a chapter or two per day of the nonfiction. I sometimes take quick breaks so I can whip on through shorter graphic novels, too.

    I'm sort of tempted to take breaks so I can read shorter novels right now, though, because I decided to start the year with DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, the second book in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. It's nearly a thousand pages long, and while I'm enjoying it I do sort of feel like I'm stagnating. I'm not used to reading the same story for this long!

    Oh, and I'm with you on the quotation marks. I can never quite manage to connect with books that don't use them. I know some non-English literary traditions shun them in favour of dashes, (ie, -I wish I knew what you were thinking, Bob said). but... yeah. I can't get behind that. It never feels like the characters are actually talking to one another.

  40. I am starting with Erin Hart's Haunted Ground. Going slow, but getting there! Great start to your 2010, btw!

  41. I love reading more than one book at a time. I prefer to have at least three going. I find if I do one at a time, then I'm not sure what to start next and I pick up and put down a bunch, then I get really grumpy. With multiple books I can read according to my mood. When I'm reading a really thick book, I get impatient to read other books, so multiple reading works well for that also.

    No flaunting the Rules of Punctuation!

  42. The only reason why I'm able to read multiple books at a time is because I'm still in school. Some of the textbooks and novels I read for classics just aren't up my alley, and I have to have my own selection to keep my sanity.

  43. I'm often reading five or six books at once. Sometimes I set aside a nonfiction book for a week or two and then pick it up and read 200 pages and then set it aside for a few more days. I just like having options, and I like choosing between a few things: nonfiction biography, nonfiction reference book (I read them cover to cover), a really old class, something newer.

    I just feel empty if I'm only reading one thing. What if I don't WANT to go read THE PILLOW BOOK right now? It's okay because I have three other books well underway...Chances are I'd like to read one of those.

    I did read a 700+ page book last year that I started January 1. I didn't finish until the middle of April. I'd stop at chapter points and it was okay. I learned a lot. I think if I'd read it faster I'd have missed the intricacies of detail that made it so wonderful (and it was wonderful).

  44. Yikes - I am rarely successful at reading more than one book at a time. Occasionally I can manage a fiction and a nonfiction, but usually I just want to finish the one I'm reading so much that I don't want to start another! Good luck with your three. =)

  45. I'm with you on the lack of quotation marks or other forms of punctuation in certain books. Why? It seems like an unnecessary technique to confuse the reader and make the writer seem somehow cooler or smarter because they are above such trivalities.

    I guess I'm a goody two shoes, too!


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