Worse Than Two-timing

Books / Friday, November 28th, 2014

I recently found myself in a situation where I was reading not one, not two, not three but four (4!!) books all at the same time. I recall once, years ago, telling off a friend who was doing a similar thing, and marveling at how they could possibly be getting anything good out of it and how they got themselves into that situation in the first place. Fast-forward a few years later, here I am in the same position.

One was a Mark Twain I started earlier on in the year, mostly to avoid eye contact on public transport. I had to sacrifice that for study material (yes, the perpetual student) but I’d tuck in every now and then.

Then one of my all-time favourite authors, Haruki Murakami, released his new book and was coming to London for a bunch of book-signings in August so I bought a copy to get it signed and, of course, couldn’t keep out of it. I am not a fast reader so I couldn’t finish it before I had to go back to study text.

Another was for a literary project that I had to get through and give feedback on.

Finished my final paper for this year end of September and was going to finish off Murakami when I heard about this book by Atul Gawande that I knew I just had to read as it seemed to be addressing stuff that I had been thinking of a lot lately.

So there I was. On the bus with one. Monday evening with another. Sunday afternoon with another, and so on. Two fiction, two non-fiction. All good books but I must say I felt a cheat.

I found myself making unfair comparisons. One began to feel trite and shallow at times, for its humour, after a session of ‘life and death’ or still, pensive moments from another. Another a bit of a chore because I just wanted to get back to some other one. I never mixed up stories or subjects but I did tend to lose the train of thought, especially if it had been like two days since revisiting that book.

Like most people, life gives you a lot to juggle. This sort of publication pylon makes you feel like there’s that much more on your list of pending or unfinished business. I also noticed that this method of reading, even with good books, makes them all drag on so.

I have now finished them all and I can categorically tell you that I do not recommend this sort of putting oneself about. Not one bit. If you must, do not exceed going with two at a time. It’s easier to separate them; morning and evening. Journeys and bedtime. You get the gist. But abstinence of this multiplicity is the best. Now that I am done, I feel much better. More honest and clear-headed.

I am now going on to my next book with strict monogamy. I do however wish I could speed-read like a demon because I now have this strange hunger to read EVERYTHING. NOW. I am at once afraid and excited at my ‘to read’ list. I guess part of it is knowing that I will soon have very little time to read it is scary to think that I will lose (to a less-than-agreeable degree) this pleasure and freedom.

I just wrote a review for one of the novels on iBooks, which I will post next. I will try and share some thoughts on the others soon.

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