How to read multiple books at once and keep up

Megan Keane, Columnist

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I was recently asked how I keep track of the plots of all the books I’m reading—and I was dumbfounded. Upon declaring that I was reading four books at once—three for class and one for fun—my father was appalled. “How do you keep track of all that?” I think I responded: “With bookmarks.” Not a wholly satisfactory answer, I found.

Throughout my entire high school career, I was reading at least two books at once. One was for English, and the other, for personal gains. I never really thought twice about it because I’ve summed it up to keeping up with multiple plots of TV shows at the same time. Everybody does that, right?

Often times, I watch shows with my friends or family, but I have shows I watch by myself within the same time frame. Even when you’re engrossed in a show, when you start a new show, you don’t totally forget about the first show’s plot line. When you watch a new movie, you don’t completely disband the plot of your all-time favorites.

I’ll give you the lowdown if you’re still confused by this. (This one’s for you, dad.) While I leave Jane Eyre after she’s unknowingly met Mr. Rochester, I pick off where I left off with the prostitutes in Blow Your House Down by Pat Barker. When they hit the streets to do their thang, I can switch to another short story in a collection I was reading for my fiction class. Once that concludes, I can pick up with eerie Devon and the Belstars in You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott. And then I read one hundred pages about binge-drinking in Smashed by Koren Zailckas. Circle back to Jane Eyre. Repeat.

It’s not quite as satisfying as reading a whole book in one go—like how I wish I could binge watch the rest of Downton Abbey or Russian Doll, but that would be irresponsible of me. There’s not enough time in the day for that. The key, I’ve found, is being able to divide your attention, but in those moments when I’m reading each text, I am solely focussed on just those texts. Just for a shorter period of time.

The other key element is having set deadlines, of course.

If you have to read a certain amount of chapters of each text by a certain class date so that you can properly discuss them—well …that does a lot for motivation. Like everything else, it takes focus and attention. You have to indulge in moderation, which I’m not always great at. Sometimes, I read more of one book than the other, but that’s probably because there was a particularly gripping moment. It also helps to be interested in everything you’re reading. Sometimes, a book gets boring. It helps to have another one on hand to pick up.

Megan Keane is a senior English and psychology major. She can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].