Jul 172013
Reading books one course at a time or sampling a smorgasbord?

My daughter and I frequently discuss books we’re reading. We rarely read the same books. Sometimes our tastes converge, particularly on books about writing. More often, they take different paths. But we have one thing in common. We usually have several books on the go at once. My daughter referred to it as literary attention deficit disorder.

I liken it to a smorgasbord, which tempts you to sample a little of all the feast at the same time, rather than finishing one course at a time. I love the feeling of wealth a stack of previously unread books gives me, but it can also make me uncertain of where to start. I solve that by starting in several places.

Several books in progress means I’m unlikely to get bored. I can match a particular day’s reading to my mood. But it also means I carry around an unfinished feeling. It can sometimes be difficult to balance the books and keep things straight.

It is easier to keep things straight when some of the books are non-fiction or short story collections. Being in the middle of too many long fiction stories can lead to confusion. You may have trouble re-orienting yourself when you get back to a book, and you may mix up story lines. Harry Potter enters another world through the back of a wardrobe and floats on a raft down the Mississippi River to Hogwarts School, where he helps a man, who wears a tweed cap and smokes a pipe, solve crimes.

There are times in my life when I read only one book at a time. And there are times, like now, when I am in the middle of seven. I usually manage to sort out any confusion and eventually finish them all.

What about you? How many books are you reading?

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