I read about 6 books at a time. There are two main reasons for this. First, I like to be continually engaged in a few different genres at a time, so I’m always reading fiction, nonfiction, and a book on teaching and how I can become a better teacher. Second, I read in several different formats, including digital and print text, and audio. I always have an audiobook going in my car, and sometimes I have a second car audiobook that I listen to with my husband on long trips. While I put on makeup, do chores, and shop, I listen to “Playaways” from the library, which are mp3 audiobooks loaded onto an iphone-size device with 8 buttons and a spot for your earphones to plug in. And I have a Kindle, where I read classic fiction books that I downloaded for free. All of these nontraditional formats are in addition to normal print books.
So here’s my accounting for the 6 books I have going at any given time:
1. fiction (traditional print book)
2. nonfiction (traditional print book)
3. book on teaching (traditional print book)
4. classic lit on Kindle
5. Playaway or portable audiobook
6. recorded book on CD for my car
If you want to check what I’ve been reading lately when you read the blog, I’ve got that box in the right-hand corner from Goodreads. The books listed in the box are the ones I’m reading currently, and there’s exactly enough space for six books. It’s like a coming attractions marquee for the books that I’ll be reviewing soon, I guess.
I don’t really give these 6 books equal time. The time the audiobooks get is determined by the amount of time I spend in my car or exercising and running errands. I might only read about a chapter a day on the Kindle book. I only read the book on teaching if I have free time at school. The fiction and nonfiction depend on which I’m enjoying more and which is due to the library sooner. The audiobooks I listen to are generally fiction, mostly because that is the genre I find the most often in audio format at the library.
There are disadvantages to reading so many books at a time. Whenever I switch between narratives, I have to take a moment to remind myself what was happening in the text. Changing gears so frequently probably has a negative impact on the detail and depth of my memories of the narratives.Today my students read this article about how brain research shows that media multitasking inhibits learning. The main purpose of this assignment is to make them think critically about their study habits, and to justify myself when I tell them to put their phones away in class. So, if I were to really practice what I preach, I’d focus on one book at a time. But, like a true millenial, I’m not willing to sacrifice constant engagement (and the sheer amount of reading it allows) for not being distracted. If I had my way, I’d have one book that would follow me from car speakers to earbuds to print, transitioning format effortlessly and without making me search for the place I left off. I would finish books a lot more quickly, and might read more deeply and forget less. But that technology is not there yet, as far as I know, and if it is, it is probably not available for free from the public library, and probably not compatible with my car’s dashboard.
How do I decide what to read? I get recommendations from friends, online and off. When I like an author, I try to read more of their work. I finish series I like. Sometimes I take recommendations from Amazon or Goodreads. I chose the classic books I downloaded to my Kindle by looking for books I had not read from the BBC’s list of 100 greatest books of all time (I started at 42 3 years ago, and now I’m at 57, working on 58). I have a running list of books to read and keep track of it as my Amazon wish list, more because it’s convenient and impossible to lose than because I’m actually going to put them in my Amazon cart and buy them. My choices for audiobooks (CDs and portables) and fiction books generally come from the same list of fiction books that I want to read.
What kinds of books do I like? I like romance, but not formulaic Harlequin stuff. I like young adult lit, but I also like an intellectually challenging book. I like fantasy and historical fiction because they make me feel like I’m in another world, and one of my main purposes for reading is as an escape. I like female protagonists and books that have something to say about a woman’s experience in the world. I like books that engage in literature and its ongoing conversation about itself, with itself. I like adventure and magic.