Literary Polygamy

April 20, 2010 at 12:00 am 21 comments

At the moment I am currently engaged in an act which I have previously cringed at and generally scorned. That is to say, I am reading more than one book concurrently. In the last week or so, I found myself in various stages of reading a biography of Oscar Wilde, a proto-feminist novel set in ancient Greece, Twilight, a book about how to make a movie from script to sound editing, some more Holmes, and, rather lackadaisically, some books to prep for graduate school about the British empire. Prior to this month, I’ve been a faithful reader of one book at a time. When I read a book, it received all my undivided attention. Now I’ve suddenly become a literary polygamist and I’m not entirely sure I approve!

On the one hand, there is something to be said for reading one book at a time. You are presumably more involved with it and are able to focus on it more thoroughly. Your read can become deeper and, rather than having half a dozen plots and characters whirring around in your mind, you have only the one book to ponder.

But on the other hand, is it really worth missing six other books you might have enjoyed whilst doggedly trudging through the one you’re currently reading? It seems painful to have to commit to read an entire drudgery while other interesting books beckon from the shelf.

Thus I find myself reading numerous books while still merrily checking more out of the library and it’s getting a bit much! I’m unused to this many books whizzing around in my life. Having shiny vampires intruding into ancient Sparta while tying The Sign of Four into notions of British orientalism and imperialism and at the same time fretting alternately about the egocentrism of being a film director and how Kathy Reichs’ books compare to “Bones” is all getting a bit twisted. I think I’m ready to settle down again after all this bookish hubbub.

So are you a literary polygamist or are you true to your book one and only? And is there a better or worse way to read?



Entry filed under: Musings and Essays. Tags: , , , , , , .

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21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Iris  |  April 20, 2010 at 12:41 am

    I don’t think there’s a better or worse way to read in general, although I do think everyone has personal preferences. I usually only read one or two “fun” reads at a time, but then I have to ombine them with reading several scholarly books for studies. So at first I wanted to say that I personally prefer to read one book at a time, but I guess that that is not entirely true.

    • 2. Corey  |  April 20, 2010 at 11:28 am

      Indeed, it does seem to be a personal preference situation. I had a similar moment where I thought I was 100% one book at a time, but then realized I wasn’t actually doing that. Thus this post!

  • 3. Eva  |  April 20, 2010 at 1:48 am

    I’m a firm reading relativist. ;) I’m also a happy literary polygamist! So many labels to gather, so little time…

    • 4. Corey  |  April 20, 2010 at 11:29 am

      *grin* So true!

      Everything about reading is pretty subjective, but I really like talking about it and thinking it through with other bookish sorts. I don’t get to have these conversations in real life very often!

  • 5. resonated  |  April 20, 2010 at 2:25 am

    I am most definitely a polygamist. It usually happens when I am reading one book and a shinier one comes along, but sometimes I lose the book I’m reading and start a second one until I find the first, or I think one book won’t last me through my commute and I read one that will.

    I don’t think there is a better way to read. I probably wouldn’t be as much of a reader if I were only allowed one book at a time – sometimes I come across something that I enjoy but it takes me a lot of time and effort to finish. If I couldn’t break it up with something else I probably wouldn’t finish it!

    • 6. resonated  |  April 20, 2010 at 2:26 am

      (This is Britney, by the way. I got a wordpress account last week and I’m still trying to figure out how to use it.)

      • 7. Corey  |  April 20, 2010 at 11:30 am

        Welcome to WordPress, amiga!

        And your description is almost exactly what happened to me this month. I kept trying to read this one book and then getting completely turned around by some other shiny tome.

  • 8. KT  |  April 20, 2010 at 6:40 am

    I am SUCH a polygamist, though ordinarily more of a bigamist. I’ll have one “serious” book and one “fun” book going at the same time, especially during our Classics Challenges. Granted, it was tough to make myself read Drood when I had The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms waiting for me, but usually this sort of thing works out pretty well.

    • 9. Corey  |  April 20, 2010 at 11:31 am

      Good call. Bigamy sounds much more doable than having a bunch of books floating around in various states of read!

      • 10. KT  |  April 20, 2010 at 7:38 pm

        I had four going at one point last week — never again. I’m not that talented.

      • 11. Corey  |  April 21, 2010 at 4:57 am

        Whoa, intense! Were they all fiction?

  • 12. Natalie  |  April 20, 2010 at 10:59 am

    As you said, Corey, I find it distracting to have the themes, characters, and plots of multiple books rattling about in my brain. And so, I am a literary monogamist. Of course, my list of books to read is extremely long and I’ll never get to all of them (much like my Netflix queue), but I’m ok with that.

    • 13. Corey  |  April 20, 2010 at 11:33 am

      Yeah, that’s one of the downsides of literary monogamy; the TBR list never seems to get shorter! I’m just settling down to one book again (giving Kathy Reichs a go), although I still haven’t finished this disappointing Oscar Wilde biography I’ve been working on for over a month, so I suppose I’m technically still reading that, too.

      • 14. KT  |  April 20, 2010 at 7:38 pm

        Sorry to butt in, but let me know how the Kathy Reichs goes!

      • 15. Corey  |  April 21, 2010 at 4:58 am

        I think I’ll post about it next week or so, but at the moment it is surprisingly scary and gory!

      • 16. Natalie  |  April 21, 2010 at 7:49 am

        As a devoted “Bones” fan, I’ve had Kathy Reichs on my list for a while now. Not sure I can handle scary and gory, though. I’ll look forward to your review!

      • 17. Corey  |  April 21, 2010 at 1:04 pm

        You’re a “Bones” fan? Excellent! I’m almost done with Deja Dead so I’ll try and post a review as soon as possible.

  • 18. silverseason  |  April 20, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    I am more of a bigamist than polygamist, that is, I like to have two books going at a time. They need to be different. Usually one is fiction and one is non fiction. I can’t read anything too exciting before bedtime, so one of them needs to be interesting , but not enough to raise the blood pressure.

    • 19. Corey  |  April 21, 2010 at 5:03 am

      That sounds like a good way to read. I can’t read at all before bed; I get too worked up and involved in the stories!

  • […] “poly-readers,” or people who read multiple books at once. LT took a look at this trend this past spring but check out NPR’s take on the whole issue. They have an interesting perspective, pointing […]

  • 21. ikram  |  December 18, 2010 at 4:31 am

    I think there is nothing wrong in doin so- the so-called literal polygamy. I have also indulged myself in the same and i feel it really increases that quest for more and more knowledge in yourself. Though the same may be opposite for others but apparently i feel great when in literal polygamy.


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