Multitasking: Two Books at Once

We were recently at the lake and I was in the middle of Ian McEwan’s Atonement and I decided that it really was not lake appropriate reading and…I abandoned it.


Temporarily. I had every intention of getting back to it even though I wasn’t totally feeling it.

So now I’m reading two books at once. This is not something that I ever do. But in this case, if I hadn’t gone back to Atonement now, I would never be able to cross it off my list. And I live to cross books off my TBR list.

I never read two books at once because I find that my focus can’t be on two stories at one time. Obviously I am not reading one page of Atonement and then one page of Valley of the Dolls and so forth (that would be insane) but it does take me a minute to catch myself back up to where I left off every time.

I don’t think I like reading two books at once.

In this particular case, I don’t have a real love for Atonement (I’m at the part where Robbie is in France – does it get better? I despise Briony) but I’m really loving Valley of the Dolls (what is with my smut reading lately?) so I find that I have to force myself to read Atonement before bed. When I finally do start reading it, it takes me a minute to realize I’m not in New York in 1946 following the ascent of Anne, Neely and Jennifer. That I’m actually following Robbie Turner in France during the war as he tries to pick up the pieces of his shattered life.

Damn that nosy, superior little Briony.

Full disclosure: I totally watched the movie before I read the book. I don’t recall loving Briony on screen either, but of course that is the point. There is just something more personal about reading a book with a character that you dislike. You spend more time with them. You are more involved. And if Briony was my sister, I probably would have ended her life.*

I suspect that having watched the movie first has coloured my reading experience. I try really hard never to read the book after the fact. You always compare. It’s one thing to be smug about how the movie just doesn’t live up to the book but it’s quite another to be the one that can’t enjoy the book because the movie was great.

What do you think? Do you ever read two books at once? Does this elevate or bring down your reading experience? Is it because I watched the movie first?

*Please note, no sisters were harmed in the reading of this book.


10 thoughts on “Multitasking: Two Books at Once

  1. Ousted to read two books at once at all times when I was in high school. I prefer not to now. The only time I do is if I’m reviewing a nonfiction book…and that’s because it’s easier to keep nonfiction and fiction straight in my head and sometimes I can only take so much nonfiction and need the fiction as a break. But even then, splitting time between two books makes them seem to last longer, not in a good way.

  2. No, I don’t read two books at once. I’ve never thought about it, but instinctively I don’t do this. I think what naturally happens if I start to do this is that I enjoy one more than the other and want to read it more and therefore finish it first. The one I am not enjoying so much gets totally neglected.

    • I definitely agree with you there! I still haven’t finished Atonement but I have happily finished Valley of the Dolls, and devoured 2 more since!

      I know a few people that have no trouble reading more than one book at a time, but clearly we are not those people!

      • Valley of the Dolls was great! It was so funny and different and *alive*. I didn’t like Atonement. It was one of those that I skipped to the end of, like We Need To Talk About Kevin. I know these books have received lots of praise and admiration. But I didn’t *enjoy* the experience of reading them. They made me feel uncomfortable. Which I suppose takes a skill to make them evoke such a reaction, but it didn’t make me think “must read”.

      • Ooooh We Need To Talk About Kevin is a difficult read! I think I liked it but I was mostly really terrified and saddened by it. Lionel Shriver is good at doing that.

        I really loved Valley of the Dolls – I was surprised that it wasn’t just sex and drugs which is totally what I was expecting.

      • Was a long time ago when I read Valley but I remember being surprised at the beginning with how sweet and innocent the girl moving from small town to New York was. And it tackled quite sensationalist issues but always in a sensitive way (making this sound much less fun than it actually is).

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