1 May 2018 Susannah

Are you a Promiscuous Reader?

reading books

Are you a promiscuous reader? Do you double-date, or even triple-date, with books? Or are you strictly a one-book-at-a-time reader?

If you only ever have one book on the go, it does perhaps allow you to focus more intensely on that book – all your imaginative journeying is to the same place and with the same characters. However, I am a great advocate of more promiscuous reading. I am certain that having more than one book on the go at a time allows you to read more. There is always something you are in the mood for and you have far more flexibility. You can move happily from a serious work of literary criticism during the day, to an easy-to-read murder mystery at night, to an audio book on car trips. If you are feeling down, you can move to a comfort read, or if you suddenly get the urge to learn more about an era of history, you can satisfy that urge without feeling that you ought to be finishing the book you began on Monday.

listen on an ipodWhen younger I felt that I had to finish one book before starting on another. It has been liberating to ditch that view and move happily amongst a variety of books. There’s never a problem forgetting narrative or characters – I seem to switch into a book as easily when I have several books on the go, as when I had only one. Split focus has never proved a problem. These days I usually have four at a time – something serious and academic (non-fiction), a lighter read (fiction), an audio book on CDs that lives in the car and is just for when I drive, and an audio book on my Ipod which can be listened to in the kitchen or when I’m out walking.

How you do feel about multiple books on the go at once? How many is the right number for you? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

  Susannah Fullerton: The thing about audio books

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Comments (18)

  1. Brian Doyle

    Kessler I’m sure you would love he’s such a brilliant writer and met everyone of note during his lifetime,and Pepys by Claire Tomalin is also a big favourite. Today a copy of Edith Wharton’s letters that I managed to find dropped into my letterbox,always a thrill when you open the letterbox and there are books waiting instead of bills,bills for books I’m more than happy to receive however.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I have and love Claire Tomalin’s Pepys, but thanks for telling me about Kessler.
      I agree thst money spent on books is just a necessity of life, like food and shelter, so one can never complain about the bills.

  2. Brian Doyle

    Have just finished two volumes of Harry Kessler’s diaries which are considered to be as brilliant as Pepys and I agree, today I’m starting Tchaikovsky’s 3000 letters whilst listening to the music he’s writing about and tonight watch the ballets, I do love a concept read don’t you Susannah

    • Susannah Fullerton

      My first instinct is to say that nobody could be as brilliant as my beloved Pepys, but then I have not read Kessler so must not say that. That is quite a project you have taken on, but what a fascinating one!

  3. Malvina

    I often have about four books on the go: a non fiction (or two!) which I dip in and out of, an audio book for walking and the car, a fiction book and also a Dickens. Always rereading a Dickens; I read the monthly instalments over a week.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      You are a true Dickensian. I suspect Dickens would also have been a promiscuous reader, don’t you. He was so restless that he probably had about a dozen books on the go at any time.

  4. Steve

    Never less than 4 sometimes I’ll read till 4 in the morning currently I have 5

    • Susannah Fullerton

      You are an even more promiscuous reader than I am! Keep having fun!

  5. Helen Gentle

    I am a reasonably new convert to promiscuous reading, Susannah. I have books on Kindle, others on my phone, small books for fitting in a small handbag, larger books for home consumption. I choose lighter books when lying in bed, e-books when my eyes aren’t tired. I have about 3 spread around the house, next to good reading spots, to allow me to read in the sun, beside a view, while waiting for the cooking to finish, out in the garden.
    One can never be without a book to read!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      You are a kindred spirit. There must always be a book somewhere very close to hand, and also for the right time and mood.

  6. Philip Holberton

    I usually have a novel on the bedside table, particularly to read before I get up in the morning, and a non-fiction book in the living room for during the day.

  7. Harriet Cartwright

    I have to confess I am a promiscuous reader for many reasons. Some times I find a book very moving or distressing and I need a little break from the intense emotions it brings out, some times I need to do a bit of research to enable me to appreciate or understand the book and sometimes I am not in the mood for serious subjects, am busy with family and friends or I just can’t concentrate so I will usually have something lighter on the go as well. Whatever I always have to make time to read.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, we need to mix heavy and light, tragic and happy, serious and comic, in our reading, and that is what promiscuous reading lets us do. A friend is reading EF Benson’s Lucia novels and says she has to stop sometimes and read something else as Lucia is so over the top, she just needs a break from her.

  8. Brian Doyle

    Yes I’m quite the Trollope when it comes to multiple books, letters and diaries are particularly good to mix with biographies of the writers as they illuminate the characters so brilliantly, I just wish I had eyes in the back of my head

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Letters and diaries are perfect for ‘dipping’ reading – you can just read a page or two and stop without feeling you are losing the plot or not getting into the story enough. Pepys is usually close to my bedside so that I can read a diary extract and for 10 wonderful minutes be in Restoration London.

  9. Ros

    I’m not only promiscuous which is an elegant sounding word, but almost sluttish in my number of half read books lying around!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Sluttish sounds much more dodgy, but I do know exactly what you mean!

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