What It Takes to Read 3 Books At The Same Time

Get more reading done and retain what you read

Anangsha Alammyan
Jun 30, 2020 · 7 min read

“How many books have you read this year?” a friend asked me a few days back.

“Um, not many,” I said, trying to remember the exact number. “I think I must have completed 37 till now.”

My friend’s jaw hung open. “37 books in 25 weeks? That means almost a book and a half each week! How did you manage that?”

I smiled, pondering over his question. While it was true that the statistics did seem to suggest that I read a book and a half each week, but this never seemed like an effort to me. After some deliberation, I told him, “I think it’s because I read three books at the same time.”

This shocked him even more, and he wanted to know how I did it. Just then, the bus I was waiting for arrived, and I had to leave. I promised him I would let him know soon and we bade each other goodbye.

My friend’s question made me realise something: if you want to get more reading done, reading more than one book at the same time can be a huge help. But the sad part is — not many readers know how to do this without losing interest mid-way or burning out.

Here is the good news: it doesn’t take any superpowers to change it. In this article, I am sharing all my secrets about how I read three books at the same time. You can follow these to broaden your reading horizon and get more reading done in less time.

1. Read Books in Three Different Formats

I have found that it gets easier for me to concentrate on the contents of the book if I read all three of them in three different formats. One would be a paperback where I would underline, highlight, and fill with page markers of vivid colours.

The second would be on my e-reader and I would store my highlights directly on Goodreads (When you log in to your Kindle with the same email account you use for Goodreads, both accounts get synced and anything you highlight automatically gets stored in the “My Quotes” section on your Goodreads profile).

And the third would be an audiobook. If you are one of those readers who think audiobooks are not for them, I have written an article about how to get the most out of an audiobook that you might find useful.

When you read three books in different formats, your brain connects the form to the part in the story where you last left it. This helps you remember the story better and connect more actively to the plot.

Designated time and space

Since it is not convenient to carry a paperback with you wherever you go, it is important to keep aside a designated spot for them in your routine.

You can allot a specific time of the day as your “reading time” when all you would do is read. Having a ‘reading nook’ inside your home can help you achieve this better. I have a space next to the bookshelf that I use only for reading. I’ve placed a comfortable beanbag and fairy lights in that cosy nook. Whenever I settle in there, my brain knows it’s time for reading and automatically shuts all distractions down.

Part of your travel, mornings, and nights

Ebooks can be the ideal travel partner. You can carry thousands of books on your e-reader and read them on the go.

Apart from that, I usually keep my Kindle on my bedside table. If you are like me, you probably have a habit of scrolling through your phone for several minutes before sleeping at night and after waking up in the morning. To get rid of this habit, you can devote that time to reading on your e-reader.

Keep your phone away and read a few pages on your Kindle each night before you sleep. Yes, you can do it with a paperback too, but then you would have to get up again to turn off the light. Since most e-readers have a backlit screen, reading in the darkness wouldn’t be much of a problem, and when you feel drowsy, you can turn over and sleep. In the same way, when you wake up in the morning and your hand reaches automatically for your phone, exercise some self-control and pick up your e-reader instead.

Reading before you sleep might even make you dream about the story when you’re asleep. Trust me, if that happens, the happiest sensation in the world would be to dive right in immediately after you wake up. This is the simplest and the most effective way to make reading a part of your morning and bed-time routines.

Listen to audiobooks while working

When you are doing a chore that does not require you to pay one hundred per cent of your attention, you can fill your silences with audiobooks.

As for me, I live alone and do most of my cooking and cleaning on my own. While at these tasks, I always have a speaker nearby (or my earphones plugged in) and an audiobook playing at full volume.

Reading (or rather, listening) to an author’s words, while you are engaged in doing something you don’t particularly enjoy, is a wonderful way to increase your productivity.

2. Pick Different Genres

When you select the three books you want to read, make sure they are from different genres. If that’s not possible, pick books that talk about different topics. Otherwise, if the books are similar, you might get confused and end up mixing the storylines.

Usually, the paperbacks I read are mostly literary fiction. I love collecting beautiful sentences, highlighting them, and then leafing through the pages later to read those gems again.

On my e-reader, there is a self-help book (or any other non-fiction). Highlighting the quotes from such books helps me access them from Goodreads later. They especially come in handy while writing articles on Medium.

Since audiobooks are harder to stick to, I choose psychological thrillers or murder mysteries. These books flow like butter and leave you no option other than listening to every word, fearful that you might miss some clues towards the final reveal.

3. Have A Book With You At All Times

Trust me, this gets a lot easier when you’re reading three books at once. Because no matter where you go, you will always have your phone with you. Whenever you can snatch some time off, you can plug in your earphones and get back to the audiobook.

Or, if you have a longer break, you can whip our your e-reader and catch up on some reading of the eBook.

In the worst-case scenario, if you forgot both your earphones and your e-reader, you can read an eBook on your phone too. The Amazon Kindle app syncs up your reading whenever your devices are connected to the internet. So, you can pick up from the same place where you left on your e-reader and not miss a word.

You might argue reading on a phone can damage your eyes, but, do you know what else damages the eyes? Scrolling through social media!

Final Thoughts

If you are starting out, reading three books at the same time might feel a bit overwhelming. But, with time and patience, you can get used to this. Here are the steps I follow, summarised in three simple points:

  1. Read books in different formats: a physical book, an eBook and an audiobook.
  2. Choose books of three different genres, speaking about different topics so you don’t mix their contents up.
  3. Have a book with you wherever you go. You can always read on your phone or listen to an audiobook if you forgot to carry a physical book.

As a bonus point, I would suggest you to keep collecting quotes and passages you enjoy as you read. This is more difficult for audiobooks because you would have to remember a few keywords, search for them on Google, and then highlight them on Goodreads. But, the more time you spend on a passage, the more actively engaged you will be in the book, and the better you would remember it.

Hope you found my tips useful. If you follow any other techniques to get more reading done, please let me know.

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