Before anything else, let’s clear this up right off the bat: polygamous reading means reading more than one book at a time, monogamous reading the strictly one-at-a-time traditional style. When I say better, I am mostly thinking of one thing: quantity. So what I am saying with this rather opinionated title is that polygamous reading lends itself to reading more books in general. This is not to say that every reader in this category of style is necessarily reading more than people who read one book at a time and then move on to the next and the next. It is rather to say that the style itself is more applicable to reading in greater quantities. Here is why.
When you pick up a book, a number of things can happen. You can for instance A) get immediately into the flow of the thing, feel like you’ve known the characters for years, settle nicely as if in your own home, or B) feel like you are thrown into a world and don’t understand what is going on, feel confused and frustrated and clueless. This is going to be hard work! Of course, these two are just examples of the many possible ways we can feel about a book upon those first few pages, but all the same starting a new book is always a bit of a fitting challenge and it takes a bit of wiggling into place to be all on board. Some books takes more than a little wiggling, a lot of wiggling or you just don’t really get comfortable at all. An example of this for me is one of the nonfiction titles I am reading at the moment, “The Matter of the Heart” (by Thomas Morris), that is having me constantly googling names of famous heart surgeons I don’t know, what the heart looks like, all the parts that make up its construction, how it moves, where it is connected to other parts of the body, what a pacemaker looks like, etc. It’s not a flow-type kind of reading experience, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a bad one.
I’ve come to think that one of the problems with only reading one at a time is when you come up with that sort of book, that doesn’t let you settle in for the first fifty pages or maybe ever through its entire page length. What do you do when the one book you’re reading ends up being that kind of slogging, interesting and enriching but tough work moving uphill kind of a deal? Well, most likely you read slower. Which obviously means, you read less. For a polygamous reader facing this kind of a challenge, you have the option of picking up another book alongside the slog. Something completely different, something fun and thrilling and fast paced maybe. In which case you could decide in what hours of the day you have the power to read the challenge, and when you’d rather dive in headlong to a story and lose yourself in another world. Reading more books than one at the same time allows you to read books for all moods, all situations whether it be short bursts of time in queues or on public transport, or settling down in a sofa with a hot beverage of choice and lots of uninterrupted reading time.
You can have book for each appropriate aspect of your life. Whatever your schedule and busy levels, you might end up reading more if you can adapt what kind of books you read depending on the situation, your concentration levels, your time frame, even adapting formats for convenience like paperbacks for traveling and audio-books for house chores. While the schedule aspect is important to many people, I find the concentration bit even more so. I have often found, for example, that I need something easy to digest right after studying. Later in the day when some hours have passed, I might be able to focus on more demanding reading again. All this is to say that were you to read just one book – it’s likely that one book would only be suitable/fitting in certain situations and levels of concentration, whereas reading multiple books more easily fits into your life as it is, and fills up more of those breaks with reading.
Another point that I want to make is the reason I wanted to write this today. What if you don’t let a sloggish book slow you down? What if you instead ramp up the pace? Just to get it over with, or to push through the slog. I have done this many times, and I can tell you more often than not it was not a good idea. Why? Well, first off it is much less enjoyable. You’re pushing yourself after all, it becomes more of a chore than enjoyment – which is really what reading is for most of us. It is easy to loose one’s concentration in forcing-situations, because your mind is not really in on the game. It requires more energy, is more tiring, and ultimately might not make you read more in the end. Part of the problem is that this kind of reading can lead you to not wanting to read at all. Not this book, nor any other book. It can also make the reading of this one book, that might actually be good and interesting otherwise, seem less rewarding of an experience just because you wanted to read it quicker than your mind was able to follow along. Maybe people don’t do this as much as I have in the past; but I don’t recommend it. There are better ways to enjoy reading, read more, and read deeper than this masochistic route.
The reason I was thinking about reading pace and styles, is because I have been reading monogamously for a few weeks now, for a change. It happened unconsciously, I was finishing up books on my nightstand pile and suddenly I was reading one at a time and it worked for a while, until I came up on the more challenging books on my tbr. Now I’m back to my senses and reading more than one book at a time (four in fact), and it works so much better for me.
There is a way monogamous reading might work well, and that is if you mainly read books that makes you feel comfortable, right off or soon thereafter. That is not to say you’re reading a certain genre, difficulty level, or quality. Rather, depending on what you are used to, what you have the best background to settle into, affects how long it takes you to fit into the world of the book. Maybe you are for instance, an expert in the field of heart surgery. When you read “The Matter of the Heart” as I mentioned above, you might not find it a struggle, challenge, or requiring frantic googling of valves and heart anatomy. Maybe you are an avid sci-fi reader, you might find it a piece of cake to imagine new worlds and technical structures whereas you might struggle through a multiple-narrative form in literary fiction. If you read the same kinds of books, within a certain genre or topic or even the same author, you are most likely finding it easier to “settle in” as I put it earlier. If most of your reading could be described as such, monogamous reading might be more suitable for you. However, if you happen to be like me – actively searching for challenges in my own reading and my own understanding, knowledge and comfort zone, constantly – you might want to consider reading multiple books at a time.
That all said, I know of readers who read one book at a time and are constantly trying out new things in their reading and seem to have no problem in adjusting themselves to all kinds of books and reading experiences. I also know of polygamous readers (myself included, at times) that end up reading less because of not finishing up all of the juggling books. That is what I meant by the style of the polygamous reader lending itself to reading more but it doesn’t necessarily equate to reading more. It’s all up to the individual reader, how the two different styles are used and adapted – maybe a bit of a mix, depending on time of seasons or even day of the week. What do you think about monogamy vs polygamy in reading? Any experiences similar to my own? I would love to hear about it.
Have a wonderful Friday!