Saturday, April 3, 2010

Confessions of a chunk reader

My "currently reading" pile includes:
  • one ARC from the bookstore
  • one book to review
  • one book borrowed from a friend
  • two library books, both by authors I'll hear at the New England SCBWI conference next month (one started before my Passover trip but not brought with me, the other started on the trip)
I was a strict one-book-at-a-time reader as a kid, but now that my reading has lots of practical purposes attached, this kind of pile is typical. Yes, enjoyment is virtually always one of the purposes, but so is reviewing, so is recommending books to customers, so is keeping up on the genres in which I write, so is returning library books on time, etc., etc. By reading lots of books at once, I make sure none of these purposes falls by the wayside. I also make sure I always have a book in the pile to suit my needs when I go out; if I'm going to be walking around a lot, I choose a book that's easy to carry, and if I know I'll have lots of time to read, I choose one I'm far from finishing.

I prioritize, of course, at least when I'm at home and have access to the whole stack. If a book has no deadline, I might read 20 pages at a time. I'm reading 100 pages at a time in the book I'm reviewing for promptness' sake, and I just upped the chunk size for the borrowed book from 30 to 40 pages because hey, it's Catching Fire.

In fact, I've even cheated by a page or two at Catching Fire, which is something I rarely let myself do. I question my oh-so-scientific reading system every once in a while, and CF is making me revisit those questions. My system does mean that I have to abandon books as I'm getting into them, though when I like some books in the stack better than others, it distributes the favorites nicely. Reading so many books at once also means I take quite a while to finish anything. It's not that a 100-page early chapter book takes me a week to read, it's just that I have to read 200 pages of other material between the first half and the second half...

I don't know if I'll change anything. Just musing. Are all your reading lives this complicated, or am I just weird?


  1. I read my books one at a time. I'd get all mixed up as to what plot point was from which book otherwise. I complicate things by way of which book I'll read next. Sometimes there's something I'm looking forward to, but sometimes I go with a book of a similar tone if I'm still feeling the mood of the book I've just finished. And sometimes it has to be completely opposite in tone because the book I just finished was intense and my brain needs a breather.

  2. I tried commenting on this before, but I think my remarks were swallowed up by the mysterious binary beast.

    I wonder if this method is fair to the books you are reviewing--can you get a true sense of the pacing of a book if you have pre-determined chunks planned out ahead of time?

    Also, I'm not sure it's good for your brain :P

  3. You may very well be right. Occasionally I'll find myself wondering why a book spent forever on something, only to realize it's just seemed like forever because it's taken so many installments. That only seems to happen on books I read in *really* short chunks, though, which generally isn't the case with books I review.

    I've altered my system a little this past week or so: if a book is a) a high priority or b) a quick read, I read half of it at a time. I think I may like it this way.

  4. I am extremely impressed that you can do this. I often have trouble putting a book down just so I can go to bed on time or leave for work. This is not something I'm proud of.

  5. Oh, you *should* be proud of it! And believe me, I have those moments, too.