There are definitely two types of readers:
- The committed reader who gives their heart away to only one book at a time.
- The wavering, indecisive reader who has a hundred books open at once, constantly moving between them.
I can see them now. The Book Monogamist sitting at a neat table, a freshly brewed cup of tea, hair and clothes neat, rose-scented candle burning, reading peacefully while Pines of Rome plays softly in the background. A single tasselled bookmark sitting next to the book. And then I see the Book Polygamists. I see them hunched over their desk, messy hair, still in their pyjamas despite the approaching lateness of the day, six mugs of varying ages of coffee, surrounded by piles of books, pages dog-eared and marked with receipts, teetering backwards and forwards while A Night on Bald Mountain heralds their impending suffocation under the pile, where they will lie until they are eaten by stray cats.
Okay, so I clearly have a slightly warped view of reading habits, and clearly admire the ability of those in the first category to devote themselves to the endeavour of conquering a single book at a time, but I absolutely do not fall into that category. I am in the other category. The messy, uncommitted category. I am an absolute book polygamist, and to be honest, I find my tendency to flit between different books as annoying as it is wonderful. And I sometimes find myself wondering if I should just buckle down and commit myself to one book at a time. I know my inability to do so stems from my utter and complete lack of anything resembling patience. Every time I pick up a new book (which is quite often) I must open it up immediately, with no regard for the book my heart was previously invested in. I can never wait until I’ve finished one to start another, but unfortunately this leads to a constantly growing pile of half-read books that need to be finished. I think I may need to change my ways, but before I go attempting any major upheavals of my personality, I thought I would make a handy pro/con list.
Book Polygamy – Pros
- Reading different books on different media
I find this is one of the best ways to be a book polygamist, and that is to separate out how you read each book. For example, at any one time one can be reading: a paper book, and ebook on my ereader, an ebook on my phone, and an audiobook. All nicely fit to optimise one’s reading under certain circumstances. A physical book for when one is relaxed, at home, with ample light. An ebook on an ereader for when one is out and about or when darkness or other people’s selfish sleeping habits don’t permit the use a proper light source. An ebook on your phone for those few minutes you are waiting in line at the grocery store, or in my case, while waiting for the centrifuge. And an audiobook for while you are driving, out walking your dog, or cutting up pieces of brain. It all makes perfect sense.
- Less reading slumps
The ability to pick up any book based on my mood means that I can still read if I am just not in the mood for a particular book. I can simply pick up another one that is more suitable to my mood at the time. Easy peasy.
- Never without a book (or several)
If you read several books at one time on multiple devices, if you forget your paper book or your ereader, it doesn’t matter. You can just read one of the books you have on your phone or listen to an audiobook. What are the odds you would forget your paper book, ereader, and phone all at the same time? If you’re the type of reader described above, probably fairly good. But it’s far less likely than forgetting just one.
- Slogging away at those big books less difficult
It can be really hard reading about nothing but a man’s obsession with a whale for a long time, but you can get through anything if it’s just a chapter here and there. And it works for books that aren’t classics either. Take Game of Thrones for instance. Every time there was a Sansa chapter, I would put the book down for six months! Disclaimer: I now love Sansa and have nothing but respect for her, but lets all be honest, eleven year old Sansa in the first book was a bit of a pill.
Book Polygamy – Cons
- The pile of half-read books.
Yes, that looming pile of half read books, that with each new book you pick up, the chances of you finishing those on the pile diminishes little by little. Your memories of who is who and what is what fades a little more each day they sit on that cursed pile. And the pile never stops growing. It just keeps expanding and expanding, smothering you with its ever-growing cloud of mockery! “unfinished, unfinished” it taunts with it cold judgemental breath.
- Feeling less accomplished each month when I tally up my reading total.
I am one of those people who likes to cross books off my list and tally them up, so you can imagine my frustration with trying to read several books per month, but actually reading two whole books and five half books. It doesn’t make a nice little tally now does it?
- More reading slumps.
Yes, those ones of you who are paying attention may have noticed that the topic of reading slumps appears on the pro list as well. Some of you may think this is cheating; that I’m cheating on my list just as I cheat on my books, but to you I say, calm yourself. The inducement of the reading slump by book polygamy occurs for a different reason, and so it is valid to be included on both sides of the list. While the book monogamist’s reading slump is due to not feeling particularly excited to read a particular book at that time, the polygamist’s reading slump occurs due to wanting to read too many books at one time and being completely unable to decide between them. And it sucks.
- being eaten by cats.
Let’s face it, no one wants to be eaten by cats, but it is a risk the devoted Book Polygamist must be willing to take.
Although there are demonstrable both pros and cons to being a Book Polygamist, I don’t see my reading habits changing any time soon. I like reading more than one book at a time as much as I hate it, so I doubt I’m going to have some huge epiphany and switch to the monogamy team any time soon. What can I say, I’m set in my ways. So if you ever want to find me, just follow the trail of cats.