Having a Balanced (Book) Diet


There’s more than one way to read a book …


How do you keep them all straight?

I can barely handle one book!

There’s no way I could keep track of them all.


I’ve got a confession: I’m a multi-tasking book reader. At the beginning of the year, I set my Goodreads challenge, and then I looked like I was going to lose. By mid-March, I should have been 10 books in, and I was still sitting at one.


Then, all at once, I finished five books in two days. You see, I’ve never been able to read one book at a time. To me, reading multiple books with multiple purposes just feels like the norm. After all, I don’t eat the same food every day. I don’t listen to every song by a single artist at once. In fact, these days, I usually don’t even listen to an album. I’ve got playlists! I don’t just watch a single TV show straight through without watching other entertainment in between (I know some people love their binge-watching, but I get bored).


I like variety, and I’ve found that having a solid rotation of reading material has tons of benefits. Namely, I get through a lot more books! I also read books that I wouldn’t if I had to focus on those and those alone, but they’re still valuable and worthwhile.


At any given moment, I have between five and six books going. Here’s how I decide what to read.



Book 1: The Enjoyable Fiction (in Actual Book Form)


This is my go-to. My bread and butter. My foundation. I love fiction I can get lost in, fiction that makes me feel like I’ve completely forgotten the responsibilities of the world around me. I often read these fast, and they’re usually not particularly intellectual. Sometimes, they’re pretty formulaic. Some of them are even sappy. I might even label a few of them “guilty pleasures.” They run the range in quality (and my willingness to admit to reading them), but I’ve always got one at the ready, and it’s always a real, paper, hold-in-your-hands-and-turn-the-page book. (Usually from the library. Use the library! It’s magical.)


My Recommendations: Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters, The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


Book 2: The “Smart” Book (in Actual Book Form)


I love to read, and I love to learn, and reading is one of the best ways to learn. I read a lot of nonfiction that helps me have a better sense of the world. History, psychology, biography, science — I love it all. But I’m slow at reading it. I lose focus if I try to slog through once I’m past my optimal attention zone. And what’s the point of forcing myself to read once that’s happened? I’m grown. It’s not like I have a test to study for. I just put it down and go to another book, knowing I’ll come back and (eventually) finish.


My Recommendations: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery, The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander


Book 3: The “Don’t Mindlessly Scroll through Facebook” eBook


This is a new addition for me, and I’m loving it. Too often, I’ll find myself with a space of time that I’ll spend mindlessly scrolling through social media — and we all know how that goes. What I really want is just a way to productively fill that time and engage my mind, and now I have an eBook on my phone (thanks to the library again!) that can fill the gap. It’s usually a fairly light read. It might be fiction or nonfiction, but it’s typically something that leaves me feeling happy.


My Recommendations: As You Wish by Cary Elwes, For Small Creatures Such as We by Sasha Sagan


Book 4: The Family Read-Aloud


I firmly believe that you’re never too old for a read-aloud, and my kids love hearing books out loud. We usually have one family-friendly read-aloud going, and there are some fantastic YA novels out there that have been great bonding moments for my tween daughter and me.


My Recommendations: Spark by Sarah Beth Durst, The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems, The Wild Robot by Peter Brown, The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill



Book 5: The Long Walk Audiobook


I can’t listen to audiobooks unless I’m moving. If I’m not doing something physical to distract me, my inner monologue just drowns out the book, but on a long walk, I can really get lost in a complex narrative. I usually reserve this slot for beautifully written novels with some suspense.


My Recommendation: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, NOS4A2 by Joe Hill


Book 6: The Housekeeping Audiobook


The other time I can listen to audiobooks is when I’m cleaning the house. I know I’m probably going to get interrupted now and then, so I try to avoid books that I really want to get lost in. This is a great time for lighter nonfiction, business books, and informative reads with pretty distinct chapters.


My Recommendations: Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil, Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown


If you normally only read one book at a time, why not mix it up a bit? You may find that your reading habits are a lot more enjoyable when you have options that fit your mood and situation.