Are You a Book Cheater?

Many people openly admit to being unfaithful to the book they’re reading. They even admit to being involved with, not just two but, multiple books at the same time.

With so many great books out there it’s sometimes difficult to settled down with just one book. Tough to resist, I know. Right now, I’ve got three books pulling on my shirtsleeve, flashing me with their pretty covers. Worse yet they sit there winking whenever I walk past. Flirts!

I’ll admit it’s a big temptation, and sometimes I’m weak and pathetic. I catch myself taking sneak glances at them, even arranging them about on the coffee table just so. But I’ve vowed to be a faithful reader. I’m not about to cheat.  I’m a one-book woman.

So what? It’s a free county, right? We’re free to read one, two, three even four books, heck we can court an entire library shelf if we want. Who’s to stop us?


I’m not going to get into any big moral issues here ‘cause I ain’t your mama. Nor am I here to judge. What I am is curious about the experience of being a book cheater. We can call it research if you want.

So for the sake of research I’ll pose this question. Do you believe it’s possible to love a book, follow the plot and characters when we are not faithful to the book we’re reading? Will we confuse the Bob in one book with the Harry in another? Will we remember that Meg likes coloured stones, hates cottage cheese and is the third child in a family of circus performers who have been travelling about the country since being placed in a witness protection program? Can we fully appreciate a book, and its characters, when we have multiple books on the brain?

I’ve known people who admit they just weren’t that “into” a particular book. Fair enough, every book isn’t for me, and I certainly don’t fall in love with each and every book I read. However, having said that, I do question their ability to judge a book fairly once they admit that they were reading several others at the same time. Instead of a read that should have taken a few days at most, it ended up stretching out for weeks as it was picked up, abandoned for another, and then another, not to mention the two week vacation they took over the Christmas holidays where they refused to read anything more taxing than the noontime special at their favourite restaurant before finally, finally running back begging for a second chance.

For me, a book has always been an experience, a whole little world nestled between the covers, a place for me to submerge myself, a place that will either end up being a good experience or a not so good one. Seems to me that the more books I  choose to become involved with, the more difficult it would be not to whisper Brian’s name when I’m reading about Fred. Talk about embarrassing.

Another thing I can’t imagine is how anyone can rate a book or writing a review if they are attracted to another, or three, at the same time.

 It’s not uncommon to see people listing multiple books as *currently reading* on Goodreads, but is it fair to any book if you show interest in another? Now I’m not attempting to try and tell anyone how to run their reading lives. I’m just curious about how the other half of the book-reading public live.

Confession time:

Are you a book cheater? Do you often romance more than one book at a time? Do you think you can fully appreciate or not appreciate a book when reading multiple books at one time?

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  1. I definitely do that! Of course, some times it’s excusable if I’m reading a book for class and then a book for my own enjoyment, but other times it’s just because I’m reading one book that happens to be all the way upstairs, and I’m too lazy to get it so I start reading another book.
    I do think that I appreciate both books equally, but sometimes I start getting mixed up between the two books, which is always bad when it happens during a class discussion :)

    • School often involves a lot of reading, and I’ll admit that’s a good reason to have more than one book on the go. You’re off the hook. :) Thanks for stopping in and for commenting.

  2. I rarely read two novels at the same time, but I’m often reading a novel and a non-fiction book or a novel and a book of short stories simultaneously.

    And though I’ve had one than one novel both marked as “reading” on Goodreads, it usually means I’ve picked up another book because I’m probably not going to finish the first. It would seem I didn’t read at all in January, but that’s not the case. I started three books, but finished none of them.

    • I kind of feel that way too, Linda, to be truthful. Sometimes I’m researching a topic while I’m reading a novel. There..I’ve admitted it… That kind of feels a bit different in a way.

      My niece actually prompted this post. She’s eight and her mom told me it’s nothing for her to be reading five books at a time, plus a few at her dad’s and then school.. Whew! Oh to be young and full of literary energy. ;)

      • My 8-year-old granddaughter reads series … three at a time. She’s reading the Pendragon books, but keeps a book from another series in her desk in case she finishes a book. She calls that her “back-up series”. And she and her mother read another, The Narnia Chronicles currently, together at night.

        She has to test on all these books and always gets 100%, so I guess she has no trouble keeping up with three books at a time. Yes, I wish I could do that.

        • Kids are certainly amazing…I think we should just face it, our brains are losing their elasticity. I’m no longer the sponge I used to be. Sometimes I have trouble following one book, especially when my mind trails away……..Oh, what were we talking about? lol

  3. cdsquee

     /  March 12, 2012

    I am not only a cheat, I am an outright whore. I will start many books but will always be deeply involved with 3 or 4. Upstairs, downstairs, ereader, library etc. Maybe because I’m used to it, I don’t have a problem forgetting who is whom but hey, most people can follow more than one tv series, right? At most, I will have to re-read a page to refresh my recollection. I will admit that once I get 60 to 75% into a particular book, I will likely devote my time to that one, mainly b/c that’s the point where I become anxious to know the outcome.

    • Your first sentence sent my laughter spiralling through the roof.. Thanks for dropping in and leaving a comment I needed a laugh. :)

  4. I had a friend who used to have three books on the go at once and I didn’t understand how she could do that and keep it all straight. I do that now. Sometimes I have up to four on the go at once, but usually it’s two, maybe three. When I’m reading a book to review it I stay mostly on that one until I’ve finished it, though, so that I can write a balanced review.
    I don’t consider myself to be a cheat, just a lover. :)

    • Who knows, maybe this is something that needs to be tried before we dismiss it altogether. And you know what they say, Lynn, everyone loves a lover. :)

  5. It’s more of an open relationship!

  6. I was always committed to one book at a time. Though now, like Linda, I may have one fiction and a non-fiction in progress at the same time. But I don’t think I’d want to mingle my stories.

    • I do think that, for me, al least, I would lose too much of the story if I had several novels on the go. I’m with you on that one, Patti. :)

  7. I usually have more than one book on the go, and my reason has a lot to do with proximity. I have a book by the bed, one on the kitchen table, and another in the livingroom, and the Kobo sits in the knitting bag for waiting rooms and my son’s music lessons. I’m quite content to bounce between stories, characters and locations. However, when my favourite authors (Susanna Kearsley, Louise Penny, and a couple of others) have a new book out, I’m definitely a one-book woman.

    • Placing books stagetically about the house would certainly ensure you weren’t far from your reading material. That might stop me from constantly being on the prowl for the book I’m reading. On second thought maybe I just need a homing device or a better memory. ;)

  8. If I’m into the book I will not put it down until I’m finished. If I’m not really into it, I’ll cheat and pick up another which might result in my going back and forth or dropping the first book all together! However, any book I’ve not been able to get into and picked up much later I’ve still not been able to get into it, but there have been a few that I’ve loved after I’ve gotten through the first few chapters.

    • It is easy to become distracted when we’re just not into a book, I totally agree. I hate to be the one to abandon a book, but sometimes it can feel like pure torture, and the temptation to look elsewhere is too strong. I do thin we have to give a book a chance because, as you say, it sometimes takes a few chapters before we fall in love.

  9. Alright I admit it, I’m a book cheater, but I try to juggle non-fiction and fiction. It would be more difficult to fully appreciate a fictional story if you’re reading two or three at once..

    • Well bravo Pauline for your courage in admitting it. ;) I do find a non-fiction and fiction doable, although it sometimes comes down to which one really hooks. That’ usually the one I spend the most time reading.

  10. Laura, I absolutely do that. I always keep a print book in the kitchen for my early morning read with coffee. I also keep another one that might be non-fiction or reference there as well. In my home office I read on my kindle for PC and love the size of the book on my computer screen.

    Yes, multiple books, research between and an occassional jaunt into magazines and/or newspapers. And of course, I believe the brain can keep track. You didn’t take one college course at a time, did you? No, and when you had three or four reading courses, you also had to balance the text, the assigned reading material and for me, there was still my pleasure reading. The brain has wonderful powers to separate into little “computer” files all the information we pump into it.

    If I get caught up with one I can’t put down … I give in and read it until it is done. Still, my habit is having one print and one digital open all the time. Feels so good to cheat :)

    • I’m surprised that somany people are book cheaters. I think it comes down to our love of reading, anything and everything and so much of the time. I can’t imagine a day going by without reading something, yet I know many people who admit to never reading, or else very seldom. It makes me sad to think of all the great stories they’remissing out on.

      I’m glad that cheating feels good for you… :)

  11. I’m a book cheater, but usually its two different genres that don’t relate. While reading a novel, I’ll usually have a reference or poetry book on the side that I work through a little more slowly. :-)

    • You’re in good company, C.B. from what I’m reading here in the comments. I think the most important part in all of this is the fact that we’re reading. There’s so much to be gained by the written word.

  12. What an analogy! Flirts???

    No cheating going on here! If I’m enjoying a book I don’t want to put it down until it’s finished. If I do put it down, it’s because I’m probably not going to finish it (which rarely happens unless it’s deadly boring or badly written).

    • Carol, so nice to find a one-book woman out there, but I know enough about you to know you’d be a faithful reader.. ;) I might have been disappointed to find out otherwise.

  13. fivecats

     /  March 14, 2012

    I don’t cheat. At least I don’t think so …

    book #1 – half read
    book #2 – 1/3 read
    book #3 – introduction read
    book #4 – dusk jacket read

    They will be read, eventually.

    I consider it cheating if you only skip ahead a couple chapters, or to the end.

    • So you are saying there is more than one way to cheat… I guess as long as you eventually make it to the end.. It actually seems as though there are many book cheaters out there. :)

  14. I’ve never read two novels at once, but I’ve read a novel and a non-fiction book at the same time. I have dumped one novel for another but that’s only because the first lost my interest. I seldom return to a dumped book after we’ve parted. That’d be like rehashing bad memories.

    Once I get involved, I’m loyal until the end. It’s just like movies. I wouldn’t intentionally stop playing one to enjoy another and then go back and watch 30 minutes of the first then switch again. That would be too confusing for this one track mind. It’s not that information would be forgotten or confused, but the emotions that tied me to a character would be on again, off again.

    Like you, I have to wonder how great a reveiw would be by a someone who read two or more books at the same time. Of course, there are people who read 100,000-word novels in 24 hours. How can they accurately judge a book if they speed read? Wouldn’t much be missed?

  15. LOL! I quite enjoyed your first paragraph.. Rehashing bad memories can be quite unnerving. ;)

    No worries about me speed reading. I’m probably one of the slowest readers there are, but when I really love a book I don’t want to miss a single world.

  16. I read one fiction novel at a time. But, I have two or three short story collections / anthologies going at the same time, year round. That’s why you’ll see multiple “Currently Reading” in my Goodreads profile.

    How do I keep everything straight? I make notes while reading, especially if I plan to write a review. And rarely do I read two different stories in the same day. I like to be fully immersed in the story’s world and, if it’s a good story, I’m never tempted to pick up something else.

    The hardest part, for me, is deciding what to read next. So many choices, so many fantastic stories!

    • Short story collections I can kind of understand, unless you only read a page or two at a time, but I’m thinking you read an entire story.

      Good idea about keeping notes, though when you’re writing a review. Excellent, actually.

      As to what to read next? I’ve got so many books ahead of me, I don’t bother listing them on Goodreads. Only a few at a time or else I’d really feel ovewhelmed if the list was staring me in the face. Not only that someone just lent me three books the other day. Ah well, there are far worse things in life than too many books to read. :)

  17. LIke you Laura I can only concentrate on one book at a time. I have been known to read a fiction and non fiction at the same time but not often, and the poor nonfiction gets terribly ignored. I am a one book at a time woman but have had many book reading relationships over the years!

    • Funny you should mention this now. I was in the middle of a non-fiction when someone loaned me a library book I’d been wanting to read. But instead of two-timing, I think I’ll drop the non-fiction for a few days so that I could spend more time with the fiction since it will have to be returned in a week or so. ;)


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