How to Read Multiple Books at a Time

It’s not as hard as you think!

How many books do you read at a time? One? Two? Maybe half a dozen? I used to think I was unusual in this tendency to read multiple books at a time. What I found in a community of writers, many of us do this. It helps us grow our own ideas and create great content.

Sometimes though, I have found myself getting confused between several books. Most of the time this happens when I am reading two or three very similar books on the same topic.

Other times, I get so enthralled by a particular book, that I leave the others behind and lose track of where I was and what I was reading about.

Does this happen to you?

I am almost certain it does. After all, when we are taking in tons of content online, plus reading books, plus taking online courses we are bound to fall into one of these situations.

Even now, I am reading several books at a time and taking an online course. Of those books, I am reading a parenting book (Raising Burning Hearts), a novel (Outlander), and a faith-based book (The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers) and a productivity book (Atomic Habits).

And while this is a good mix of topics, it can easily get confused with the information of the non-fiction books. Or want to abandon them for the wonderful story found in the novel.

So, what do we do?

A Simple System for Reading Multiple Books

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

When I first started reading multiple books at a time, I took to my old collegiate approach to reading: note-taking and highlighting. This helped me keep track of what I was reading and where I had been.

It also helped me to assimilate more information along the way. However, I found there to be problems in this system with books that weren’t “required reading.”

I had to develop a new system to help me take the information as I go and process it to apply to my life. This is what I came up with and have been using for the last couple of years.

Underlining or Highlighting

I prefer underlining. Only because I don’t like to carry around a highlighter with every book I am reading. However, when I read a Kindle book, I will highlight those of course because its a default setting.

However, I underline anything that sticks out in me as I read a book.

  • Does it cause me to question things?
  • Is it information that I an apply right away?
  • Will this be useful in a new stage of life?
  • Is it something that makes me smile or encourages me?
  • Would this be a great quote to use in my writing?

These are the five main reasons I would underline/highlight something while reading in the book. This way, I can go back to this book later and look it up.

Bonus: At the end of each chapter, I will mark at the bottom of the last page the number of underlines. This helps me know if this was a particular impactful chapter to go back to later in life.

Notecards

Something else I am doing right now is keeping a notecard in the book where I will jot down what I just read. This little recap helps me remember where I left off.

This is particularly helpful when reading multiple books at a time and only getting to read for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. It gives me an easy way to pick up the book and keep reading.

The downside is you will likely need to refresh your notecard once you have left so many notes on the front or back of it. So you will need to keep extras around.

Bonus: I keep the note cards in the back of the book and see review them after I have finished the book. This reminds me of what I just read and keeps the book fresh in my mind.

Summary Sheet

I also keep a summary sheet for each chapter. This is where I write down three to four sentences or a quote that sums the chapter up. It gives me a good way to review where I have been and where I am going.

This isn’t essential, however, it has been helpful when I finish a book because I will leave that in the back of the book as well. If I need to pick it up for a reference it helps me go to what I am looking for in the book.

It is also helpful when reading multiple books because it helps me keep the flow when I return to a book after I have been reading others for a long time.

Bonus: If you write book reviews, the summary sheet becomes very helpful when writing the synopsis of the book and helps you draw our important parts for you.

Book Reviews

This is the final aspect of my system. I have taken to writing book reviews after I read every book. Whether it is on Amazon or here on Medium, I like to share what I read and what I learn.

This helps bring closure to what I read and helps me share it with others. When we read lots of books, this is a technique to help us keep it all in our minds. Which is why we read. Or at least, why I read.

Bonus: Writing your review on Medium can be a larger review that you link to in reviews of books on other sites. And help you become a better writer and build your audience.

Takeaways

It isn’t hard to read multiple books. But is hard to keep track of where we are in each book. It can also be difficult not to mix up the information we are reading about.

This is why I developed this simple system for reading multiple books at a time. And that's why I wanted to share it with you. Remember your tools:

  1. Underline or Highlight
  2. Notecards
  3. Summary Sheet
  4. Book Reviews

These four simple tools will help you learn more from what you read and help you enjoy reading multiple books at a time. It will also give you quick reference points if you ever come back to these books.

What are some tips, tools, and techniques you use to read multiple books at a time? What are you reading right now? Share in the responses below!

Read more about learning from reading:

Jack Heimbigner is an author, creator, and coach. He lives in the country in Eastern Washington State with his family. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Learn more about what it takes to succeed in life and achieve your dreams with his Life Planning 101 Course. It shares more on life planning and seeing your dreams come true.

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