One Book at a Time in the Multiple Reading Age

“One book at a time,” I say, staring at a stack of books.  It is my new mantra.  One…book…at…a…time.

I have never joined AA.  Well, I don’t drink alcoholic beverages. But the AA slogan, “One Day at a Time,” is  so applicable to my  book addiction that I’ve adapted the catchphrase.

I have a huge stack of books on the coffee table.  I am reading perhaps 10 of them.  I pick up Anna Karenina, which I have read many times.  On page 760, Vronsky is off to the elections in town, while Anna must stay home in the country.  They almost quarrel, because she does not want to be alone.  But Anna knows she has to quiet herself and not alienate him.

“I hope you won’t be dull?”

“I hope not,” replied Anna.  “I received a box of books from Gautier’s yesterday.”

Anna, I received that same box of books!  But it isn’t enough when your lover is gallivanting.  Anna is isolated, an outcast. Her friends shun her after she leaves her husband for Vronsky.  And it is sad that Dolly, Anna’s loyal sister-in-law, is repulsed when she learns that Anna practices birth control and sees how little she cares for her baby.  Though Dolly is exhausted by childbearing, the idea of contraception negates her purpose in life and scares her.

THEN I TOOK A LONG AFTERNOON BREAK.  And I finished East of Eden, one of most brilliant American novels I’ve ever read.  You will not be able to put down this warped family saga, a 20th century take on Genesis.  And, believe me, there is no scarier character in literature than Adam Trask’s manipulative wife, Cathy.

ALL RIGHT, I PUT AWAY MY BOOKS to surf the net. And I almost succumbed to an inner voice that told me to buy a new copy of Anna Karenina,  a volume in the Oxford World’s Classics Hardback Collection.  Fortunately, I realized in time that I already have that same translation in an Oxford hardcover with a different cover.

One day at a time!

I made progress.   I limited myself to reading from two books today instead of ten.


10 thoughts on “One Book at a Time in the Multiple Reading Age

  1. I can’t resist several at a time. I read them for different purposes, all of which matter: list friends, teaching, projects, fun, a review, because today I feel like trying this one or that. It’s like friends, why cut anyone out? since I don’t have that many friends, similarly I actually don’t have that many interests or aims so I manage.


    • It can be a very good way to read, and for you it is also part of your discipline, keeping up with what you need to for projects. In a way that is what I’m doing, too.


  2. For years I was a one book at a time reader and then I developed a back problem (probably as a result of hefting volumes like Anna Karenina around with me all the time) and have had to change my reading habits. As I can’t possibly go anywhere without a book I always have to have either a slim volume or my kindle ready to take out with me. Weightier tomes are reserved for home.

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  3. I’m a very moody reader and for as long as I can remember have always had multiple books in my stacks, long before the digital age. However, I do, periodically, tidy the stack and at least twice a year get it down to a single book, by steadily finishing one after the next of the others and, in that interim, I think “Maybe I could be a one-book reader after all” because it certainly has its merits. Then, at most a few days later, the stack swells once more and I return to my element. But if the focus is working for you now – go for it!


    • I suddenly finish up a stack after a certain period of time, too. I need one book-free room (though good luck with that!) so I don’t keep adding books to the stack.


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