Frank Denton, a long-time friend who lives in Seattle, once told me about the way he reads, and I remember thinking “that seems pretty odd, but whatever works…”.
Frank is always reading several books at once, usually each a different genre or type, but sometimes related in some way, such as fiction and non-fiction concerning the same subject. He reads one book for a while in the morning, a different one for an hour or two in the afternoon, another in the evening and so on. When you ask Frank what he’s reading you get some pretty interesting answers. Often he’ll tell you what he’s reading, and why he’s reading it and what other books led him to the ones he’s working on at the moment.
When I asked him a few days ago, here’s what he said:
“Here’s what I’m reading at the moment. Morning: Dancing in the Dark by Morris Dickstein, a cultural history of the Depression. Six pages at a time: Clark Ashton Smith, that’s about all I can take at one sitting. Evening: just finished a mystery by Bernard Knight set in 1195 in Exeter, England; tonight I will start on Barbara Hambly’s Ben January novel set in the slave period New Orleans; Toulouse-Lautrec by Julia Frey, a biography; Inkspell by Cornelia Funke, a YA fantasy; The Way of Korean Zen by Kusan Sunim. Pretty eclectic, huh?“
I was thinking about that just a day or two ago when I realized I had four or five books all with bookmarks in them, and that I was alternating between them throughout the day, evening and during the week. Shades of Frank Denton! I thought. Suddenly it made sense. I’m enjoying all of the books, no two of them are alike, one is a biography, one a fantasy, another is a SF short story collection and the last is a mystery novel. I’m in the mood for each of these, but not enough to read any of them straight through, or perhaps it’s that I’m in the mood to read ALL of them and don’t want to wait for one or two other books before I dig in.
I’ve always been a read-it-straight-through person, but the last year or so I’ve had more and more books sitting with bookmarks in them, and this seems to be the way my reading habits have evolved, at least for now.