Parallel Reading


For years now I have had more than one book on the go at any one time. There is a danger with this however. It gets messy. I find it just too easy to stop reading a book without knowing why. Before I know it I have a house full of books with bookmarks buried somewhere in the middle of them. I’ve realised having those unfinished book gestalts all over the place is not a particularly calming thing to have going on. It is a mark of an indecisiveness I have grown tired of.

So I have decided two things. First I am either reading a book or I am not. If I have given up with a book I will treat it as read and I will not leave a bookmark in it. It is either not a book for me or, equally possible, the time is not right.

The second part of this decision is that the maximum number of books I am going to have on the go is two. I am also going to see if I can do what I have unwittingly started to do already; reading those two books consciously at the same time – in parallel. I’m going to do that because I’m beginning to see that two books together can work together for me even better than just one.


The first books I consciously felt working together as I read them were Niven and Dunn; the second coming of Jesus and the ascent of Usury. When I started this I was doing what I often do: I had one more factual book for alert mornings (Dunn) and daytime and another more fictional easier read (Niven) for evenings.

These books bounced brilliantly off each other. The rebirth and death of Christ in the modern world sat at counterpoint to the killing of Charles I and ascendancy of money.

Each book on its own would be great but together they gave me new thoughts and ideas. It’s more like parallax (two separate viewpoints) than parallel but that sounds a bit fancy.

Looking at my matches so far here I also notice I’ve gone from a red match to a green one. I am not sure yet how to make a good match between books but I do know that thinking about it too much is not the answer. Colour may be a thing. Or it may not.

Now I am reading Rebanks and Bly. The organic life of the shepherd and the challenge of Iron John.

I didn’t know when I started that they would bounce off each other so well but they do.

Oh but they do.


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