I’ve been a juggler for a long time. I’m not talking about balls or pins, but books. Ever since I read my first chapter book, I’ve been able to manage multiple books at a time.
I think maybe my parents had something to do with it. They took turns reading me bedtime stories. On Monday night my mom might do the dishes while my dad read me Little House on the Prairie. On Tuesday night my dad would have a rehearsal and my mom would read me A Wrinkle in Time. Sometimes they picked the books, sometimes I did. If we’d gotten to a particularly good part the night before, I might try to convince the parent on duty to pick up the other book so I could know what happened next. They were adamant, though- only Mom reads Mom’s book, only Dad reads Dad’s book. I would have to wait.
Some summer vacations I kept a different book in every room of the house. Babysitters’ Club in the basement, John Bellairs in the guest room, Bailey School Kids in the living room. My parents probably didn’t love finding my books scattered all over the place, but they never would have said a word to discourage my love of reading.
Even now, I still save certain books for certain places. Battered paperbacks are for the beach or the bathtub, anywhere that it might get wet or dirty. Horror or suspense is for the kitchen table or out on the deck, while the sun is shining and I’m not going to give myself nightmares. When I’m reading comics, I like to curl up at one end of the couch with the trade and a glass of wine or a mug of tea.
There are nights when I need to read to settle my mind, but I’m too tired to take in any new information. Or I’m a little drunk and I know I’m not going to remember what I’ve read, but I’m not quite ready to sleep yet. Then I’ll reach for something I’ve read so many times I have it half-memorized, like Good Omens or Kushiel’s Dart. I’ll fall asleep with the book in my hand, and in the morning I can go back to something more complicated.
Often there’s an audiobook in my juggle pile. They’re good for long drives, or for when I’m cooking or cleaning or crocheting. Old audiobooks that I’ve heard before are especially nice when I’m sick and can’t sleep, something to keep my mind off my discomfort as I slide in and out of consciousness. I’ve drifted off to Adrienne Barbeau’s reading of Anne McCaffrey’s Crystal Singer so many times that I’m starting to think her voice has healing powers.
I think the key to juggling is contrast. If I read books that are too similar in tone or genre, I get bored or confused. Right now I’m in the middle of rereading John Crowley’s sprawling fantasy family saga, Little, Big, with an eye towards writing a longer blog post about it. During this reread I also finished one of L.A. Meyer’s Jacky Faber books, which are fast-paced historical YA adventures. On a recent plane ride, I dozed to N.K. Jemisin’s The Broken Kingdoms read by Casaundra Freeman. For something really familiar, I’ve been falling back on Naamah’s Kiss, another favorite by Jacqueline Carey.
Are you a juggler or a literary monogamist? How many books are you reading right now, and what’s the best one? Tell me in the comments.
Coming soon: The Little, Big post, my favorite Christmas books, and some festive drinks.