While focusing on a single book at a time, we sometimes get stuck and have to rely on our willpower to continue reading up until the end. But sometimes we give up. This happens for a variety of reasons, good and bad. Some books are dense, hard to read, complex, or simply boring at times.
When we slow down to a crawl and stop making progress, we get demotivated. When that happens, giving up the book might be the right decision. But we might also be missing out, and it’s not always obvious right away.
Worse still, sometimes the motivation hit is so bad that we even stop reading for a while, which is kind of sad. To avoid that, you may want to try interleaving books.
Interleaving books is the idea of reading multiple books at a time (e.g., 3-5) and switching regularly between them in order to remain interested and motivated.
When we read multiple books at once, it’s ok to put one down for a while and switch to another one that we are currently reading. It’s not about multitasking; when we read a book, we can still stay 100% focused on that activity. The obvious benefit is that we can avoid getting demotivated by renewing our interest thanks to the context switch.
I’m currently experimenting with this approach and have found that my motivation to continue a book that bored me a bit usually comes back after 4-7 days. That happens unconsciously but is probably related to the fact that I’m a completionist.
There are no “rules” with this approach. Pick up as many books as you are comfortable with, switch whenever you feel like switching, and don’t feel bad if you end up abandoning some.
One challenge with this technique is the fact that we may lose context if we leave a book aside for too long. I’ve found that consistently taking notes while reading non-fiction solves this entirely. I just have to rewind a bit, read my most recent notes, and I quickly get back to where I left things off.
Interleaving books does imply finishing each book later on, but that shouldn’t be an issue in most cases. After all, reading must remain a pleasurable activity, not a stressful one.