How Many Books Can You Juggle?

If you take the question literally, the answer is none. I can’t juggle. Not even two things at once. If someone held me at gunpoint and told me I could live if I juggled, well…let’s put it this way- I would die.

But let’s take  it in the spirit it’s meant to be taken in: Can you read more than one book at a time (Why can’t people ask plain and simple questions like that?). The truth is I’m not really sure of my answer. Sure, I can do it. It’s not physically impossible like kissing your elbow and it’s not mentally difficult like re-forging the subtle knife. (Phillip Pullman? Golden Compass? Nope, doesn’t ring a bell?…Okay, I’ll just slink away quietly and take my unfamiliar references with me). So since the answer is obviously not ‘no’ it has to be yes, yes? No. It’s not that simple.

Don’t you ever feel just a little bit confused when you read more than a single book at a time? Ever go through the first few pages taking time to remember who the characters were again, what they care about and why they do? No? Well I have. And let me tell you, this is a huge problem when the two books you’re reading are in the same genre or same time period or when the character have similar names. There’s this odd sensation of trying to fit in both the books together but it not working.

In case you’ve never had that feeling, let me give you another example. Imagine yourself trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle. One of those 5000 piece ones. Before you ask me why you would do such a thing or where you would get the time for it, just imagine the hugeness of the task in front of you. And the way nearly all of the pieces (except the edge pieces), especially the sky and ocean pieces, are near identical. For the sake of this exercise (and to make the puzzle even more frustrating), let’s imagine you’re an amateur who looks for the pieces which are similar in colour and opposite in shape to start with. Eventually, you’re going to come across two pieces which are almost-but-not-quite the same colour or almost-but-not-quite the opposite shape (or both). You’ll try to mash these two pieces together. Inevitably, you’ll fail. Just when one side seems to align, you’ll notice the tiny gap in between the pieces. The pieces weren’t meant to go together.

After that lengthy paragraph, I wouldn’t blame you for not remembering the original analogy. But it had something to do with books with similar elements. Similar being the keyword. Because no matter how much we readers like to complain about unoriginality of plots and characters, the truth is no two books are exactly alike (that would violate a lot of copyrights); they’re only similar.  And that’s why, just like those pesky puzzle pieces won’t automatically slide into place, neither will those books.

And the problem of juggling two books increases exponentially when there are no common features. Somehow, it’s really, really hard to get into the mood for the contemporary novel’s prom and family problems after reading about huge and epic battles in a fantasy book or a nefarious and evil government in a dystopian. Characters with names like Alwyn, Vasalissa and Deuce can’t be taken seriously after you read ordinary names like Mary and Sue for so long. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I can’t compartmentalize two books separately. Not when I’m reading them at the same time. They just sort of seem to blend together or worse, clash together when I do.

You know how they say in theory, there is no difference between practice and theory but in practice there is a huge difference? Well, theoretically I can ‘juggle’ books but in practice I’d prefer not to.

Let me know if you can juggle books effectively. I could definitely use some tips.

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