November 25, 2011

Holistic Reading...and Living

Can you read just one book at a time?

I can't, unless it's impossibly engrossing (the last one was Here Burns My Candle, a Scottish historical novel by Liz Curtis Higgs).

I don't always mean to get started on so many books. But I love them because they speak to my heart and mind. They wriggle past the outward fronts I put on and give me sharp lectures or hope-giving inspiration. They're companionable when I don't feel like talking. They're adventures that come cheaper than a plane ticket. So I put a good read on my nightstand...and then add another...and another...and so it goes.

Really, though, I think I read multiple books at a time because real life has many parts. I am more than just a learning brain: I am also an imagination, a soul, and a body. I am a worker, a server, a dreamer, a pilgrim, and I stand in need of beauty as well as instruction. I read multiple books simultaneously for the same reason I schedule more than one type of activity into my week. I lesson plan, but I also watch movies. I have coffee with friends, but sometimes I'm alone in the quiet house. I spend time both praying and walking. We are whole people with multiple areas of life, and each of those areas has different needs.

I suppose you could call it holistic reading. The good part about it is when I have a moment to read, I almost always have something I  feel inclined to read right then, no matter what time of the day or week.

The downside?


Just as I sometimes schedule too many activities into a week, however holistic they may be, sometimes I take on more reading than I can actually handle. Ever have that feeling? The spines look so pretty, all fitting snugly together on the shelf, until you realize you haven't opened any of them in a week. Or more. And that even when you do snag a stray hour for reading, you spend a quarter of it in paralysis before the bookshelf, worrying and wondering over which volume you should spend the time on.

Right now, for example. It started out as a very holistic plan, with some books for each different area of life. It went like this:


Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Devotional books:

A study on the book of Isaiah by Navpress

Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman (who, by the way, has a great blog:

Fun Stuff:

Cover for 'Phoenix Feather' 
Phoenix Feather by my dear friend Angela Wallace (


The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Nighttime reading:

101 Famous Poems (see "Why Busy People Need Poetry"

Whoops...suddenly I'm reading 7 books. And my "To Read" stack is still growing. 

Perhaps there's balance to be found in this reading mania. There are so many great books to read, each equipped to meet different needs. Maybe the key is to limit the number of categories...and the number of books per category...and the number of times I say "yes" to a new book...

The challenge is to remain holistic without becoming overextended. Sounds a lot like my life. 

Imagine that.

What are you reading right now? Do you have a one-book-at-a-time policy?


  1. Yes, a perpetual challenge in my life is always "so many books, so little time." I am reading 3 or 4 books for work at any given time (one is From Passion to Profit, another is Under My Roof, and then there is the CD series I'm listening to currently- Transforming Trauma), plus one or two devotional books (right now it's Advent and Christmas Wisdom from Thomas Aquinas), another for the book study my daughters and I are doing together (the Path of Celtic Prayer by Calvin Miller)and then I throw in a novel here and there. Then there are the piles of books I look longingly at that I have not gotten to yet. Books enrich my life incredibly, but sometimes I feel I should start a BA group- Bibliophiles Anonymous!

  2. I like that--holistic reading. I've always been a one book at a time person, though since I got my Kindle, I read two at a time. One on it, one from the library. Though I'm also reading a devotional book, I just didn't count it because it was for spiritual exercises and the others were just for fun. I like your view. =)

  3. I'm pretty good at reading one book at a time simply because I can't keep track of multiple plot lines. However, I find monogamous knitting rather difficult. There needs to be an easy knit for TV watching, a difficult project to strengthen my skills, and a couple of spares in case I get stuck or frustrated with a project.

  4. Misa: that's a rich and diverse array of books! I love the Bibliophiles Anonymous idea. I would join...except that I'm no longer anonymous.

    Angela: how interesting that digital reading can change your book habits! Since you read a paper book and an e-book at the same time, do you feel that they satisfy the same or different book needs?

    Audry: I had no idea that the concept of holistic reading could also apply to knitting! Very interesting that plot lines confuse you, but you can keep an entire web of knit lines going with your eyes closed!