After college I stopped reading almost completely for a year or two. Here was my problem: in the bright light of day I'd virtuously start some erudite classic and then that night, sleepily snuggled into bed, I'd stare at the heavy tome and realize "I don't want to read that right now." My life was littered with half-finished books until it struck me: what I want to read at any given moment is highly dependent on time and place - there was not going to be a one-size-fits-all book for my daily life. I needed to be reading a different book at each time. So I started to experiment with reading multiple books in a week and the Gwendolyn Reading Method was born.
Please be advised that this method is not for everyone. I am in no way insisting that this is one size fits all. Actually, you'll probably have to be a little crazy in the same way that I'm a little crazy to want to use my method. If you do use it, you will, without question, end up tweaking it to fit the unique way your brain works.
In my experiments, I discovered that, at least for me, four books at a time is the minimum number required to cover the various reading yens I will get in any given week. While this may sound like a morass of confusing plots, with a little bit of planning, you can keep all stories distinct and maximize your reading time and enjoyment.
The four books are from four distinct categories: 3 fiction, 1 nonfiction.
*A Note on Fiction books*
The key to this method working is selecting books that are distinct enough not to get the plots blobbed together in your brain. Avoid books in the same genre, for example.
I arrange my fiction books based on the length of time I feel I can/want to concentrate on each book at a time. I split them into Level 1 (10-20 minutes), Level 2 (30 minutes), and Level 3 (45+ Minutes). The levels are NOT value judgements on the quality of the work or indications of my enjoyment of them. I just find that different types of book take different levels of concentration and so fit my life better at different times.
Book #1. Fiction Level 1
Time: 10-20 minutes
This is a book you want to let percolate, like a classic (perhaps Vanity Fair) or a dense/contemplative modern book (something along the lines of Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro). How do you get through something like Vanity Fair only reading it 15 minutes at a time you might ask? By reading that 15 minutes daily. You'll get through the book much faster in 15 minute daily chunks than if you burn yourself out in a 1.5 hour marathon session and then don't pick the book back up for weeks.
How I Do It: I take the first part of my lunch break at work to read my Level 1 book.
Book #2. Fiction Level 2
Time: 30 minutes
This is my catch-all category for those books that take some brain commitment but not to the extent of Level 1 books. For example, Dune by Frank Herbert or Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen.
How I Do It: After I spend my 10 to 20ish minutes on my Level 1 Book, I spend the rest of my lunch hour on my level 2 book.
Book #3. Fiction Level 3
Time: 45+ minutes
Right before bed, I like to read books that take minimal mental energy. Some of these books could be termed "guilty pleasure" books (Twilight). Others are brilliant, but just very easy, fun reads (Harry Potter).
How I Do It: I like to take the hour or so before bed to mentally unwind and make sure I'm not staring at a TV/computer screen. Hence the Level 3 book.
Book #4. Nonfiction
Pretty self-explanatory. I usually try to alternate between books that will help my career and ones that just satisfy my insane curiosity. For example, I'm currently reading a "career" book: the Lean Startup by Eric Ries about the lean methodology in entrepreneurship. The next nonfiction book I'd select might be something like Our Inner Ape by primitologist Franz de Waal which explores what we can learn about humanity by studying apes. I highly recommend that you don't over read nonfiction in one sitting. Nonfiction is full of new information that you need to digest. Read in bite sizes and then give your brain time to percolate on what you've learned. Then pick the book back up.
How I Do It: I mostly read nonfiction on the weekend when my brain isn't already tired out from work. I usually spend 20-30 minutes at a time, several times over the weekend.
You have to realize that you're going to get through Level 3 books much faster than Level 1 books. That's to be expected. Just switch out your Level 3 book and carry on!
As I said, this is not a one-size-fits-all plan. Take it and tweak it to fit! For example, you might not havethe time/inclination to read during your lunch break, but you have a long commute so listen to audio books in the car! The point is: do whatever it takes to give your love of books the maximum ability to fly. I went from my dry spell of almost zero reading to meeting this year's reading goal by 150%. In fact, I might be reading TOO much and need a reading intervention. But that's a subject for another day...