Might I add another variation of the definition?
- the stage beyond which no more book content can be absorbed by the reader’s brain.
Which pretty accurately describes my current state of being, which can also be described thusly:
For the past few years, I’ve been able to successfully juggle multiple books at once — a book for fun, a book for book group, an audiobook for while I drive. I never thought I’d reach the point where my brain feels maxed out, but now I know:
My magic number is:
Yup, I think I’ve reached my reading saturation point — the point at which my brain will not accept a single additional plot line, character, theme, or main idea. And symbolism? Foreshadowing? Don’t make me laugh.
I haven’t had quite this problem before. I usually do have several books on the go — typically, a big huge book from the Outlander series as part of my group read with Outlander Book Club; a classic read, also with the book club; whatever book I happen to be reading just for me (just for fun), and an audiobook for while I’m driving or exercising.
So why do I suddenly feel maxed out at 5?
Consider this: Of my five current books, 4 — yes, four — are brand-new to me.
The Outlander book (Written in My Own Heart’s Blood) is a re-read, and although we’re reading and analyzing two chapters per week, it’s not taking up a huge amount of grey matter. I already know what happens. It’s not that I don’t have to think about it, but it’s still not taking in new concepts and information.
Then there’s the group classic read. Our last group classic was Emma by Jane Austen, which was oodles of fun — but which I’d read several times before. It was a blast reading it with the group, but again, it was a re-read for me. Hey, if you know any neurologists, can you ask them if re-reading a book uses different parts of the brain than reading a book for the first time? I’m no brain doctor, but I’m betting the answer is yes.
Our current classic read is A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway… and it’s completely new to me. I know nothing about the plot or characters, and I’m definitely having to put more effort into learning what’s what, getting the rhythm of the writing style, and understanding the shades and nuances of the story.
Then there’s the audiobook. I do a lot of re-reads via audiobook. I find that my mind is often slippery when it comes to listening to books, especially while I’m driving. If there’s bad traffic or I get stuck looking for parking in a crowded neighborhood, I can’t concentrate at all on what I’m listening to. But if I’m listening to the audio version of a book I’ve already read, I can relax, not worry too much about hearing every detail, and just enjoy revisiting something that I loved already the first time around.
At this moment, however, I’m listening to a new-to-me audiobook, The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi. Granted, this is a pretty silly and light-hearted science fiction novel, but even so, I find myself getting caught up in the story… and even when I get out of the car or remove the earbuds from my ears, my brain does not want to disengage.
Plus, there’s my book book — whatever I’m reading right now, either via physical or e-book — my normal, everyday, just because I feel like it book. Basically, my daily reading fix.
And finally, I’m now tackling Moby Dick via the Serial Reader app, and I think it’s this one that’s pushing me over the edge. Don’t get me wrong — I’m really loving Moby Dick! And I love the serial approach to reading such a huge book, getting manageable bites delivered each day.
The problem, I think, with my current reading, is that with 4 of my 5 reading commitments being completely new material, my engagement is getting split in way too many directions. I read a bit of Moby Dick, and I want to know more… but then I turn on the car and start listening to The Android’s Dream, and I can’t get the action sequences out of my head. When I have a few minutes of down time, I pick up my current novel (right now, The Magician King by Lev Grossman) and get totally into it… but then in the evening, I read the next day’s chapter of A Farewell To Arms and want more of that too.
I think I’m there.
Five plotlines and sets of characters may finally represent my breaking point… my saturation point… the point beyond which I absolutely cannot absorb one more detail or shred of story.
Not that I’m willing to drop any of my five reading projects. But man, my head feels full to bursting sometimes.
Remind me to STOP THE MADNESS next time I need to choose an audiobook or rethink my reading commitments. Maybe it’s time to scale back on the amount of new fiction I’m trying to cram into my brain.