Summer Reading as an English Major
By: Fatima Ahmed
Summer reading as an English major can be a tough field to navigate. Personally, I feel completely unable to read for mere pleasure anymore. That can be a problem. Ironically, the love of books that actually got me to sign up for an English major is slowly waning because of it. Whereas I once used to dive into multiple books a week, nowadays I find it exhausting to read for even an hour a day. The excitement and the curiosity are diminishing. This, of course, scares me to death.
There are a few reasons why this is happening. For one, I feel it impossible to read without analyzing and deeply dissecting every word. I don’t just read for plot anymore. That can either be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. However, for the recreational reader in me, it is apparently detrimental. The second reason is the responsibility one starts to feel when surrounded by amazing readers. I cannot just be a casual reader anymore. I must now actually compose a reading list full of books that a literature major should read, which includes classics and intellectual novels. My own reading list includes everything from Jane Austen to Haruki Murakami. Just saying that felt tiresome, but I almost feel duty-bound to read them. By the way, all I’ve managed to get through this summer is half of The Catcher in the Rye and A Storm of Swords, which is just unacceptable.
It is the pathetic yet sad truth of my life, and I suspect of many others’, that summer reading is just a fantasy now, a fantasy where I actually manage to be a well-read English major. However, I have stumbled upon some helpful and some not-so-helpful tips that somewhat rekindle my love of reading. Firstly, slow and steady is perfectly all right. For the past two summers, I have felt terrible that I don’t read five to ten hours a day like I used to before. If you feel the same, learn to face the fact that you will probably never do that again. As an adult student, I had to come to the realization that I simply cannot afford the luxury of time. Whether it’s summer jobs, internships, volunteer work, or summer school, our summers are decidedly taken from us. As a result, no, we cannot read for ten hours a day as we did before. Keeping this in mind, I learned to set small goals. Start with an hour a day, or perhaps maybe even just a chapter. This is how I learned to build momentum rather than just look at my bookshelf in frustration. Slowly, but surely, the list will get smaller.
Secondly, start slow. I chose The Catcher in the Rye for this reason. It is short, easy to follow and simply worded, yet it still is a classic. Shorter or easier to read works seem to make me feel much more productive. It’s also great for easing into the rhythm of reading again. Stepping down from heavier works such as Beowulf and into something more modern certainly helped to relax my brain while also flexing my reading muscle. Yes, there is such a thing now. Thirdly, do not just read responsibly. Sprinkle in some fun titles (I’ve started Game of Thrones) to replenish the wonder of reading again. It’s been exactly a year since I’ve read anything in the fantasy genre so currently I’m soaking it up. There is nothing wrong with reading for plot. There is nothing wrong with escapist reading, remember that.
Lastly, take advantage of the wonderful weather! I have decided to keep a picnic blanket and a book at hand to take to my backyard to read. It is an easy and simple way to brighten up the dullness one starts to feel when reading. Reading a lovely fantasy novel in the bright sunlight helps to lighten the mood from the dreariness of classroom reading. It helps to convince your mind that you are not actually working, but are enjoying something for pleasure. The right setting can definitely be the divider between work and play.
Summer can be fun, but it can also be burdensome. Throughout the year, our list of things to do outside of school expands. Then, when the summer arrives we feel obligated, and even pressured, to do all those “fun” things. Currently, I feel like I’ve forgotten how to relax. Reading is just one of those things. I’m learning to let the pressure off and reintroduce myself to books again. I’m sure, little by little,, the love of reading will come back. I trust books to do so.
Image Credit: Tina Reading Under an Olive Tree: Oil on Linen by Marc Dalessio