Reading for fun? In college?

Photo courtesy of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia

AUDREY DAVENPORT | OPINION COLUMNIST | amdavenp@butler.edu

In middle school, I was definitely the kid who read on the bus ride home each day. Oftentimes, I’d still be reading the book as I walked from my bus stop to my house, having memorized the cracks in the sidewalk and avoiding them carefully. 

I remember thinking, “Man, it’s going to be so nice getting to read such good and interesting books as I get older!” I also fondly recall being rewarded at the library for completing summer reading programs. Those 2 cent holographic bookmarks I received upon completion of another book were gold, baby, pure gold.

But I was young and naive, unprepared for the harsh reality of what was to come.

Now, as an old, hardened chemistry major, there are definitely not many reading assignments that appear in any syllabus. Other than the textbooks, it’s pretty much non-existent. 

Because of this, one of the things I’m trying to do this semester is to read for fun more often. In the past, I have made reading close to my last priority during the semester. Admittedly, that’s partially my own fault — but I’m looking to change that. 

For my FYS class, The Coming of Age Story, we were required to read a lot. I didn’t mind it and, in fact, actually quite enjoyed it. Getting to class to discuss what we had read the previous night was always one of my favorite times during the day. It gave me the chance to appreciate the stories even more, and after conferring with others who had read the same texts, I always left with a better and more well-rounded understanding.

As the reading assignments for upper level classes became more and more sparse, I found myself just not reading stories all together. I read news articles and various assigned readings, but none compared to the feeling of reading a book for pleasure. 

Over breaks I read like a maniac. I read like it’s my job; I read like the ship is sinking and the books are the buckets. Okay, that’s a touch dramatic, but you get the idea. Break reading equals fun reading. I love getting into the stories and becoming obsessed with the characters, and up until breaks I always forget what it’s like to imagine characters in my head rather than mindlessly watching them on screens.

A few of the books I have read recently have been “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine,” “Where the Crawdads Sing,” and “Saving CeeCee Honeycutt” — all of which I would recommend. 

Reading during break gives me the chance to fall back in love with how pages turn and how plots develop. When I was younger, I read all the time. Series of books would take over my life, as I anxiously waited for the next one to come out. And when it finally did, you can bet that I was there within 48 hours to grab a copy and finish it in less than 24.

But that’s when I had time to read. These days, most of my free time is taken up by studying, spending time with friends or sleeping. None of which are bad things, mind you, but I realized that I missed the little brain breaks I used to get when I read more.

Thanks to our dear friend winter break, I was able to read again. I read four books in two weeks, just absolutely plowed through them. I had been so deprived that I had forgotten what it was like to not want to put a book down. 

It was during one of my many winter break binge reads that my idea for reading more during the semester hit me. I decided to make that commitment to myself and for myself. Initially, I didn’t really know what that was going to look like, remembering my hellishly busy schedule from the previous semester,  but I was determined that the Irwin library stacks would no longer be complete strangers to me.

In our beloved Irwin, there is a little section of books that sits right by the vending machines, called the “browsing section.” I imagine that it is quite neglected, as the pages in the books living there usually curl at the edges, just waiting to be whisked away and read. I went during the first week of this semester and picked two books that seemed like they would be good reads. 

I have already finished “Dear. Mrs. Bird,” and I’m about 20 pages away from finishing “Educated.” Granted I know that we aren’t in the full swing of things yet, but I’m still excited about this little win for myself. 

I’ve found reading to be a much nicer break than scrolling through Instagram or just staring into the abyss — as is typical of most college students. Reading still makes my brain work a little bit and I think it’s pretty fun. 

The only problem that I have run into so far is that all I want to do is read the books I have checked out. I have tried carrying one around with me during the school day and my eyes tend to drift from my homework to the fun book in my bag. It is a constant test of my willpower not to just wipe my desk clean of all the homework and crack open a book instead. 

For this reason, I have started keeping the books next to my bed so that they can wait all day and not distract me from what I need to do. Plus, it adds a bit of self-care to the end of my days, and I think all of us could use more of that. 

Just from this little trial period, I know that I will be making reading more of a priority in my daily routine. Not to the point where it takes away from school, but enough for it to feel like a self-developmental, reflective and restorative time for myself amongst the constant hustle bustle. 

Reading takes me back to my bus-riding days — the worryingly sticky grey vinyl seat, the shrieking of the bus door trying its best to get open, and of course the anticipation of a good book.

So if you were one of those kids like me, pick up a book again and see what it might do for you.

Moving forward with the semester, let’s make the browsing section feel a little more loved and try forming a new habit in order to have a happy and mentally healthy semester.

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