School Readings vs. Reading for Pleasure: The Battle Rages On

It’s fair enough to say I’m addicted to books. I read over 15 novels a year, and some of these are lengthy tomes that I couldn’t possibly conquer in a fortnight without putting all other endeavors aside. I read pretty much every day, and I find it extremely difficult to fall asleep without finishing at least one chapter of whichever novel I happen to be in the process of devouring.

But being a bookworm sometimes made my time in university rather difficult. I would often think, “Why read about crusty old artifacts when I could be reading about Sherlock Holmes, Tyler Durden or the Overlook Hotel?” Fictitious characters can seem just as real as historical figures when their adventures and exploits are unfolding right before you on the page—and, of course, the vibrant and captivating stories crafted by the the creative mind can be far more tempting to explore than the oftentimes depressing realities of human history. That’s one of the main reasons I was never as eager to do my class readings as I was to lose myself in a good novel.

For any other students who suffer from the distraction of “reading for pleasure,” the best strategy I can suggest is to pursue a program that you are very interested in. I realize this is similar to the advice I offered in my blog “Your Studies Aren’t Written in Stone” but it applies here as well. For example, in my professional writing and communication courses, I found it much easier to motivate myself to complete readings when they were largely composed of passages from notable works of fiction and non-fiction that would pique any bookworm’s interest. I discovered authors that immediately appealed to me (e.g. Jared Diamond) and I also got to learn more about authors of whom I already had some knowledge (e.g. Bret Easton Ellis). Now that I think about it, even the lengthy articles assigned to my 20th Century art class were considerably more interesting than the dry essays I had to slog through for my abandoned earth science minor program. By pursuing my interests and avoiding areas of study that I didn’t enjoy as much, my school readings became almost as enjoyable as the novels I read on the side.

Completing your program’s requirements, including assigned readings, is an unavoidable aspect of post-secondary education, but if you pursue courses that you think will genuinely interest you, the reading will seem like far less of a chore. Whether you enjoy your assigned readings or loathe them, be sure to manage your time so that you can regularly enjoy some leisure reading time—you’ll go stir-crazy if you force yourself to spend all your free time with your nose in a textbook! Granted, school readings should take priority over reading for pleasure, but it is more than possible to maintain a healthy balance between work and play.

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