Conquering the Reading List

University will change the way you read. As with many things in life, as soon as reading becomes compulsory, the pleasure of it is kinda undermined. Especially if you feel like you are reading a lot of things that might not interest you. Gone are the carefree days spent leafing through the pages of novels with pretty covers and immersing yourself in another world without the thought of deadlines constantly in the back of your mind. ‘Leisure reading’ tends to take the backseat. But hang in there, because academia can be leisurely, and you’ll probably end up thanking your lecturers for introducing you to literature that will inspire you a lot more than the effortless, but often forgettable, reads.

The reading lists may feel like more of a burden than an indulgence, but these books that you may never have considered reading really will enrich your learning beyond the classroom. Accept that your lecturer knows more than you and you will probably find that if it’s on the list, it’s going to be of interest to you, since you did choose the subject. That’s not to say that you will always enjoy the read itself. Yes, sometimes forcing your mind to focus on books that can be at first really laborious, or just plain dull, finds its way knocked down the to-do list. But understanding the significance of literature in its specific place in space and time unlocks so very much about human psychology, societal constructs, relationships and world cultures, and you will probably find that reading is not only the key to success in any degree, but ultimately of course the key to forming your own opinions about the world around you. See, it’s not that dull, am I right!

My own experiences with reading at uni were pretty bleak. Leisure reading quickly became a blurry memory of Twilight and The Hunger Games, and I found myself in a dull spiral of reading books that were, in my mind, tedious and unremarkable. In my first year I rarely finished the reading lists, by second year I rarely started them. I couldn’t get focussed, I had lost all enthusiasm for reading and it felt like a chore. Until I discovered that Russian literature, once dismissed by yours truly as contrived and melodramatic, was actually pretty great. It wasn’t the books that were lacking depth – it had been me who had retained a very superficial outlook about what they should offer. My brazen summation of any literature as uninteresting or vapid was only a sign of my own ignorance. Giving it more time and thought, I began to understand how intrinsically linked this literature in particular was with the history, moral values and social make-up of its country. It all began to fall into place. It totally changed my mind about literature even in the very broadest sense of the word, because now I understood that it wasn’t always going to be as easy as leafing through the pages of novels with pretty covers but it could be so much more rewarding.

The books that I had scrambled through to get grades in course that I didn’t care about, they taught me self-discipline. But the books that I discovered really meant something to me were the ones that have inspired a new lease of life in my reading outlook. Understanding more about the deeper meanings of these novels, how they were applicable to the societies of past eras, and how they are applicable today, is not only totally satisfying but also necessary. So don’t get too stressed about the lists. Don’t think about it as a chore or an obligation, just chill out and read. It is worth the effort.


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