Who wants to read?!
Not you, probably, as you slog through to the last stretch before finals. And I get it, you’ve read hundreds of pages of theory, history, literature, science, etc., and if you’re a humanities major you’ve probably read more Freud than you think should be legal under the Geneva Convention. But whether you believe in it or not, there is life after finals and a whole summer stretched before you. Maybe you have an internship, a summer job, vacation plans, or just plans to buy more shorts. Whatever your plans, making time for reading is a great way to decompress, practice self-awareness, or get ahead of the curve for next year (you may be reviled for the last one). I’ve proposed a few ways to go about planning your summer reading so you get the most out of the time you have to be in charge of your own readings. This summer, take back the books
1. Reading for a Class by You
Or, How to Sound Smarter Than Your Friends Next Year. The idea is that you will embark on a reading binge/project that is relevant to what you’re studying, particularly what you will be taking next year. If you know ahead of time what your reading lists will be, you might be tempted to do that, but by the time class discussions come around you will probably have entirely forgotten everything you read. It can be fun and rewarding to think up your own reading trajectory for the summer based on what you’re interested in at school–maybe you want to sample prominent but fun Victorian books (like Wuthering Heights), read a series of pop-science psychology authors (think Malcolm Gladwell), or delve into the history of U.S. politics (Master of the Senate and other LBJ books were popular last summer). Whatever you’re reading, you’re confident you’re spending your time wisely, and will be delighted to tell literally everyone about how much you learned in the fall. A bunch of times.
2. Expansion by Recommendation
Or, Make Your Friends Do The Work For You. If, in the true spirit of the liberal arts, you want to use the summer to have a broader base of learning and explore worlds outside your major, this strategy is for you. Ask friends in other academic disciplines what their favorite book in their field/favorite assigned reading has been. You may get a few stuffy articles that are just too dreary to read in June, but chances are you’ll be recommended a wide variety of interesting novels/memoirs/books that will take you on a summer adventure that changes course with every book. You can also ask professors for recommendations, if you’re willing to run the risk of them asking you in the fall if you actually read what they recommended. This is a great option for those who desire more variety than the first strategy or get distracted from a topic easily (case in point: me). All you really need are a few friends who actually do assigned reading, and you have a summer reading list already on hand!
3. Don’t Plan
I know I said that I would propose ways to plan your summer reading, but this is a legitimate alternate direction. Planning ahead of time will help you reach your summer reading goals and is great for those with specific time periods to fill up, like long commutes or awkward family reunions. However, the most freeing and sometimes most exciting way to plan your summer reading is not to plan at all. Start with something you bought but never got around to reading, with a book you got as a gift. From there, branch out to similar or differing books based on your tastes. Read for pleasure like you did when you were a kid: what you want to when you want to, often featuring dragons. There’s no reason you can’t incorporate parts of the first two strategies either: maybe you want to read a friend’s recommendation, or finish a book you only read selections with in class. The only big problem with this strategy is that you will always find another book you want to read, and by the time the summer is over it is impossible to have read them all. You will have to tear yourself away from whatever genre obsession or author worship you fell into during the following months in order to return to assigned reading. But as they say, it’s better to love reading and have to leave it than never to have loved reading at all—right?
Whichever strategy you choose, or even if you decide to give your brain a break this summer and not read at all, I hope you have luck at finals and a great summer!