I learned to competently read when I was five years old, and I was immediately drawn to novels. Inspired by my older brother, I warmed up with a few Hardy Boys and by second grade I could proudly declare I had read every Series of Unfortunate Events then published. They were terrifying and grotesque and made me feel I was shedding my childhood innocence for a more accurate perspective on the big, bad world. And I loved discovering words and ideas I didn’t even know existed, like “penultimate.” We should all use the word “penultimate” more often.
Here at Covenant, I read about a book every week or two (find me on Goodreads), and it’s honestly one of the biggest benefactors in my pursuit of education here at Covenant. Anyway, I’d like to address you as a college student hoping you will consider reading novels.
One hurdle that stops people from picking up a novel is all the other required reading that comes with being a student. At any given time, there are always three or four essays and chapters that we should read, and if you’re anything like me, everything started falling through the cracks right around fall break.
But the thing is, reading novels you enjoy will make all that required reading way easier.
I wouldn’t get nearly as much class reading done if I wasn’t also balancing that with books I find hilarious and engaging and challenging. At the risk of sounding like my Mom, I can give myself a TREAT for making it to the end of an incredibly dense Rudolf Arnheim essay bemoaning the bastardization of cinema through the arrival of sound with something I’m actually excited to read. (To my Mom and Dr. Foreman: I’m sorry, I love and respect each of you tremendously.)
Another hindrance for potential Scots readers comes up in conversation all the time: a simple lack of time. A friend will see me reading and exclaim, “Oh man wow, I really wish I had time to read a novel. I love reading”. And I understand this response because of course, every single person on this campus is always busy, virtually all the time.
But when said friend moves the conversation on towards binging Stranger Things and Grey’s Anatomy back-to-back, I usually titter pretentiously before reining it in. We’re all busy. I’m taking sixteen credits plus work-study and clubs and friendships and of course, weekly hiking requirements.
Occasionally I hit a heavy week, and I can set my own reading aside. No stress. If reading on your own is something you’re really interested in, you can probably make the time. With the exception of that one friend who’s now paying the price for a double major, most of us can carve out some free time to read whatever we’d like. It could be before bed, or in those awkward chunks of free time throughout the day, or even in the class that you’re guaranteed to fall asleep in if you don’t preoccupy yourself. And it doesn’t have to take that much time at all.
Enter the novella: a few weeks ago I discovered how incredibly enjoyable and palatable a one or two hundred page book can be, and since then I’ve read four. Some of the best stories ever written have been novellas, and reading them is so less arduous than reading a heavier book because, after a few hours of reading, the finish line is in sight and you can take her home. There’s no sense of dread and commitment that comes with opening a massive tome.
If the idea of adding an extra commitment to your life isn’t appealing, I completely understand. There’s nothing wrong with catching your breath and watching a little TV, and I would totally watch Stranger Things except I got hyped on Atlanta. And if you’re not sure what exactly to read, please come talk to me. I’ll probably squeal with delight and start flinging suggestions at you, and you’re free to borrow a book. Just know I’ll break your kneecaps if you don’t return it.
Speaking of debts: Nate Plating, you’ve owed me $4 since O-Week and this is your final warning.