Lots of my students wish to become better, more avid readers, but they get stymied by some false assumptions:
- They think, for some reason, that if they don't like what's popular—books about wizards, vampires, babysitting clubs, or traveling pants—that it's somehow their own fault for not making progress in a book. This is crazy.
- They think, for some reason?, that they should only be reading books about churchy stuff, books they find at Deseret Book, books written by general authorities. This is absurd.
- They think—for some reason!?!—that they have to finish whatever book they start before they can start another. This is outlandish.
Friends, let me reassure you, as someone who has fancy advanced degrees in reading and stuff, that I for one definitely don't care for any twilights or for any of those Da Vinci codes, and I'm not apologizing for it. I can't remember the last time I stepped into a Deseret Book, much less read one. And if you could see the number of books I've casually tossed aside unfinished, the number of books in my bedside table that were Christmas gifts from loved ones and that I should be reading but that I haven't bothered cracking, you'd feel a lot better about yourself.
Let me break it down for you: READING FOR FUN IS FOR FUN.
It's not your job, not an obligation, not a duty. And if you treat it like one, you'll only resent it, the way you resent all reading that is an obligation (I'm talking about stuff assigned for class: you guys hate that stuff). Almost every one of my students can recall the moment when they began to hate reading, and it almost always boils down to the line between reading-as-pleasure and reading-as-duty being erased, often by a parent or teacher imposing rules or expectations on reading.
Think about all the reading you do for fun every day without even thinking about it—all the social media posts and ESPN blogs and Bachelorette write-ups. Americans are reading and writing more now than at any previous time in history thank to Facebook and smartphones. And yet most of us don't even count this as reading because it's fun. Reading, you think, is something you do in a quiet room alone while worrying about other people having fun without you.
What to Do
Alright, enough talk. For this extra credit opportunity, I've picked two books in genres most of you have probably never considered reading. All you have to do is choose one (or more?), read it (or listen to it?), and write a report about your reading. Here are the choices:
The Coming-of-Age Story
by Tara Westover
From Amazon: "Tara Westover wasn’t your garden variety college student. When the Holocaust was mentioned in a history class, she didn’t know what it was (no, really). That’s because she didn’t see the inside of a classroom until the age of seventeen. Public education was one of the many things her religious fanatic father was dubious of, believing it a means for the government to brainwash its gullible citizens, and her mother wasn’t diligent on the homeschooling front.... For those of us who took our educations for granted, who occasionally fell asleep in large lecture halls (and inconveniently small ones), it’s hard to grasp the level of grit—not to mention intellect—required to pull off what Westover did."
The Personal Essayist
by Anne Fadiman
From Amazon: This witty collection of essays recounts a lifelong love affair with books and language. For Fadiman, as for many passionate readers, the books she loves have become chapters in her own life story. Writing with remarkable grace, she revives the tradition of the well-crafted personal essay, moving easily from anecdotes about Coleridge and Orwell to tales of her own pathologically literary family. As someone who played at blocks with her father's 22-volume set of Trollope ("My Ancestral Castles") and who only really considered herself married when she and her husband had merged collections ("Marrying Libraries"), she is exquisitely well equipped to expand upon the art of inscriptions, the perverse pleasures of compulsive proof-reading, the allure of long words, and the satisfactions of reading out loud."
Once you've finished the book, write a reflection paper about your experience. You can say anything you want, but here are some ideas:
- What did you like most about the book?
- What did you hate most about the book?
- What was your favorite passage and why? (This could be a really well-written or beautiful sentence, an idea that floored you, a plot twist that you thought was original, or whatever.)
- What typos, if any, did you find in the book?
- What did you learn about yourself while reading this book?
- Where, how, how fast, and when did you read this book?
- What are your future reading-for-fun plans?
- Do you have any book recommendations you'd like to share?
Turn It In
Your response paper should be uploaded to your Submitted folder on Dropbox by 9:00pm on Tuesday, July 23.
Extra Credit Earned
You will receive extra credit equal to two missed or failed assignment—that is, missing or failing two assignments (not a major paper, of course) will not count against your average, as explained in the "Grading" section in the Syllabus.