Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Does reading stop being fun at university?

We all know how many different time pressures there are at uni: the normal struggle of managing to go to POP!, be on the exec of a society, fit in Curiositea catch-ups with friends, and still manage to find the time to do our seminar notes. But for some students this ever-increasing to-do-list means reading for pleasure often gets missed out in favour of seemingly more useful ways to spend already limited time. Is it possible to read for fun whilst studying at university, and on top of that, do so without feeling guilty?

I study a heavily literature-based arts degree and this struggle to read all the books on time and I go way back. Even doing the ‘required readings’ on time can be a stress in the first place, not to mention secondary literature or ‘recommended reading’ – let’s face it, does anyone have time to read ‘around’ the subject? For most of my modules I consider myself very much in the centre of it and only dream of making it to the outskirts someday. So it’s easy to see why reading for fun comes in low on the priority list for many students.

I didn’t exactly cut out all the other things that I liked to do when I wasn’t doing work

Perhaps the nature of reading for fun is why we often bypass it: we connect it to something we do for uni and convince ourselves that there’s something more useful we could be reading instead. If we’re going to be reading, surely it should be that too many-page long chapter we had to read by last week? But just because reading for study and reading for fun have something in common, it shouldn’t necessarily mean they even fall on the same to-do-list.

During A Levels and first year, reading for fun very much took a back seat in my life; I used to look forward to the summer holidays as being the time where I could read whatever I wanted with no strings attached. But, thinking about it, I didn’t exactly cut out all the other things that I liked to do when I wasn’t doing work, so why should I have stopped reading things I wanted to read? There’s nothing to say it should only be for vacations. After all, we’ve all probably found ourselves in a Youtube loop when we should have been writing an essay, or complaining to flatmates about work we don’t have time to do… for an hour. It’s inevitable and healthy that we will take down-time away from our desks, whatever form this takes. So if this means delving into a Vintage classic or whatever book grabs our interest, we shouldn’t feel any more guilty for this than binging Netflix.

For many students, it isn’t guilt stopping us enjoying a book

It’s surprising how we can find time to fit a few pages in if we take the opportunity; it would certainly kill time waiting for the bus or an awkward 10 minutes before a lecture. You probably don’t do your seminar notes on the bus, so reading during this time en route isn’t necessarily any less productive.

Of course, for many students, it isn’t guilt stopping us enjoying a book, but the fact that after all the demands of a day on campus, the last thing we want to do is move our eyes across a page and think – horrific, I know – about what’s on it. Even if we do find an hour to spare to sink our teeth into a book, sometimes it’s just all-too tempting to opt for that glimpse into our reality we see in ourselves as the screen goes blank between scenes on Netflix, as we remember that 50 page article we have to read by tomorrow.

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