The bookworm, reading for hours in the library, is the quintessential picture of university life. This is often contrasted with individuals who enjoy a night out rather too much! Neither is completely the case: university is about balancing a whole range of different priorities and working out what is most important.
Reading is most certainly a serious part of university. In preparation for moving to Warwick last year, I read few books that specifically offered university advice. Instead, the website The Student Room provided excellent guidance regardless of course or location. Skimming through the website occasionally, especially in the last few weeks before my departure, was a great source of reassurance.
I am an avid bookworm. Reading has been an important part of my life for many years. My desire to ensure this continued at university was strong. Still, there was some anxiety. Would I have time to read? Could my interest in the literary world suddenly fall apart? I’m pleased to say there was both plenty of time and my love of books remains as strong as ever.
My attachment to Kindles and e-books has never been strong. However, most of the reading for my university degree took place online. Thanks to the Moodle reading lists, I very rarely needed to pick up a physical from the library. Ironically, it became a source of irritation if the university didn’t have the book available online.
In the evenings, I would occasionally read a fiction book unrelated to any part of my university course. That form of escapism is so important, particularly when tight deadlines are around the corner
Even so, attending the library introductory sessions is worth the time and energy. Though this may be virtual during the pandemic – and not seem like the most exciting activity – they will be really helpful in the long term. From checking out a book to using the printer, finding the best place to sit to using all the available tools at your disposal, those sessions are a great way to make your library work for you. Often, I completed lots of my reading in the library, for it was simply a quiet place that allowed me to get on with the work without any distractions.
I rarely read for pleasure in the library, though. Separating business from pleasure is really important, not least in a humanities degree. In the evenings, I would occasionally read a fiction book unrelated to any part of my university course. That form of escapism is so important, particularly when tight deadlines are around the corner. Similarly, I would often arrive early for lectures and seminars despite only living minutes away – punctuality has always been an important part of my life. I would then sit and read beforehand, as there wouldn’t be enough time to do any other work and plus, learning would take place soon anyway. Rewarding myself with a fictional read didn’t feel like a guilty pleasure. And it shouldn’t.
There is ample opportunity to join different societies with a shared appreciation for books and plays
Culture is all around us. Despite the pandemic, cities are still rooted in literary history, with real life locations often forming the basis of famous plots that keep readers gripped. With Coventry set to become the UK City of Culture in May 2021, its fictional history is likely to receive widespread attention. The great poet Philip Larkin was brought up in Coventry where his father was the city treasurer. Widely regarded as one of the finest 20th century poets, his upbringing will have played an impact on his later life. Similarly, the author George Eliot was born nearby to Nuneaton, with Coventry playing a key part in her famous text Middlemarch.
Modern appreciation for literature also still takes place. Though most second years live in Leamington Spa, the nearby town of Kenilworth holds a regular Arts Festival. In 2017, the participants included the novelists Kit de Waal and Sarah Moss, while in 2018 the guests over the 10 days included the nature writer John Lewis-Stempel and the novelist Fiona Mozley. It is amazing to think that just around the corner lurks such hidden, yet exciting, literary events.
Panicking about finding time to read is unnecessary. There is ample opportunity to join different societies with a shared appreciation for books and plays. Reading can be as unique or collective as a person wants it to be, the choice really is up to them. Arriving at university, it can feel like taking part in every opportunity possible is essential. Things don’t have to be like this. Bringing a hobby from home to university, like reading for pleasure, can happen. Besides, if you’re ever short of literary inspiration, there’s always a Waterstones in Leamington to enjoy.