Reading What I Need Vs. Reading What I Want.

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As an English student there is a constant battle within me to read the books I really want to read or the books on my syllabus. Sometimes, if I’m taking a literature course, balancing things is impossible (like the time my class was going through one novel every week) but sometimes it’s more flexible and I can squeeze in some favorites. I normally try to read two things at one: one for school and one for myself (it helps keeping my sanity intact). If I happen to read British classics for school, I try and make my choice something completely different, like sci-fi or something (although that rarely happens).

This term things are a bit different since I’m not studying literature at all, but media. However, there is loads to read (textbook chapters, articles, massive amounts of googling to be done). This gives me the possibility to read more literature of my choice. Happy days ahead!

There are some books I really want to get my hands on, and seeing as I am now the proud owner of a Kindle, the sky is the limit (or the above-mentioned Kindle’s memory). But all this talk about balancing what I want to read and what I need to read made me realize something quite interesting: reading things for school is good for me. “Well d’oh” anyone might say. Except I don’t mean it like that! What I’m really trying to say is that most of the stuff I had to read for school were things I really enjoyed. Very few of my today favorite authors made it on my list because I discovered them myself. Many were shown to me through recommendation from teachers, small excerpts that were used to point out things but got stuck in my mind so that I went straight to the library to get more of that author/book, etc.

Some books I am sure I would have never picked up on my own because I, like many readers, tend to want to stick with the genre I like. So I read fantasy, and horror, and classics. I almost never read sci-fi, but by giving it a chance once in a while I discover great books that make me more aware of writing techniques. I often struggle in my writing to make the setting look real (although apparently I’m improving these days). Like Mark Twain said, “The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction must be credible.” So if someone makes a universe like the one in Ender’s Game believable, there is lots to learn from that author’s craft. Plus, it’s a really cool book.

Another example would be Richard Wright. Again, I wasn’t particularly interested in African-American literature but the craft of Wright, shown in a tiny excerpt at school to illustrate how lists might work in prose, made me more aware of it. Right after followed Jamaica Kincaid and Toni Cade Bambara. Especially the last one! Me, Bambara’s short stories, and lots of tea, spend great moments that made me laugh out loud or cry (and I never really cry no matter how sad movies/books get). And I just know I would have never ever picked up that book unless my teacher didn’t want to illustrate how voice works in prose.

Well I guess some things never change...
Well I guess some things never change…

It’s nice to have the liberty of choice. We can say that about almost anything really. I just seem to realize that sometime it’s nice to listen to recommendation rather than saying “sure, I’ll check it out later” and never doing so. These four months in England I am absolutely free to read whatever novel/short story I want. Even for my creative course, we are allowed to pick two short stories of our choice each week. So I try to pick authors I don’t know. Of course I’m almost seduced by the sight of authors I love in the table of contents but I try to always read at least one I’ve never read before. Sometimes it’s….not so good, but sometimes I discover worlds that I know I will want to visit again.

So, go ahead! Read something you don’t think you will like. You enjoy romance? Give horror a shot! You like the classics? Have a taste of fantasy! Go outside your comfort zone and maybe you’ll be happy you gave it a try.



Have a great weekend everyone!






2 thoughts on “Reading What I Need Vs. Reading What I Want.

    rossmurray1 said:
    October 4, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    I’ve had luck taking chances on books. (Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi comes to mind.) Recently, though, I tried reading Inferno by Eileen Myles, a very stream-of-conscious memoir of her coming out as a poet and lesbian in the early seventies NY. I didn’t make it.

      Cristina responded:
      October 4, 2013 at 11:42 pm

      Yeah, some don’t work out that well. But I still try and most of the time I get pretty lucky! I mean, to win you first have to buy a ticket, right? 🙂

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