It’s beginning to happen: “books I’m reading” are starting to be replaced with “scholarly articles I’m reading for class”. Less for me now are the random bits of history, selective biographies, gratuitous tomes on the publishing industry, physics and medicines works as I hear about them; in short, less reading according to arbitrary mood and pleasure. This is as it should be: I’m getting an education, and an integral of of that process is reading within a structured theme (the class subject), reading what has been selected by somebody else (my professors), reading what is assigned.
I paid a lot of money for that privilege. (More precisely, I think I’m paying for the privilege of having my efforts recognized. After all, I could always audit these courses and do all the reading & assignments, all without paying, but in 2 years, no diploma will I have to note what I have done.) More importantly, I’m eager and happy to do the readings. I think they are interesting and will open my eyes of new fields of knowledge.
The only thing I am on guard for is stopping my personal reading altogether. The only period in my life when this happened, when I went to libraries on a regular basis but never read anything from their stacks is during my undergraduate years. The textbooks inundated my days; classwork, work, and, of course, college social life consumed all my energies, not to mention a lot of spare hair I had. (Number theory, and the Chinese remainder theorem in particular, were especially hair-pulling inducing.) I had no time for reading “just ’cause”, reading for fun, reading to satisfy a visceral urge.
At some point, I looked at my reading diet: textbooks, lecture notes, and more textbooks. Horror! I needed to detox. Somehow, I hit on the idea that Virginia Woolf was the perfect rehab counselor. That summer, I steadily imbibed Mrs Dalloway, The Voyage Out, To the Lighthouse, The Waves, The Years, The Voyage Out . . . Thinking back on it, I think I just started on a particular call number corresponding to one of her books and read through its neighbors.
But binging is as bad as purging. I don’t want to repeat my college experience. I want to continue reading both for my formal education and for my selfish self. I also want a mansion in Bel Air and Penelope Cruz’s legs. We’ll see how either of those things works out!