Opinion | College students need to read for fun

Emma Margaret Thompson, Contributing Writer

I won’t say reading is fun for everyone, but reading can be fun for everyone.

As college students with limited free time, along with a plethora of off-campus commitments and social obligations, finding the time to read can be difficult, if not totally impossible. 

I quickly learned in my collegiate experience that the amount of assigned readings from my professors astronomically increased from high school. When this is the case, why would students feel compelled to read if they’re already being forced to absorb medieval literature or cell biology books on a regular basis?

There are book genres and books in the world that exist outside of academia. In 2010 there were 129,864,880 different books in existence.

In accordance with this statistic, I’d have to argue that there is a book out there for everyone. While students can often feel too swamped to consider reading for fun, the activity of reading for leisure is valuable. Reading can enrich our minds, bring us comfort, open us to new ideas and enhance the way we look at the world. With this kind of potential, reading cannot be left behind in the classroom. 

With the busy schedules of students, the biggest barrier to reading is the act of starting. When this is the case, the best thing for students to do is to take a habit they learn throughout college and apply it to their hobbies: planning ahead. 

I have been able to apply my time management skills through Goodreads. This year, my Goodreads reading goal was 21 books. Ten months later, and I am reading my 49th book of the year. Whether it’s through an app, a favorites list on Audible, or an old-fashioned list on pen and paper, students can meet their goals by making them a priority.

While academics are undoubtedly important, it is equally vital to cultivate ourselves in other areas of life. Doing so can only lead to improvement and to being a more well-rounded individual. 

I can’t suggest that students jump into reading without doing the same myself. So, in an effort to make reading sound as exciting as it truly is, and to get you to pick up a book or two, here is a list of my favorite reads of 2021 (in no particular order).

“The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig

If you have ever asked yourself what is between life and death, this book is for you. A refreshing combination of what has been and what will be, “The Midnight Library” will suck you into a world beyond our own. This is exactly what happens to Nora Seed, a young introvert whose life is not going exactly the way she had planned. 

But one question still remains: If you had a chance to go back in your life and change things, what would you do differently? 

“Lovely War” by Julie Berry

Set in World War I, Julie Berry’s “Lovely War” covers the story of two sets of young lovers: two English natives who meet at a London party and fall in love deeply and quickly, and an African American soldier and a Belgian refugee who is volunteering with the Red Cross. 

Berry introduces another timeline where the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells the story of these couples to her husband, the god Hephaestus, and her lover, the god Ares, in a New York City hotel room in the 1940s. 

Throughout the book, readers wonder why love and war are so related. What makes falling in love during wartime so … lovely?

“The Giver of Stars” by Jojo Moyes

There is no better way to invest yourself in reading than to pick up a book about a library. In this case, a traveling library.

Set in the 1930s and based on a true story, “The Giver of Stars,” by Jojo Moyes, features a young aristocratic girl named Alice who marries a handsome American to escape her life in England. She soon realizes that rural Kentucky is as smothering as her life across the pond. 

When Eleanor Roosevelt announces her plans for a nationwide traveling library, Alice jumps at the chance to get involved in the town and meet new people to make her new life more bearable.

Five women take on the challenge of bringing books through the mountains of Kentucky and discover a lot about themselves and each other along the way. 

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith

An American classic set at the turn of the 20th century, in Williamsburg, New York, this coming-of-age novel illuminates the life of a young, precocious Francie Nolan who is living with her family in an impoverished neighborhood. 

Throughout the book, we see Francie grow and change along with her family and the city itself. This “slice of life” highlights the good, the bad and the ugly of living as a Nolan, from the daily mundane tasks to the exciting bits of Francie’s developing years.

Each day is a gift, and life sometimes feels like it’s not worth living, but in “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” Betty Smith encapsulates how wonderful your world can be. 

“The Maidens” by Alex Michaelides

A murder in Cambridge, a handsome American professor, a group psychotherapist and a prominent memory of a deceased lover come together to prove that a lot can happen in a short time.

In his second novel, best-selling author of “The Silent Patient” Alex Michaelides provides us with yet another psychological thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat … or in this case the edge of the page.

When female undergraduate students of an elite group at Cambridge University keep turning up dead, Mariana Andros becomes fixated in proving that the elusive professor Edward Fosca is behind the attacks.

With twists and turns around every corner and a murderer lurking in their midst, the characters of this fast-paced novel must keep their wits about them to avoid a bloody fate.

Those are the books that made my year and will make the years to come as I reread them. A book is what you make of it. When a teacher says “you get out of the class what you put into the class,” you may roll your eyes, but they’re not wrong. Learning is not limited to one atmosphere, stage, place or time. Learning is a lifelong attitude that extends to every moment, conversation and decision. 

Once we begin to see learning as more than a letter grade, we can begin to enjoy it for what it is: an opportunity. When we pursue learning, we are able to experience not just more of our world, but more of ourselves. 

Reading can illuminate real-world experiences in an entertaining and accessible way. By reading for fun, we can grow our minds and our souls in equal measure. 

Whether you pick up one of these books or not, pick up a book soon. You will thank yourself for it. With Thanksgiving and Christmas break just around the corner, use this time to ask yourself a few questions: When was the last time I read for fun? Do I pursue enough growth outside of academics? Have I taken enough time to relax and improve my mental health? 

Whatever those answers are, it can’t hurt to give reading a shot. 

Questions? Email the Opinions desk at letters@cw.ua.edu.