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How to leisure-read in college

| Wednesday, November 19, 2014

web_leisure read_11-20-2014Samantha Coughlin

If I had a nickel for every time a friend said, “I wish I had time for leisure reading,” I’d be able to purchase every book on my Barnes and Noble wish list.

One of the biggest complaints I hear amongst students on campus is that they don’t have the opportunity to read for fun. It’s understandable: when assigned 100 pages of Plato in philosophy class it’s hard to set that down and reach for a novel before bed.

But I’m here to offer a solution for your leisure-reading needs: essays and short story collections.

So, this may oversimplify the problems of time and schoolwork, but since I’ve taken on reading collections of essays and short stories instead of novels or book-length nonfiction, I’ve hit my leisure reading slide. Reading a collection of essays or short stories is the perfect way to keep your reading short but sweet. With discrete stories you won’t feel that urge to stay up all night with a page-turner or have the dread of that unfinished novel weighing down your backpack and your conscience.

There’s not only variety within a book, to accommodate your post-homework attention span, but you can rotate in and out these collections as you please (I currently have five books in my rotation). If you don’t like an author, you can finish the essay and set it aside guilt-free, or save the book for later without worrying about remembering each character’s name.

Of course, I’m not trying to knock the novel. All I’m saying is if you’re anything like me, saving “Moby Dick” and “Ulysses” for winter break and summer time may be your best bet. But if you’re pining over your leisure-reading friend, here are a few newer releases for semester-friendly reading — because picking up a book and sitting down with a story at the end of the day is as good as we all remember.

“The Empathy Exams” – Leslie Jamison

Released earlier this year, Leslie Jamison’s “The Empathy Exams” jumped onto the New York Times bestseller list and quickly became one of my favorite books of all time. The collection of non-fiction essays range from journalistic pieces to deeply personal stories, all of which question the causes, sources and limitations of empathy in some way. The result is a book you can’t stop returning to and reaching for. With each book I read after Jamison’s, I find myself making connections to one or more of her essays, which examine everything from psychology to long-distance running to the work of Joan Didion.

“This Is Running For Your Life” – Michelle Orange

This collection of essays, released in 2013, is a powerhouse of cultural criticism from writer Michelle Orange. Whether the author is criticizing the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” trope or exploring Beirut, the writing is intelligent, interesting and challenging  (the good kind of challenging). Orange has an amazing ability to look around at the world today and write about it in a way that makes me think she has some superpower — cultural X-ray vision or clairvoyance — that she communicates with a strong and perceptive voice that will keep you thinking far after each essay is over.

“100 Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses” – Lucy Corin

Okay, so this one may be more of an exception, because Lucy Corin’s wonderful collection of short stories are tied together so perfectly, you may never want to set it down. In the fiction collection, the author explores the theme of “apocalypse,” the end of the world, on scales large and small.  The result is a fascinating book of stories that take on surprising and unconventional forms, characters and disasters.

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About Allie Tollaksen

Scene Editor. Senior studying Psychology and dabbling in everything else.

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