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Good books and great books

| Monday, January 18, 2016

It probably comes as no surprise that I, a Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) major, love books. Even before I could read, I would hoard books from around my house: picture books my dad would read to me and my younger sisters, my mom’s John Grisham novels or really any book that caught my eye. I’d stack them in my “library,” which was really just a side table in our family room that I’d shove all of “my” books under.

Once I learned how to read, I continued to collect and keep obscene amounts of books. All throughout middle and high school, all of my birthday and Christmas gifts were books or gift cards that would eventually be used to buy more books. I read all of them almost immediately.

Which leads us to present day. I’m a sophomore in college who hasn’t read half of the books I’ve received or bought in the past year and a half. I’m too busy reading my school books. And yes, I do recognize the irony in being unable to read the books I want to because I’m too busy with my major’s notoriously heavy assigned readings. I’m so busy reading “great books” that I don’t have any time to read books that might be merely good or mediocre or even downright trashy.

I still love reading, but it’s become a much more academic love. Even when I’m reading for pleasure, it’s not the same as when I was 12 years old and binge reading the latest “Harry Potter” book. It’s harder to simply read for the sake of a good story when you’re preoccupied with all the things you need to consider for 85 percent of your reading time.

There’s also a lot more pressure to make your leisure reading “worthwhile.” When I was younger, I would read almost indiscriminately: Everything — every suggestion, every remotely interesting cover, every book that was being turned into a movie — got read. I wasn’t as concerned with whether or not it was good because I knew within a day or two I’d be onto the next one. It meant I read a lot of truly terrible books, but it also meant that I could try a bit of everything, including finding treasures hidden as books I wouldn’t be brave enough to pick up now.

Now, every book I read needs to be the “right” one, whether it’s won a ton of awards, received a lot of hype or is from a famous author I already know I enjoy. And I do enjoy most of the books I read for fun now. But I miss having the time to read indiscriminately, to choose weird, experimental, quirky literature I’d never pick up now. I’m reading great books, but in the process I’m afraid I’m missing out on good ones.  

Contact Megan Valley at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley was Assistant Managing Editor for The Observer. She majored in English and the Program of Liberal Studies and hailed from Flushing, Michigan.

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