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The value of reading

(Photo courtesy of: University of the People) “Reading brings joy to many people.”

Eric Schultz
Connector Editor

Now that I’m finally doing it consistently, I believe that there is a lot of value in reading as a hobby. Previously, I would take months to read just one book and then take months long breaks in between each of them and decided to change that this year by committing to reading consistently. With seven books completed so far, I think that reading finally clicked for me by realizing why I enjoy it, thinking critically and discussing the works and learning to not stress myself with what should be a fun hobby.

What makes reading so compelling for me is discovering just how far writers can stretch the limits of language in telling stories. Books are much more than a list of plot points, and it takes sustained creativity to deliver on their potential. When I read Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, I was frequently left in awe at the ways he described different cities’ architecture and how they become part of these cities’ DNA. On the other hand, Toni Morrison’s Sula caused me to reflect on the value of a name and the role of community as a negative organizing force. In the process of reflecting on these works, I have been left with new ideas to confront.

Like all great art, great books can change how we view certain things in our own lives. For example, James Joyce’s Dubliners is a short story collection that is ultimately about Joyce trying to articulate why exactly he loves his titular hometown at a point in history when not many did. As I am getting ready to graduate from UMass Lowell and move back home, I have caught myself reflecting on what I find special and unique about Lowell. Although I do not have a set of criteria for what makes a certain book one of my favorites, one similarity among all of them is the feeling that they are grasping at something that goes beyond the words of which they are composed. I have been thinking of these books since I read them and will still be thinking of them for a long time.

At the same time, I understand that it can be hard to read during the school year and especially for students who are in reading-heavy majors. Whenever I had classes with dense (but good) historical or political readings, the last thing that I would want to do was pick up

another book even though it was something I genuinely wanted to read. In retrospect, I think the trick is to create an isolated time block to read class materials so you can take a break and feel good about reading for fun. In addition to the personal reward that reading can bring, it is a cheap hobby with virtually no financial barriers. Libraries are one of the greatest public goods we have, and when it comes to buying books, used bookstores can have some good deals.

Lastly, I think it’s important not to stress too much about the amount of reading you are doing. I used to get hung up about my reading pace, but I have since realized that doing my best to stay consistent with reading is enough. Seven books in three months is a pace that I am personally comfortable with, and everyone should read at the pace that works best for them. If you are reading this right now, chances are that you are only in your twenties. You will have decades to do a lot of things, so why not pick up reading?

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