Novels inspire, provide new foundations

Classes are finally getting into full swing, and I find myself glancing over at the large and expensive stack of textbooks I purchased at the beginning of the semester, realizing that I’ve only skimmed through them a few times to date.

Textbooks seem to be the only thing I have been reading lately. Between classes, friends, and extracurricular, it’s getting increasingly difficult to find time to sit down and read something as simple and enjoyable as The Hunger Games.

When I was younger I couldn’t wait to get home from school and curl up on the couch with a snack and the latest Harry Potter novel. I used to read for hours, and those childhood memories are some of the fondest of my life.

In a depressing turn of events, nowadays I spend most of my time curled up with textbooks that I wouldn’t be reading at all if I had my way.

It’s not that textbooks don’t have something to offer the world. They are bursting with important facts and figures that we’ll need to know if we ever want to walk across the stage with a diploma in our hand at some point. But given a choice between a Physics textbook and Twilight, I would probably be forced to read about the adventures of glittering vampires.

On second thought, I’d probably take the Physics book.

Fortunately, and a little ironically, we have the movie industry to thank for much of the reading that we’re doing these days. Epic films based on some bestselling book or another are coming out every other weekend, giving us an incentive to pick up the novel that started it all and see what the author wanted us to get out of their work in the first place.

The highly-anticipated film adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s classic The Hobbit is being released before the year’s end, and I’ve wanted to re-read the book for the last few weeks now. The movie is destined to be a smash and, in the interest of actually being able to remember more of what happens in the plot than a furry-footed munchkin finding a ring of power, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to revisit it.

Sadly, that massive stack of textbooks is calling my name, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to be picking up The Hobbit anytime soon.

It’s worth pointing out that we make time for other activities when we have a rare moment to ourselves. YouTube is practically a black hole of procrastination; the hours that we put into it are never seen again. In fact, the Internet has given us a veritable host of distractions at our fingertips, and it’s hard for a book to compete with the endless fascinations of Reddit.

Groucho Marx once said, “outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”

Groucho was always a strange character, but he has a point. We were learning to read with Dr. Seuss before any of us knew what Facebook was. Though books have had to adapt to 21st century technology and attention spans with Kindle and Nook, they are still our constant companions.

Perhaps Oscar Wilde’s quote is more to the point: “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

Few professors are going to put The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on a required reading list here on campus, and the ones who do surely deserve a few extra points on the “Rate My Professors” website, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t read it anyway.

As with most things in life, in the end I suppose it just comes down to finding balance. Getting passing grades is important and something every student should aspire to. But if we’re obligated to read for class, and we’re definitely going to make time for intramurals and Assassin’s Creed, then it probably wouldn’t hurt to pick up a novel every now and then.

Novels are entertaining, informative and powerful enough to change our society. I honestly can’t imagine a world without them, and I don’t really want to.

So I’m going to read those textbooks and I’m going to commit what they have to teach me to memory. But at the same time, I’m also going  to cut out some of those menial tasks that take up so much of the day and make time to read The Hobbit  as soon as I have the chance, because I can’t remember if Legolas was actually in there.