Bookish Discussions · University Discussions

Reading at University:

newI’m an English student – we’ve already established that by now. I have always been asked to read a book before a deadline. It didn’t become serious until my undergrad degree at Liverpool John Moores University; I was asked to read roughly 30 books per academic year, excluding essays, short stories and poetry. I had to read three books for this week, two for that. It never stayed the same. I’m not slowing down either; I’m now studying for a Masters in Victorian Literature. I’m constantly squeezing books in around a deadline, and it’s not easy.

Reading with a deadline is both a blessing and a curse.

It’s a blessing because it allows more time for, what I like to call, pleasure reading. These deadlines usually finish around the reading weeks or the holidays, leaving me with some free time to pick up a book. Even if it’s just one. I wasn’t asked, nor was it for an essay. It was of my own choosing. Reading with a deadline also forces me to engage with the book on a new level. I’m asked to look at it differently; underline and highlight important quotes. I have to focus on the words, and engage with them on a more intellectual level. I am finding new meaning and appreciation of those books.

But it also puts pressure on my reading. I would dedicate the time after writing an essay to reading 50 pages of my university book. If I didn’t get them read, then I wouldn’t read my own book or wouldn’t watch television. It was like a punishment. I locked myself in this routine. Annoyingly, it worked. I’m still in this routine, and I’ll continue to be in it until I finish my degree. I would never turn up to a seminar not having read the book. I dread to think of being asked a question and having no idea, so I made sure I read it. Similarly, I’m forced to finish a book I’m not enjoying just in case I write an essay on it. I can’t really look at it any other way – because, at the end of the day, I have to read it.

I’m in two minds about reading at university. I understand it has to be done, and has to be done to a certain standard. What’s the point of going to university, studying English or any other degree that heavily relies on reading, if you’re not going to do it? There won’t be anything to contribute, or anything original to write in an essay? At the same time, however, why are we asked to read so much? Module leaders don’t discuss with each other the books they’re teaching. Things clash. I’m expected to read Middlemarch at the same time as some poetry and Richard Marsh’s The Beetle. I’m not superhuman. It’s hard.

I know to start early on my reading. I know to pace myself, but also set goals for myself. I know that I have to read this by this week, and that by that week. But I also have other responsibilities – writing, a job, myself, my blog, living. It’s hard to fit it all in. University is hard work, no doubt, but it shouldn’t be an overload. I don’t know. I’m not really sure what this post was exactly: a rant or commendation for university reading lists? All I know is that it’s hard to keep up with the reading and the writing, and I’m struggling now more than ever (it doesn’t help that I’m in a reading slump either). Yet I also thrive off the pressure because I. Get. More. Done.

Are you regularly asked to read for a deadline? How do you handle it? Any tips? I’d love to discuss with you!

Thanks for reading, Lauren X

3 thoughts on “Reading at University:

  1. I finished undergrad this past spring, but always found deadlines difficult to meet as well. I usually wound up prioritizing books based on how much I cared about them: closely reading work that interested me, strategically skimming the rest. I think you’re definitely right that the pressure of it all forces you to be a better reader in the end!

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