Victor Moriyama/The New York Times.

February 20, 2022

How to Fall Back in Love With Reading, From a Deadbeat Reader

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God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. 

Hello deadbeat readers of the world. I typically would never use the word wise to describe my behavior thus far, but I think I’m getting close with a specific issue. I’ve told myself so many times that I want to read more, only to glare at whichever tome sits on my nightstand — withering away, collecting dust with every moment — and I nearly shout out loud, “Don’t look at me like that, you jerk.” 

Something tells me I’m not the only person my age with such a deeply toxic relationship with reading. Research shows that reading can lower stress levels and blood pressure, increase your empathetic instincts and all that good stuff. But that hasn’t made me pick up a book so far, so what’s the difference? 

On top of it all, I’m an English major — and the worst kind. The kind that corrects your grammar, quotes Shakespeare and makes stupid jokes about Mr. Darcy. Most of my friends think that after a long day of toiling over critical theory, I curl up and say, “Ah, I’m going to re-read Ulysses for fun tonight.” Let’s not kid ourselves. I am a big old phony, and a good one at that. In reality, I turn on The Sopranos until I drift into a deep, unliterary slumber.

In recent months, I think I’ve cracked it. I can actually read without it feeling like I have to conduct some Pavlovian experiment on myself every time I open my book. In the spirit of dumb old Valentine’s Day, I will share some of my tips to fall back in love with reading. 

1. Find a book that is a romanticized version of the life you’re actually living. For me, books about forlorn college students (such as The Idiot by Elif Batuman), loathable and pretentious protagonists (like High Fidelity by Nick Hornby) or nosy characters (like Celine by Peter Heller) scratch a selfish itch. I can be somewhat self-aware when I set my mind to it. 

2. Bring your chosen book to your favorite spot on campus. In the middle of the day, when you’re waiting for notes from the random acquaintance you’ve coerced into solving your problem set, give yourself five minutes in your favorite study spot as a moment free from work. Let it be a reward! I like to sit on the second floor of Gates Hall and pretend I fit in with all the Cornellians with Python homework and flashy Nikes. 

3. Don’t you dare buy the books on Amazon! I really shouldn’t have to say more, but I always do. Sometimes the act of going to an independently owned bookstore is enough to get you excited about reading. There are so many in Ithaca, for used and new options. 

4. Keep your book in your little hipster tote bag. Aside from the fact that you get to be the sexy person who pulls a book out of a tote bag in a public space, it’s an easy way to fill your free time with reading. Waiting for a TCAT bus? Read. Waiting for the dude at Willard Straight to say, “Salutations!” to you before your mandatory surveillance test? Read. Waiting for your oat macchiato at Green Dragon? Read. Also, take me out to dinner while you’re at it. 

5. Ask the funniest person you know for a recommendation. Sometimes the smartest person you know can’t give you anything you’ll actually look forward to reading. So ask someone who makes you truly laugh. Recently, friends  have recommended Nobody Asked for This, The White Boy Shuffle and Catch-22. 

6. Read whatever you want. Let me say it again: read whatever you want. If you don’t want to read an Oxford Edition, don’t! There are going to be so many times you have to read something for an old tenured white guy (sorry, Cornell, love you). But, do it for you when you can. Bonus points if it’s slutty. 

If you get anything from what I just wrote, kindly please stop hating yourself for not reading. Nobody thinks you’re illiterate, except maybe your mom, who has not seen you reading since you picked up Captain Underpants.  

Greta Gooding is a senior in The College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]