From the classroom to the living room

I’m the newest member of the “Unputdownable” Book Club, and I think that I was accepted partially because I have a degree in English Literature. I studied English lit at Carleton University for what seemed like a hundred years. I chose to study English because I love literature, I enjoy reading, and I initially wanted to be a high school English teacher.

My career goals changed partway through my degree, but my major did not. For someone like me, studying English was tricky. It’s a ton to read for a lot of classes. As an adult, I was diagnosed with A.D.D., which makes me an extremely slow reader. Because of this, I often struggled to keep up in my classes. I took a summer course one year, for which we were expected to read two novels a week. With other classes and a job at the time, I found it very difficult to read every novel assigned. They were fantastic novels, books I hope to read again someday, but I was not even able to enjoy these books because I was in such a rush to finish them in order to start the next one and keep up with everything else.

I read my all-time favourite book for a class, (The Color Purple, by Alice Walker), and wrote a paper on it. I adored that book and ate up every page. I poured my heart into that essay and got a very mediocre mark. I think I got a B when I felt like I should have gotten an A+. I tried not to let that taint my experience with that book, but it was hard. In retrospect, I know that it did. I loved that book, but my professor’s harsh criticism led me to believe that I did not love it or understand it well enough.

Here I am studying that crazy summer when I had to read 2-3 books a week. Graham Greene's "The Quiet American" is sitting beside me as I study American History. This is probably the only photo ever taken of me studying.

Here I am studying that crazy summer when I had to read 2-3 books a week. Graham Greene’s “The Quiet American” is sitting beside me as I study American history. This is probably the only photo ever taken of me studying.

In all my years of study, I only read a handful of books for my own pleasure. I spent so much time reading for school that much of the joy of reading disappeared; as much as I loved some of the books that I did have to read for school, reading began to feel like a chore. That is sad. After a little while of being out of school, and a few TV series, blogs, and magazines under my belt, I decided to dive right back into reading novels. I started with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which is a very easy read, and is written for young adults, but I found it beautiful and heartbreaking and I shed many tears throughout that book. It may not have been a challenging book intellectually, but it got me to remember how deeply a book can make you feel; true emotions occur when you read something good.

Rediscovering my love for reading was not difficult, but it took some time and space from the constant evaluations and criticisms of an academic environment for me to get there. The fact that my professor made me question my thoughts, views, and feelings of my favourite book just seems wrong! It makes me sad to think that I was not able to simply enjoy 100% of my experience with that book. I know that in studying English, I had to work extremely hard to earn my degree, and I learned how to write well and read critically. I loved the variety of books and poems I had to read for classes, but it never really felt like I was reading any of it for my own enjoyment.

This is why I wanted to join the “Unputdownable” Book Club. Now, I can truly say that I am reading for pleasure. I like that I am getting exposed to books that I may never have picked up otherwise, because unlike in school, I get to read them at my own pace and I will never be tested on the material or harshly evaluated on my thoughts about the literature.

The book club experience has been fun, and has reminded me that all of my thoughts and opinions on the books are valid. There is no expert on the books telling me that I’m right or wrong. We are a bunch of young women that may or may not agree, but no one’s perspective is wrong. I’ve only been to two meetings so far, but already I know that these women read because they love to. I never stopped loving reading. I simply was reading for the wrong reasons.

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About Sarah Manley

Sarah is as girly as they come, but has no time for fluffy books. With a degree in English literature, Sarah has a deep appreciation for a well-written good story. Sarah loves curling up under a blanket with a latte to read a good book, but as a busy mom, she's had to become a huge fan of audiobooks. Her favourite book (and musical!) is The Color Purple by Alice Walker. When she's not reading (or listening), she can usually be found at the dog park searching for bugs with her toddler. Instagram: @sair_
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One Response to From the classroom to the living room

  1. Julia Kent says:

    Sarah, as I told you, this could be MY story! I experienced the same thing when I was in high school – reading became WORK, and I completely stopped reading for pleasure. In university I also felt guilty reading “for pleasure” books because I had so much homework to do! It wasn’t until after I graduated and started the UBC that I fell back in love with reading.
    So happy you’ve joined us and are blogging! xo

    Like

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