Summer is over and hopefully you’ve just wrapped up your romance novel or Tom Clancy thriller that was perfect for the beach and all those lazy summer afternoons. But school is back in swing and it’s time for a change of pace in your reading material.
This might seem radical, but why not try some classics? In your time at Ohio State you’ve probably found yourself in the middle of a conversation at a party or coffee shop that revolves around books. While most of the time people are discussing the latest trendy book like “The Hunger Games” or “50 Shades of Grey,” occasionally the conversation turns to the mostly dreaded and somewhat ambiguous classics. This all starts when someone mentions a book that was written 50 to 300 years ago by an author that you thought no one actually ever read. Someone else nods their head in acknowledgement even though they’ve definitely never read the aforementioned book. They go on to talk about a classic book they’ve read recently and you haven’t even heard of. Invariably, the focus turns to you.
“So which old book by which old guy have you read lately?”
Your brain scrambles madly for the last time you even picked up a book that wasn’t about a whiny girl and a vampire or a futuristic gladiator match. Finally, something pops into your head.
“Um, The Outsiders.”
While we should all spend ample time trying to stay golden, this answer or others like it simply scream, “I haven’t read since high school and unlike you, I’m not very interested in the artistic medium of literature nor do I think it’s important to learn universal truths about life, love, struggle and triumph.” OK, maybe that’s a little harsh, but if you want to avoid this situation I have a few suggestions.
The first and most obvious course of action is to quickly finish your beer and excuse yourself to find another one and another group of partygoers.
That’s a quick and easy fix, but I suggest an alternate solution. The lengthier but more rewarding choice is to actually read a few of these stuffy old books. The benefits of delving into the world of Charles Dickens and Joseph Conrad are exponential. So if you’re making the choice to become conscious of the literary world, your first step is to pick up a book.
The best way to find interesting books is to ask your friends that read frequently. They would love recommending books to you. You can also simply google a list of the 100 greatest books of all time. These lists usually have a short summary for each book and you’re bound to find something that piques your interest. You could also just pick something because it has a cool title like, “The Sound and the Fury” by William Faulkner.
Right now you might be saying to yourself, “This sounds nice, but I’m an engineering major and I don’t have time for books other than fundamentals of geophysics.” Yes, it’s college and we’re all very busy, but maybe it isn’t too hard to squeeze some more time out of the day. Guys, maybe instead of picking up the Xbox controller you could pick up some Jack Kerouac and ladies, “The Bachelor” is over, so you have plenty of free time.
Anyway, you can always read something that will supplement your course load. If you’re a theater major, read Shakespeare and if you’re a science major, read Aldous Huxley or H. G. Wells. However, don’t be afraid to read something completely irrelevant. Remember, college isn’t just about learning in the classroom, it’s a time for personal growth. So if you need some self-reflection after a weeklong blackout bender, whip out some philosophical classics that are introspective like James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.”
There are a million great books out there so it’s unlikely that someone will call you out on the minutia of a book, cough, Sparknotes. But if you do meet someone who has actually read the same old book as you, you’re bound to have a good conversation. Oh and one more thing, these books are classics because they are awesome, so enjoy!