Confession: Last summer, I made Faulkner my own summer reading. Or at least I tried…it was a struggle. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the complex characters and sinuous narrative of Absalom, Absalom! because I absolutely did. The problem was that it was summer.
From the time we enter high school and start receiving summer reading lists, we’re expected to be the same scholars in the summer that we are during the school year. It’s an institution that makes sense for high school students, especially those in AP classes where there’s already too much material to get through in the year before the exam, but in college, the situation is quite a bit different. Instead of taking 5 AP tests all in different subjects, as an undergraduate, your major is your absolute focus, the area your brain spends in thought for a whole year. When you’ve spent your semester reading Wallace Stevens, James Joyce, and William Shakespeare all at the same time, when you reach for intense scholarship in your field during the semester, it’s okay to allow yourself to be a different kind of scholar in the summer. There are so many other ways to be just as interesting a scholar without forcing yourself through a novel just because you think it’s something you should be reading.
Instead, read something for fun! Reread a childhood favorite, open Fifty Shades of Grey sans embarrassment, or relax poolside and flip through gossip magazines. Or, travel somewhere of historical/literary/personal significance and watch throughout the year how much that experience comes back to deepen your understanding of a particular subject. Write in a diary, stay up late and talk about existential issues with your friends, sit and people-watch for an afternoon; though it may not seem so, doing these things makes for a scholar with an interesting and broad perspective of humanity.
So if you’re someone who wants to read Faulkner for fun this summer, by all means, have at it. But for those looking for a way to take a break and be a different sort of scholar for a few months, now is your time.
Written by Emma Irving