Determined to Read for Pleasure

Here it is, Tuesday: the only day this week where I have no club meetings or service placements. Luckily, there’s a lull in my workload too. Time to crack open the worn copy of In Cold Blood my sister gave me last year. Ever since I saw the Oscar-winning biopic Capote a few years back, I’d been dying to read his magnum opus. I sit in my standard twin bed and I enter into the world of Holcomb, Kansas, albeit briefly. My friend comes in and lets me know they’re watching Workaholics. “One episode,” I say, deceitfully. Two, three, four episodes of the Comedy Central classic parade across the screen. A couple hours pass and one of my roommates suggests basketball, and I indulge again. After a few games of bricking threes, I arrive back at my room, open the door, and see page one of the crime novel staring back at me.

I’m sure I’m not alone when it comes to this struggle. As students, we work hard to be involved on campus and keep that oh-so-important GPA as high as Gasson’s tower. But, once that ounce of free time is available, most want to spend it with friends, not read. Netflix and binging TV shows are a different exercise entirely because they are so absent-minded. Reading requires effort and deliberation, and after your assigned reading of Kant or Faulkner, turning on Friends seems like the better choice.

Now don’t get me wrong, I, along with many other college students, love to read outside the classroom. From the Percy Jackson series to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, absorbing pages and pages of novels has always been a part of me. But now, in college, there is one gigantic, jarring barrier that impedes almost all my attempts: FOMO.

Yes, the cliched acronym makes its way across all college campuses. College is supposed to be the best time of our lives, after all, and a student at a great university like Boston College shouldn’t let any opportunity slip away. If you’re not making memories, then what’s the point? Those are the thoughts that run through my head when I think about each and every decision, and only become magnified when one inevitably zones out halfway down a page. It’s said that reading can reduce stress, but getting to that point where you can sit down and read strictly for pleasure is stressful in itself.

My decision isn’t made, however, because of the health benefits. It reverts back to that notorious acronym: will I look back on my efforts to read fondly? I think back to the days when it was easier, and found books inexplicably linked to memories. These include the spring of my sophomore year reading The Great Gatsby as the lilac-laced wind entered my room, turning the pages of The Magic Treehouse series in my bunk bed, and finding other worlds in Ender’s Game as I discovered different paths in Maine. The creation of these worlds within our minds seem to tie into the world around us, and we assimilate and create something personal and meaningful—something worth remembering. That’s why, as the saying goes, the book is always better than the movie.

The formation of memories is an aspect of FOMO, but the simple desire to have company also complicates the ability to casually read. A book, inherently, can only be consumed by one person, unless you’re a fan of the over-the-shoulder reader. It can create the appearance of seclusion, leading to the reader being perceived as a loner; a bookworm who locks himself in his room. I am guilty of thinking this way, telling one roommate to socialize more whenever he gets ready to pick up a book. He caves, most of the time, and postpones entering that other world.

In some capacity, reading and experiencing a good work of fiction, or even non-fiction, is one of the only ways to create a lasting memory when alone. It may not be within reality, but it’s still an experience nonetheless. It’s rare to have an opportunity to escape at BC, especially in a Fitz forced triple or Walsh eight-man, but dusting off the paperback your mom bought you for Christmas last year may help. My sister asked me to let her know my thoughts on In Cold Blood, and she’s still waiting on the response. Hopefully by the end of the semester she’ll get one.

Featured Graphic by Anna Tierney / Graphics Editor