This phrase is something I’ve said over and over again in various tones, denoting different levels of dubiousness, for the past two years and now it’s time to bring out the old mantra again as the start of 3rd year is coming up. Doing a degree in English Literature has tested my love of books to the very limit. When I was in sixth form researching various Universities, optimistic about the exciting literary opportunities, I was reading 3 to 4 novels a week, every week, on the bus to and from sixth form, at lunch time, in my free periods. Every book, apart from the 4 or so I was studying, was my own choice to read. A bit of trash, a few classics, best-sellers, second hand novels, young adult fiction, etc.
Reading for me became completely different when I started University, for the first time in my life I had to read books that I didn’t always enjoy, and I had to read a lot of them. I had to finish books that I was finding tedious, boring, annoying. And I had to read them quickly, which I’d never struggled with before, but I started to struggle with at Uni. When I didn’t like the book I turned against it, I hated it, I hated committing any time to it and I’d hate it even more when I had to force myself to stay up to finish it (looking at you Robinson Crusoe).
Second year became both easier and harder, because I’d had much more choice in my modules in theory I’d like the books I’d been set, but that was certainly not always the case, and on top of this my reading load had almost doubled. But I’d learnt my lesson from 1st year, I realised that it was okay not to finish every book set, I realised that I do love books but that doesn’t mean I have to like every single one. Wikipedia plot summaries were my friend, I’d read extracts, set myself timers everyday to read when I didn’t want to, and read ‘treats’ like fan-fics and old favourites as a break between ominous Victorian novels. Most importantly I remembered that every book has a front cover and a back cover and a lot can happen between those two pieces of card, so I gave every text a chance, didn’t listen to my course mates impression of the books until I felt that I’d given it a good chance. This system wasn’t fool proof – in my British Romanticism module I think the only book I liked the whole year, never mind loved, was Frankenstein but I still passed the module, and there was always my other modules to look forwards to every week.
Going into 3rd year I have even more choice, there are no compulsory modules apart from the dissertation which is the most free-choice based module of them all. I’m nervous though, with so many books I know and love on my reading list, I’m nervous that I’ll kill the books in over-analysising them. Like a frog on a science teachers’ table, when the dissection is taking place no one cares that the frog dies, should I not care if the book dies in the process of literary analysis? Will they die or will I simply see this books in a brighter, deeper light? I guess I’ll be able to answer these questions in approximately nine months time when all the essays are handed in and all the books have been annotated.