I like to find different spots to read on campus. Some of my favorite reading spots include the Coupa Café by Y2E2, the outdoor tables at the Hoover Institution, the Lane Reading Room in Green Library and this random picnic table on the side of Main Quad, right outside where my Psychology class is. I highly recommend going to one of these spots on a nice, sunny day when you have reading to do. Though I love these places, I most often find myself reading in my dorm lounge, out of convenience due to close proximity. When I’m sitting in the lounge (or another place on campus) and I see people I know, they often come over and ask, “What are you reading?” and then follow up with, “Is it a fun book or a book for class?”
Every time I hear this question, I find the implication behind it funny and a bit ironic. The terms “fun book” and “pleasure reading” suggest that a certain read is only “for fun” and not out of obligation. I am guilty of using this terminology to refer to non-class-related readings as well. Last quarter, my friend and I scheduled an hour a week to “read for fun,” as we both lamented the fact that we rarely made time to read things that weren’t for a class. Dedicating only one hour per week to “fun reading,” I was only able to read one and a half novels that weren’t for a class during the ten-week period. Still, “pleasure reading” time with my friend was one of my favorite parts of the week.
Recently, however, I have made the conscious effort to avoid calling a book a “fun book” if it isn’t for a class. What makes something fun? Is it the fact that you don’t have to do it? Can you only have “fun” in your free time? I refuse to believe that something is only fun if it is not required. Likewise, I refuse to believe that things that are required for a class or for another obligation are always not fun. By no means am I saying that I thoroughly enjoying fulfilling every single one of my academic obligations or reading every single word of class-readings. However, I do consider many of the required readings not only informative, but also enjoyable. On the other hand, I have also often found books that I read in my free time unenjoyable.
Making a distinction between what is considered a “fun book” and what is not based on whether or not it is required is, in my opinion, detrimental to a love of learning and a love of reading. As a person who used the terms “fun book” and “pleasure reading” myself, I know that people who use such language do not mean to claim that all required-reading is boring or unenjoyable. It is merely a common way of referring to books read in your free time. However, the implicit meaning behind the terms is problematic for me as a book nerd. My determination to stop using this wordage is exemplary of me taking a little stand as a self-proclaimed nerdy, word loving (prospective) English major. I encourage you to consider equating required reading with pleasure reading — it will make all reading a lot more fun.
Contact Angie Lee at angielee ‘at’ stanford.edu.