Last semester’s finals generated a lot of panic, and in the middle of exam week, I wanted to go study. But not in Lau, or the MSB, or the Healey Family Student Center, or even the Bioethics Library. I needed to get the hell out of Dodge. So I took the Red Line to Tenleytown, walked 15 minutes, and found Politics and Prose, a well-known independent bookstore in D.C.
I had heard good things about both the store and its coffee shop, so I ventured in and opened up my laptop and books to study. After a couple of hours, I decided to go browse. As I strolled the endless aisles, I realized, “I have to read a book.”
Sure: I, and probably you also, have read hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of textbooks, PDFs, and assigned novels. But how long has it been since you have actually read a proper hardcover or paperback printed book? For me, it was nearly two years.
I grew up reading endlessly, and I would assume many other kids who made it to Georgetown did as well. But increasing workloads in high school and college meant that I had increasingly less time to read for fun. Walking through this shop, however, made me want to lose myself in a book all over again. I went to the service desk and asked for a recommendation. The employee proceeded to get up and walk around with me for a solid 15 minutes, trying to ascertain the ideal book for me—try getting that sort of help next time you’re at Barnes and Noble.
Although I ended up not getting the book that the employee had recommended, I still bought two: Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me (And Other Concerns), and Bill Simmons’ The Book of Basketball. I got home that afternoon, and with the clock ticking before my exam at noon the next day, I decided to open Kaling’s book instead of my notes.
I devoured it as if I were receiving a meal after not eating for a week.
It was funny, but not amazingly captivating because it was a memoir rather than a novel, and yet, within two hours, I had gone through more than half of the 250 pages. My long-stifled desire to read a book for fun finally had the chance to break free. I had reached my wall and wasn’t able to study anymore, but found the chance to read for fun a necessary and liberating experience.
After my exam, I came back and finished the book. I had three exams coming in the following three days, but I kept going, starting Simmons’ book concurrently. Of course, I did throw in some studying, but I still took out the time to get through 200 pages by the time I left for vacation, not counting what I read on the train ride back. Simmons’ 700-page book was interesting, thought-provoking, and genuinely fun. And to think I only picked it out because there was a little staff recommendation note below the book on the shelf at Politics and Prose.
Now is as good a time as any to go read a book for fun. You can use a book as a way of exploring any topic you want or to imagine a world you could not have dreamed up before. There are millions of books out there; there’s bound to be one that really interests you.
If you’re planning on watching Game of Thrones, for instance, why not read George R. R. Martin’s series instead? Excited for the NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl? It’s likely that there are a number of books on the history of professional football, or of your favorite team, or on any other topic where you want more information than you could find on a Wikipedia page.
A book can offer you so much information on anything—it can transport you to any time or place you would like to go. College is a place to do what you love and pursue your interests. So why not take a little bit of time and get a book that covers something you like but would never be covered in class?
Washington, D.C. is not lacking in independent bookshops, many of which also serve coffee or lunch. Politics and Prose is far but worth the trip if you have the time. Closer to campus, you can check out Kramerbooks and Bridge Street Books.
If you don’t have too much work yet, take a break, go visit one of these shops, and go read a book.