College Blogging 101: How an English Major Balances Reading

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Anonymous asked...

How do you balance pleasure reading and academic reading as an English major?

I know that this seems like a daunting task, but it is not. However...I can give you some advice on how to manage this from personal experience.

1. Stay up to date with work!
Don't join the procrastination nation. At times I've fallen victim to this ideal and it most definitely came back to haunt me.
Don't be like this.
What I found that killed me the most my first semester was long-term reading assignments. I would get a month to read six chapters in the textbook, put it off and say I've got time, only to realize my test is in three days and I have to cram six chapters worth of reading into three days. It's terrible. It stresses you out and takes away from your normal reading time and it also makes you lose sleep. It's hard to recover from lost sleep during the school year. Trust me...I've tried.
So my best piece of advice is don't procrastinate. Stay on top of things so that no sneaky assignments and deadlines reduce your reading time. If you have a month to read six chapters, space it out so that it takes you the entire month to read all of the chapters and you only have to do a few pages in a sitting. It's rather glorious what proper time management can do for you, even if it sounds rather terrible. Get to work!

2. Be smart with your schedule.
After your first semester at college you are going to start to create your own schedule. Obviously there are some courses that you can take for fun. My school offers a course on Harry Potter and our final paper is twenty pages on how we plan to defeat Voldemort. You bet your ass that I'm going to take this one day, but my major courses come first. Don't stock up on the electives and find that you have to take four English/Literature courses in one semester. That's way too much reading (even for those of us who love it) and it's a huge time suck.

I also recommend finding a class schedule that works for you and doing your best to make that happen. For example, this semester is my ideal schedule. I only have classes three days a week. Monday's I'm out of class by noon, but all of my friends and my entire floor are busy until at least six, so I sit in my lounge and knock out at least a full book every Monday. It's glorious and it's my way of building reading time into my schedule. Tuesday's I get out of class at three and those are my days to do work because most people still have class by the time I'm out and my floor is still relatively quiet. I'm in class from 10:30am on Wednesdays until 8:20 at night. It's a long day, but rather enjoyable because of the classes I have scheduled for it, so I tend to go upstairs and relax while my Thursdays are for sleeping in, school work, and my actual job. It also helps that my Wednesday night class tests us solely from the textbook so I just read eARCs on my iPad in class for two in a half hours because I prefer to read the textbook. You will find your own schedule in due time and if it works out the way you want it to, you'll inadvertently find that you gave yourself a lot of reading time because it's your ideal schedule for a reason. If not, when you pick your courses, try to build in some time for reading time!

3. Take advantage of course substitutions if your school offers it.
I'm an English major for a reason...I like to read and analyze text. But, like every sane individual, I'm not a fan of reading textbooks and Olde English tends to make my eyes water often. So, I took advantage of the course substitutions that my school offers me after I talked to the head of the English Department. I found out that though I need a certain number of 300 level literature courses and 300 level English courses (two separate things, my dear friends) to satisfy my major requirements, I could substitute certain courses that will work towards my degree but save me some textbook reading.

For example, this semester I am taking a History of Film course. This is under our Film and Screen Studies major. I discovered that as long as the Department Chair approves my choice of course (which she did), I can get any FSS course to replace an English 300 level course (even if that FSS course is not a 300 level course) because our Film and Screen Studies major was born out of my school's English department. The old head of the English department is now the head of our FSS department and happens to be my Professor. So instead of meeting twice a week to analyze Ye Olde English in a 300 level course (rather hard), I meet once a week for three hours where I watch an old black and white movie and then spend an hour discussing it in an FSS 202 level course. And this counts towards the requirements for my major!
4. Read everywhere and anywhere.
As I mentioned above, I built reading time into my schedule on Mondays and inadvertently stumbled across the ability to read in class every Wednesday night. I built the reading time into my schedule to guarantee I get at least two books done a week. But I've discovered that I'm reading a lot more then that because I read everywhere. I read on the subway, I read in my room, I read in the park, I lay across my lounge's couch and read while surrounded by 15 people. The one thing that I discovered about college is that people are more curious than you think. They often take your thoughts about random suggestions into consideration. I've gotten more then one person to borrow one of my books when I was done because my description of it interested them.

But my favorite part about all of this is that my floormates (all 44 of them) are accustomed to walking out and finding me in the lounge with a book in hand. They know I am reading and that this is my "me" time even if I'm surrounded by people. They get that this is part of me and just let me do it, just as this one guy on my floor has to watch a movie a day because he's obsessed and is often found Netflixing it in the lounge until four in the morning or that other guy tends to run laps around the floor really late at night because he gets antsy if he didn't get to the gym that day. We all have our weird little isms that define us and we all live with each others without asking questions. So never allow your love of reading to be something you're ashamed of. A lot of people may laugh that you can read so much, but they'll never look at you any different because of it. Odds are people will respect you a lot more for it because it's a pretty damn awesome habit.

And the last thing I have to say is will be stressful, but if you love reading enough, you'll force yourself to find a way to make time for it. Even if it's not always easy.
Share your thoughts with me! If you're already in college, how did you balance pleasure reading with academic reading? If you're not in college, do you have a type of plan or did you find my advice at all useful? I'd love to hear your thoughts below! Every comment is appreciated! 


  1. YES TO THIS! I can't believe I didn't know about the course substitutions, but I'll definitely be looking into them now.

    great post
    Tabitha @ Tabitha's Book Blog

  2. Reading was one thing I did not want to let go of when I came to college. Everybody told me that I would be way too busy reading textbooks to pick up a reading for pleasure book. Now two semesters in and a lot of pleasure books under my belt the nay sayers are still wondering how I manage to read so many books. If you budget your time wisely and as this post said literally read everywhere and in every free moment it isn't that hard to finish one or two books a week.

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