I’d like to imagine that college professors put a lot of time and effort into building their respective curricula for any given semester. I’d also like to imagine that it’s a rather exciting process – choosing from a nearly infinite number of literary options, often times selecting the works that are the most enriching and dear to their hearts.
To our dismay, however, there are a number of factors that can make a student’s relationship to their professor’s curriculum and assigned work a bit of a drag. For starters, we may simply not share the same taste – and even when we do, we have to deal with the essays and tests that come along with the material. Then of course there are the science and mathematics courses where there is no pleasure reading – the assigned material consists of a single 1000+ page text book. And amidst your four to six courses for the semester, you find yourself caught up in what you’re told you need to read – too busy to start from the top of that extremely lengthy reading list you’ve accumulated over the years. Every great American novel, all of that existential literature, both the Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones series, and every other offhand suggestion from friends and colleagues lies scribbled on a notepad (or somewhere very deep in your iPhone notes) with no sign of ever being checked out, rented, or purchased.
You tell yourself you’ll get to it after this semester, but you also know that you’re beginning a full time summer internship as soon as school gets out and that after that stint it’s back to school for another jam packed semester of pre-designed curricula. The excuses accumulate almost as rapidly as the personal reading list does, and to put it frankly, you’re screwed. After college comes the professional sphere. You work, you come home, you’re tired, and you can’t find time to read Virginia Woolf between making dinner and going to the gym. She, along with Dostoevsky and Dillard and Vonnegut, will simply have to wait for retirement.
Good luck catching up on the now light years long reading list at this point though. You’re in your sixties and the average life expectancy has been resting in the seventies for a while. Hell, even if you could get to everything on your list, that would be taking away from both your time with the grandkids and checking off every other pathetic line on your bucket list – not to mention the most important note, that once you do begin reading these novels, you’ll wish you could apply the wisdom you learned and peace of mind you’ve achieved to the younger stages of your existence.
No, these books simply cannot wait. Not all of them at least. You need your own curriculum, your own self-assigned reading list.
Your New Year’s resolution (preferably the one you will actually keep): make one.
You need not be over-ambitious and you can certainly allow yourself some wiggle room in case coursework or other life duties get out of control, but create a rough calendar and start setting goals of when you want to have read certain books by. You don’t want to be setting aside specific time ranges and allocate a pre-designated portion of your life to mindful relaxation reading (that simply strips it of the relaxing part before you’ve even began) – you just want to make sure you don’t get caught up in the workaholic weekdays followed by mindless savagery-ridden weekends.
Make leisure reading a habit that you get into. Make it an unmistakable and integral portion of your day. You’re reading what you want to on your terms with no threats of failure. Relaxed, informed, and active, you won’t find that your literary life has passed you by once you retire and finally feel like you have the time to sit down one on one with some Camus. So start now and begin designing your own curriculum for this semester. Be ambitious without overshooting it, and start chipping away at that ever-growing reading list. Your present-and-future self thanks you kindly.