Quintessential Kenyon: Student Life, Uncut

Need a Break? Read.

Madeleine Thompson
September 2, 2014

I’m a writer at heart, like many if not most of my peers on this Hill, which means I’m also very much a reader. I’ve always read absolutely anything I could get my hands on. I often find myself in the middle of doing something when I cross an interesting headline or title and get lost for the rest of the day. I also spend a lot of time (perhaps counter-intuitively) reading about how to be a good writer, and one particular piece of advice is hardly ever left off the list: read, read, read.

It makes sense that you should have to study other writers and their methods in order to perfect your own, but it becomes almost painful in the middle of the semester when you’ve been assigned four different books for three different classes. That’s in addition to the seven Moodle articles you’re supposed to have finished but which you only halfheartedly skimmed. Last spring, I discovered the cure for these unfortunate moments when you have a lot of reading behind you and a lot ahead, and all you really want to do is watch “Parks and Rec” until you pass out. Are you ready? Here it is: Read for fun.

You might be like “how dare you suggest that I read as a break between reading?” but allow me to explain. As much as I love “Parks and Rec” and all the breakfast food it entails, TV isn’t a great study break. Sometimes it drains more energy than it replenishes. Reading, on the other hand, maintains your intelligence levels at the very least. At the very best, it teaches you something and/or makes you lit’rally LOL. It’s amazing how quickly 100 pages fly by when you choose the book of your own free will. So here’s a list of books I read this summer that fit the generally lighthearted category I’m trying to describe. Bookmark this and come back to it when you need a break but have locked yourself out of all social media and Netflix.

"Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness)," Tamora Pierce

What? I didn’t say the books had to be for “adults.” This thrilling series tells the story of a young girl in medieval times who switches places with her twin brother and learns to be a knight. It has everything — sword fighting, muted sexual tension, and magic. Most importantly, sword fighting. These were my favorite books as a kid. I highly recommend all four of them, and actually anything else Pierce has written.

"Spunk and Bite," Arthur Plotnik

If you feel any kind of attraction toward grammar, you might pick up on the title’s play on the famous and sort-of-uptight "Elements of Style" by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. This book takes all of Strunk and White’s writing rules and teaches you how and when to break them in order to enhance your craft. It includes clever, cheeky examples, and somehow you’ve read nearly 300 pages on grammar and sentence structure and you’ve enjoyed it. Witchcraft, obviously.

"The Color of Magic," Terry Pratchett

I don’t really want to explain what this book is about because a) I don’t know and b) it would sound ridiculous. Basically, it is the first in an ongoing series of novels about a world which exists on the shell of a giant turtle that is being carried through space on the backs of four elephants. It makes fun of its own genre in a hilarious way, and is a good excuse to read fantasy sci-fi as an adult. There’s a wizard and a suitcase with teeth, but it’s smart and searing. Also, there are 39 sequels (so far), so you never have to be finished.

"Personal History," Katharine Graham

Disclaimer: This book is not lighthearted. But it is very funny, beautifully written, fascinating, and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Graham (a hero of mine) became the first female Fortune 500 CEO after ascending to the throne of The Washington Post as publisher in 1963. Let’s just say the promotion was unexpected. She went from being a housewife to leading what would become one of the nation’s greatest newspapers, and she had to do it nearly all on her own. She surrounded herself with smart people, took risks, made compromises, and oversaw some of the most incredible journalism that has ever been published. If you like "Newsies," you might like this.

"The Inimitable Jeeves" (or any Jeeves and Wooster volume), P.G. Wodehouse

Did you know Hugh Laurie was famous before he was on “House”? He was, and it’s partially thanks to “Jeeves and Wooster,” a British TV show in which he and Stephen Fry portray a gentleman and his butler. Think "Monty Python" and "The Importance of Being Earnest" and the original “The Office.” Or something like that. The show is based on the books by Wodehouse, which are just as dry and perfect as you’d expect. I say! Do give them a try. Best consumed in the winter months with a cup of tea.