The independent news organization of Duke University

Imagination

In second grade, my teacher prompted us to enter BOOK IT!—a competition where you read books for points that earned you a free pizza at Pizza Hut. Ecstatic that I could I could combine two of my favorite pastimes—eating and reading—I delved into the eccentric world of that zany housekeeper Amelia Bedelia, that magical babysitter Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and my all time favorite crime-fighting orphans, the Boxcar Kids, earning my way toward many a free personal pan pizza. Reading was an activity where I could transcend my mundane polo shirt, plaid skort life whose most exciting exploits included struggling to memorize times tables and swapping stickers to obtain the “greatest sticker collection ever.” “Reading,” as the corny free bookmarks they passed out at the library said, “was an adventure.”

So why is it that as we grow older, reading becomes more of a chore than a pleasant diversion from them? Is it because of that dreaded “summer reading,” an ordeal where you come back to school and sit around in a circle voicing carefully crafted analysis you wrote in the page margins, to mask your ambivalence? Is it because it’s easier to be spoon-fed entertainment-sitcoms that are thoughtful enough to prompt you when to laugh, that book-turned-movie that saves you the trouble of engaging your imagination or messing around with those bothersome polysyllabic words? Or is it because of the amount of reading you get in college already those 100-plus page articles off of e-reserves? After you get through deciphering the title, you feel as if reading is one of the very last activities you want to engage in voluntarily.

It’s easy to blame those demanding professors that assign those dry, lengthy articles for our apathy toward reading. Or the entertainment industry for pumping out a “quick fix” of fun in the “unreal” reality TV shows or shoddily crafted sitcoms. Or those crazy Christian fundamentalists who banned the Harry Potter books from their towns because kids that read obviously want instructions on how to commune with the dead, or tips for smuggling illegal dragons out of the country. As with most problems, it is up to each of us to change our apathy and our misconception that “we just don’t have the time.” As finals draw precariously closer and you look for a diversion guaranteed to be more entertaining than watching Jessica Simpson mistake tuna for chicken, or as inevitable flight delays for winter break approach, here are some easy-to-digest, fun book suggestions: Tired of those sappy, happily ever after stories? Read any one of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events books-hilarious books about children living in misery. How can you not laugh at kids who are orphaned, sent to live with an eternally cough-ridden banker, and try to elude an evil uncle who is intent on stealing their fortune all in the first chapter?

Second suggestion: Douglas Adams’ Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Discover the ingredients for the best drink in the Galaxy, The Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, ponder your own insignificance in the Total Perspective Vortex, learn the meaning of Everything and take counsel in the wise advice that as long as you have your towel—well, there’s really no reason to panic. For a good conspiracy theory book fraught with politics, science, action, and a little bit of romance, pick up Deception Point by Dan Brown. Yes, the author of The DaVinci Code—but if you’ve already read that one (or feel like you have because everyone has told you the ending), read this lesser known, equally entertaining novel. Finally, a great comedic fantasy book is either one of the Artemis Fowl novels. Artemis Fowl maybe incredibly rich, infuriatingly smug and diabolically intelligent, but you’ll never cheer so hard for a nine-year-old’s machinations. A fun diversion is to try and decode the encrypted message in fairy script that runs across the bottom of each page.

So, most of the work has been done for you. Perhaps these books won’t be as intellectually stimulating as those e-reserves, but they are guaranteed to help dust off that cobwebbed recess of your brain housing your imagination.

Happy reading, and now that the semester is over, thanks for reading me.

Carolina Astigarraga is a Trinity sophomore.

Discussion

Share and discuss “Imagination” on social media.