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How long has that book been on your shelf?

So, here we are in 2019. We haphazardly make a list of goals we want to achieve: go to Wilson at least once this semester, eat Sprout occasionally, actually eat lunch with your friend who hasn’t seen you in six months because you’re consumed by caffeine, courses and the chaos of Duke. What else makes it on that list? Oh yeah, maybe I should start reading more. 

Surprisingly, this one resolution is the seventh most common New Year’s resolution. 17 percent of people say they want to finally crack open that novel collecting dust on their bookshelf. As Duke students, I’m sure reading is high on our list of resolutions too. Many of us were ferocious readers as children, eating up the Percy Jackson series and staying up late on school nights to read Harry Potter. Then, we got older, and by high school and college we just… stopped. We become inundated with college applications, APs and SATs, and that favorite pastime of reading become a distant memory. At Duke, the same mentality applies: we have a plethora of course work to concern ourselves with first and foremost. What used to be an exciting escape for most us is now just seen as a warm remembrance. 

A lot of us simply do not read anymore. Let me be more specific: None of us read for pleasure… on our own accord anymore. I make this statement to my friends a lot and most of their immediate responses are “Are you kidding me? I have readings due every week!” That is a valid rebuttal, but it is not what I essentially want to bring attention to. 

A lot of us read a lot throughout the week for our classes, but are we really doing that as our own choice? Of course, we could just not do the readings, but our professors put the readings in the syllabus as our assignments, and they are technically required. We do our readings like the Duke students we are, but it is important to discern that type of reading from the type of reading a lot of used to adore. Those readings are primarily found in academic texts, or from required books, that are pre-selected for us. We are not actively engaging in the joy of reading a piece of text that we sought out ourselves. Our connection and attraction to the literature of our choice is half of the experience of reading a novel. Most of us just aren’t choosing to take some time to sit down with that book we’ve been hearing a lot about and just read it; we don’t enter another universe of our choosing and stay there for a while.

So, I ask everyone with this mindset, what’s the deal? What’s stopping you? As a cliché a lot of Duke students say (including myself): we are all Duke students, we are all busy, [insert excuse here]. There are all a million reasons to not do something, and those reasons are pretty easy to come by. One reason, however, that I seem hear a lot is that reading is just not a good use of our time. 

Here is where I want to pause, because I believe this is the meat of the issue at hand. I think a lot of us fancy the idea of reading more but fail to see the value of investing time into reading on our own. Reading is actually extremely beneficial to key areas of our lives that we utilize frequently as college students: increased memory, better concentration, improved writing skills, increased expression of creativity, the development of a more robust vocabulary, and can even be beneficial in cognitive stimulation. Personally, I hear a lot of my friends complain about disliking writing or not being great writers, but little do they know that reading more often can help make you a better writer. Even billionaire Warren Buffet endorses the value of reading whenever you can whatever you can. Buffet continually discusses the importance of reading a multitude of different books in order to improve different aspects of your life. As one of the most successful men in the world, his methods might be something to consider.

Clearly, reading is an essential part of developing we are as individuals and who we are students. Reading helps us access different parts of our brain and personality that we do not always encounter on a daily basis. This increased exploration of ourselves in our powerful thing to undertake and can help to strengthen both our personal identities and sense of self. Additionally, we could all use an exercise that helps us become the best students we can. This is one of the reasons why came to such an elite university in the first place. 

We, as individuals, should  consider putting aside 20 or 30 minutes, once a week, to just read anything we wish to read; to enter another world or learn more about something you’re super interested in. Most importantly, choose the reading yourself and immerse yourself in that environment. I know we are all busy, but we could use a little sliver of time just to our personal wellbeing and personal growth. Even if it’s just a small portion of your week, you’re working to develop a healthy habit that will help us grow as individuals and students. 

Cliff Haley is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs on alternate Thursdays.

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