Banned Books

Books at the Athens-Clarke County library. 

Whether from the abundance of interesting books or the pushes through STAR programs, many elementary school children find themselves entrenched in a book almost daily. However, through time and less pressure to read, these children find their books growing dusty covers. Now as college students, the constraints on free time and energy mean many formerly avid readers do not have much time to crack open a book anymore.

Despite this, students must find the time to read for pleasure for personal development and growth.

Since students are inundated with tasks and duties, where is the motivation to clear out blocks of time for personal reading? Perhaps intrinsically. Dr. Barbara McCaskill, professor in the University of Georgia’s English Department, likens reading for pleasure as maintaining personal health.

“Reading is a habit that, like an exercise routine or eating whole foods, yields benefits throughout a lifetime," McCaskill said. "Those who read regularly build more sophisticated vocabularies, develop creativity and clarity as writers, and grow in confidence about initiating new interactions and finding shared points of interest with others...Reading is one path to acquiring that self-knowledge and a sense of kinship with the world.”

Reading should be made into a regular habit for personal growth and for a happier, fuller life, much like physical exercise. But many of us still do not exercise regularly, though we know of its health benefits. How, then, can we factor in time to read even if it does not come natural to us?

“Reserving just twenty or thirty minutes a day, every day, to read for pleasure is habit-forming… For the very busy, as students are, I recommend short stories or short poems to complete an initial reading in one sitting,” McCaskill said. 

Budgeting time for personal growth is a marker of maturity, and budgeting time to read is a mark of intelligence and curiosity. For those ready to improve themselves, Dr. McCaskill recommends "Lincoln in the Bardo: A Novel" by George Saunders.

“I read it in one sitting: it's that good!” McCaskill said.

Students wanting to explore the politics of narrative should explore the Banned Books Festival in Tate Plaza on Sept. 29. By reading books that challenge the status quo, spark controversy or are simply different from what you’re used to, you consume a well-balanced media diet.

Overall, engaging in diverse and challenging readings is akin to weightlifting. Though seemingly repetitive and mundane, the act of maintaining the habit slowly leads to personal growths that can’t be replicated. With the fabulous libraries housed at UGA, there’s no reason not to get a great book today.

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