...but now I love it!
The combination of having studied under the French system within an International school killed reading for me. This coalescence of curricula was particularly deadly since it gave teachers the ability to pick from the inexhaustible list of French, British, American classics as well as any other author of their choice (turns out the word "international" in "International School" grants that ability). Having compared with college friends, I think I can safely say on an average school year we "read" between 1.5 to 2 times the number of books the AP curriculum required. I chose to put the word "read" in quotations marks in that last sentence since a lot of the times our definition of reading meant frantically going through SparkNotes... We simply did not have enough time during the week to read all the books required for the different classes, and so by graduation I was burnt out.
Boy was I happy to be an Engineer. Reading books was going to be a thing of the past! No one would ever make me read another one of Voltaire's works!
And so I happily went through my college years barely ever having to read a work of literature. For my freshman-year writing seminar I took a class that examined the history of Jazz in the US, Son in Cuba, and Tropicalia in Brazil, which meant we listened to a lot of music. I was living the dream. For all my other classes, I had huge piles of textbooks. But I enjoy reading textbooks for one odd reason or another, I really do. I had no qualms with spending an entire day going through a chapter in a Linear Algebra textbook and working on the problem sets (which explains why I'm an Engineer), but as soon as a professor announced that we had to read a book like Don Quixote, I would quickly check whether it was too late for me to drop that class...
But then spring-semester of senior year hit. Although I had already secured a job as a Device Engineer at Alarm.com and all I had to do was complete a few classes to obtain my ECE diploma, the last few months of college involved getting ready for many changes. A lot of these changes were sources for anxiety: a new career, family issues, the start of a long distance relationship, etc, none of which I was ready for. After graduation, I had the chance to stay around Cornell for a few weeks since the rent on my apartment hadn't yet expired. My roommates and friends had moved out and returned home, my ex-girlfriend was taking a trip before starting her full time job, and most of my friends were no longer on campus. So I decided to stick around for a bit and really enjoy Ithaca and take a small break before facing the post-graduation life (the so-called "real world")... It was probably the best decision I could have made.
The campus was empty; all of my friends were gone, and I could just walk around, enjoy the beautiful sights of Ithaca, reflect, and take a breather before jumping on this new phase of my life. While packing some of my things, I found a pile of books that belonged to my ex: "Fatal Journey: The Final Expedition of Henry Hudson" by Peter C. Mancall, "Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet" by Prof. Steve Squyres, and "A Man on The Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts" by Andrew Chaikin. I decided to start reading "A Man on the Moon".
I got hooked. I would wake up, get some breakfast, and make my way to campus to find any spot that looked like a good place to read. I might start in the Ag Quad, then go get lunch, move to Duffield Hall, take a break and stroll around campus, plop myself down on libe slope, watch the sunset, and go back home. This is the point in time in my life where something clicked and I realized that my past experience with reading had somehow made me hate it. But now, having the entire campus to myself (or so it felt), I couldn't put a book down. I realized that I never hated reading, what I hated was being told what to read and be given a deadline to do it.
Before leaving campus and going back home I set a goal for myself where in the next two years I would try and read as many books as I could. I am writing this blog post a few weeks before that two year mark, and since then I have read 18 books.
I learned a lot about myself during those weeks after graduation, and most importantly, I regained an interest in reading. I love reading now. Books fascinate me and I have a whole list of them that I want to get through, and my new issue is that I can't find the time to get through them.
If you have any books you love and want to recommend, send me a message through the Contact page with the titles!