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July 1, 2009

Summer-Reading Slog

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Summer is the perfect time to catch up on all the books you didn't have time to read during the school year, but required summer reading often gets in the way. In today's blog, Greg Fitzgerald --- Teenreads.com assistant producer and soon-to-be sophomore at Fordham University --- describes what he hated the most about that dreaded summer reading list and shares his secret to balancing his assigned books with his guilt-free reads.


Summer Reading. These words were enough to strike fear in me as the dreaded list arrived in English class every June. For four years of high school, these required books became the hurdle I would have to jump if I wanted to succeed in the next year’s course. And while I love to read, getting this list would not be something that would encourage me to read, but rather, something that would paralyze me. Just the idea that I had to read another four assigned books was not very exciting after being told what to read all year.

Sure, some of the books were pretty good. If I am honest, there were some I would have likely picked up on my own; THE KITE RUNNER, for example, became both a great selection and a new favorite. I flew through THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER floating in the pool one afternoon. But STEPPENWOLF? Sorry to all the Hesse fans out there, but it’s not my ideal choice for a summer read.

Here’s the biggest problem with summer reading, at least for me. The list --- unless it’s really thought through to include books that I might actually like, which most aren’t --- seems so daunting that I do not even want to start it. Here are these books that you have to read for school. Over the summer. It turns reading into an assignment, not a pleasure. Every year, I’d look at this pile of required books, with their crisp new covers and unturned pages, and be intimidated by it. Then I’d look at the books I actually wanted to read that summer --- which were both well-worn old friends, and the latest releases from favorite authors --- and they would be calling to me to read them. But, because I felt that I had to slog through the required pile first, I’d put off reading the “fun” books... for two whole months. The summers I had required reading I actually read less, not more.

Inevitably, I would polish off the summer reading list the last week before school started. And in the end, I’d have read four books that summer out of necessity, and a just a few from the “fun” pile that I’d snuck in, though not without feeling really guilty about reading them.

So, as the summer kicks off this year, I give you advice from someone who survived four years of required summer reading. Take that intimidating pile of books, and pick one up now. Just read it. It may actually end up being much better than it looks. But more importantly, you will have gotten started. Next, read a book for fun. Then read another required one, and so on, until you finish your list. Then if you get it all done early on, you can spend the rest of the summer reading whatever you want, guilt-free.

-- Greg Fitzgerald