I’ve had a long history of questioning my true love for books ever since I had trouble enjoying the novels I was assigned in grade school. In fact, if I look at The Odyssey one more time, I’ll probably lose my mind. As someone who claimed to love books so much, I had to ask myself: ‘Why did I have such difficulty enjoying academically recommended books? Shouldn’t they appeal to the average bibliophile?’ It took me two years worth of college English classes to find my answer.
This past semester, I took a class that felt like a weekly book club, except with college credit. Not only was I assigned to read books that have made it to my list of all-time favorite novels, but I was also surrounded by avid readers from all walks of life. Our professor assigned us John Irving’s The World According to Garp (Ballantine Books, 1990); a novel that concerns life and death, feminism and masculinity, family, and essentially everything about the human condition in a beautifully executed story with characters one can’t help but love. Irving’s words made me laugh and cry all in one sitting. To say the least, it was a fulfilling reading experience.
I was borderline ecstatic on my way to class the morning after I finished it, only to find that a majority of the other students were buzzing with excitement in their seats, as well. We anticipated a meaningful discussion with the professor, who we knew had a deep respect for Irving. By the end of the class, our professor was shedding tears while the rest of us felt emotional along with him. I felt deeply moved as I walked out of class, which turned into an excitement I felt for literature and a stir of emotions I haven’t felt since I first read Catcher in the Rye.
I began to reflect on myself as a reader, wondering how I can continue achieving this literary experience every time I finish a book. It dawned on me that a portion of it was due to the environment I was in and the people I surrounded myself with. I sat amongst several peers who not only shared my love for literature but also approached every assigned novel with a welcoming mindset.
We collectively treated class as a comfortable space to explore the depth of words rather than a mandatory requirement we needed for our major. It was that day that I realized how important it is for book lovers to surround themselves with other readers. I find purpose in literature when a new perspective has been added to palette of how I view life, and what better to do with that new perspective than to share it with people around you?
The more I discuss a novel with another person, the better I understand it. Literature is significant to individuals for several reasons, and one can better understand the many dimensions of someone’s words when one discovers how it might mean to other people. It wasn’t until I saw my professor cry, that I realized what aspects of this novel meant to him. It wasn’t until I listened to the thoughts of my peers, that I understood how this particular novel could touch individuals in a way I didn’t know it could. Books are to encourage thought, and I’ve learned that these thoughts should be shared to fully understand the influence of someone’s words.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michelle Zaurov is a student at Binghamton University in New York, where she studies English and literature. She has worked as a journalist writing for the Home Reporter, a local Brooklyn publication. She enjoys reading realistic fiction and fantasy novels, especially with a strong female lead.