Back to school (sort of)

After two days of grading, I am free…to take on the reading I need to do to prepare for the spring semester. I’ve been working with one of the English professors at my university for a few years now. This semester, we realized that we both share the same frustrations about library instruction. There’s just not enough time to teach students everything they need to know to do good research. On top of that, many of the students we’re seeing lately have never been taught to do close reading, let alone reading scholarly articles. This semester, we also realized that we’d like to try embedded librarianship with her upper division writing about literary class.

This isn’t a post about embedded librarians. Everyone who was going to click away because I’m talking about work can relax. Anyone who wants to know more about embedded librarianship is probably already a librarian and should know how to Google it. (Hi, colleagues!)

Juliano Lopes

So, after two days of grading, I had time today to sit down with the first of two books the writing about literature class will be tackling this spring. I’ve already read both Bernhard Schlink’s The Reader and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, but I read them for my own entertainment.

I sat down with The Reader with a fresh mechanical pencil in hand.* There was a fresh cup of tea on the table at my side. I opened the book to the first page of the first chapter and commenced to trying to tease meaning out of each paragraph and sentence. My skills at close reading were rusty, but I could feel them coming back as I read on. When I started making notes about Freud in the margins, I knew that I hadn’t forgotten as much as I feared. I wrote more and more on each page. I underlined passages that I could use to prove my points about the characters and the plot. And oh was I enjoying myself!

When I read The Reader the first time, I remembered blistering through the text (as I usually do). I was still reading at a good clip this time, but the pencil in my hand and the need to closely consider the author’s intent as well as what was happening on and behind the page slowed me down. This isn’t a bad thing. I should slow down my reading more often. I worry about what I miss when I steam through a novel I have to review.

I still need to read The Book Thief, visit the family for Christmas, and read Unbroken for book group in early January. Not only have I had to readjust to reading closely, I’ve had to readjust to having reading deadlines. This part I don’t enjoy. When I was a young English major, I resented that I had to read stuff like The Faerie Queene in my personal time. This time, I’m reading books that I enjoy—but I have so many other things to read and do. Oy.

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* I bought a set of pencils for book club reads, so that I could mark up my copies of the books and sound intelligent.**

** Yes, I mark up books. ***

*** This line of thought reminds me of an article I read recently about why readers should mark up every book they read. It was wonderful.

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