Reading week: What is it good for?

Absolutely nothing, claims Eleanor Doughty

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The Independent Online

When was the last time you read a book of your choice? If you can't remember, I am right there with you.

This is supposing of course, that you, like me, are waiting for your final year to indulge in your literary desires. Or perhaps you're on a course with nothing legible short of displeasure, no extravagant imagery or retellings of modern life- or anything like Physics or Law where rhetoric is replaced by terminology and - god forbid - numbers.

If you're one of the lucky ones graced with reading week - was I alone in assuming that everyone gets it? - then you may have enjoyed some time off from your frightfully busy eight-hour university week.

Or maybe you’ve actually done some work – like the name suggests – flexing your good-student muscles before finals. But have you, really? While reading week is advertised as time to catch up on work, it is nothing but a poorly disguised trip home for a visit to Mum’s tumble drier, the lack of which is the bane of student housing.

I am a terrible student. I read voraciously – not exceeding The Indy’s literary editor who recently admitted to having read twelve books in a weekend - but rarely anything on my reading list.  Studying English Literature - an academic falsehood that brainwashes book lovers – only cornered me into reading apparently randomly chosen extracts that inflicted deep disinterest. So struck by the concept of a week supposedly for reading, in my first term, I bypassed half term and went straight to the library. I’m still embarrassed.

Since then, my enthusiasm has faded and the two additional weeks off a year have been spent working like the disturbing workaholic I am. Instead of going home or spending it lounging around the flat like a proper student, this week I worked like a donkey. Combining a sojourn at a national newspaper with seventy minutes of dedicated reading on the daily commute, I’ve completed three books for my dissertation - due next year – and written in the paper. There’s a possibility that I couldn’t be more desperately suffocating if I tried. But hey, reading week has actually served its purpose.  Not that my reading list has been touched. Again.

Eleanor Doughty is a second-year student at Queen Mary, University of London. Follow her on Twitter here. She won't follow you back.