Forget Resolutions and Just Read for Fun
Study Skills Series: The first Monday of every month, we give timely, practical, and original study skills advice. Timely means it’s especially useful during that month of the school year. Practical means it’s easy to act on. Original means we wrote it ourselves and you can only get it here.I f the fastest way to get smarter is to travel, then the second fastest way is to read for fun. Since nobody in school can go anywhere until summer, let’s talk about reading for fun.
Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn’t matter. Both are good for you, just make sure you know the difference. You’d be appalled at how many students think any thick book is a novel.
But you don’t get a cookie for just reading. The books you read have to be challenging. Ideally, they have words you don’t know, emotions you’ve never felt, and settings you haven’t experienced. If that sounds like an armchair version of travel, well, you’re not wrong.
If you want to understand a foreign language so well that you find it provocative, rather than just useful, you have to read books in that language that other people talk about. I love Spanish, so half the books I read for fun are in Spanish. My wife has to read in English, French, and Spanish just to feel like herself.
These previously recommended books will make you smarter, but if you’re not into reading about learning, try the border trilogy or any fiction by Cormac McCarthy, The Global Soul or any non-fiction by Pico Iyer, or Entrecruzamientos in Spanish by Leonardo Da Jandra.
Colleges that value reading for fun, like Columbia, require you to list every book you’ve read for fun in the last year on your application. If your list isn’t very long, don’t sweat it, you wouldn’t be happy there. In grad school, the people who’ve already read about the topic for fun get the most value out of the assignments. And once you get to the real world, you definitely won’t have time to read anything but mind-blowing stuff.
Unless you’re so smart or so good-looking that you can risk not trying your hardest to get smarter, why not scrap your New Year’s resolutions early this year and just commit to reading for fun for 20-60 minutes every day?
The intelligence you gain by reading regularly will make you wiser about everything, which will make you more likely to voluntarily do the types of things that you previously would have had to make News Year’s resolutions to do.