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Reading and Being a Student

Rob Gresham Student Life

The feeling you get when you are tearing through a book is hard to explain. It’s like the pages are turning themselves, and your eyes are subconsciously moving across the page. Sometimes it’s difficult to get into that zone, but if a book grabs you, it’s an engrossing experience.

The experience is really helpful whilst you’re a student; well at least I find it to be. Studying is all about engulfing knowledge, and books are the greatest form of knowledge. Now I’m not talking about textbooks here - the kind of books that are almost designed to bore you. I’m talking about books that interest, or entertain you, because these are the kind of books that are shaping who you are.

At the moment I’m reading The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux (Louis’ dad). It’s a travel novel detailing his journey by train right through Europe and Asia. Before starting it I was worried it would depress me, because it would remind me that I’m not out there travelling. What I’ve found is that the book is a fantastic replacement. Theroux writes with detail and grace about the places he goes and the people he meets. It has a comic sensibility, and a lack of pretention, which makes the book very readable. The book is not written as some great adventure, but a travel story of fun and character. It has put me right in Asia with him, and has been a great form of escapism. Suddenly I am that exciting traveller student, whilst sat in my flat revising for a Journalism Law exam. I would recommend the book to anyone looking beyond the horizon, but without the means to do it.

A book that really had an impact on me is The Beach, written by Alex Garland. Similar to Paul Theroux’s book it’s about traversing South East Asia, but it’s a fiction piece, rather than a travel one. It tells the story of a young man from England who is looking for a mysterious beach that is untouched by tourism. Garland’s writing style is attractive and the novel moves at a quick pace. What I adore about it is that there’s no real plot and it’s all about the characters. There is a sense of intrigue that Garland builds, and that’s all you need. After reading the book in about three days, it inspired me to write stuff myself, and I haven’t stopped since. It could be an exaggeration that the book changed me, however I certainly have a different outlook on life after finishing it. 

Libraries, in general, are wonderful places. Northumbria University Library is particularly wonderful, because I have access to it. If you disregard the great working environment for a moment, and just think about the books on offer – it’s an outstanding resource. It’s not only useful for essay references, or research, but for leisure reading too. Film is my passion, and so the film studies section on floor 5 is a special place for me. There is such a varied amount of books on offer, and I recently took one out on French New Wave director Jean – Luc Godard. It’s a really interesting book that focuses on interviews with him, and I’m beginning to find out what made him tick. My dream is to be a Film Journalist, so this kind of reading is as helpful to me as my actual Journalism degree is.

Sometimes reading can be overwhelming, especially if you are trying to read more than one thing at a time. Reading lists on your course can also be overwhelming, but I would say don’t forget how fun it can be and how essential it is for you to be a strong academic. To finish this thing of, here’s little list of books I’ve read outside my studies that has helped me with my studies…

  • The Catcher in the Rye  - J.D. Salinger
  • How Not to be a Boy – Robert Webb
  • It’s Only a Movie – Mark Kermode
  • Bullet Points – Mark Watson
  • Collected Poems – Philip Larkin

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