Critical Reading Post Graduation

Reading is important. I don’t think I should have to tell you, but if you want, you can read all about why herehere, and here. I graduated from college 6 months ago (wow), and one of the single greatest things was suddenly having the free time to read and write for leisure. I majored in English with a Creative Writing concentration (something I will never regret), which allowed me to focus the bulk of my time on literary assignments (<3), but left very little time (ie. none) to read the Tom Robbin’s novels in my nightstand.

Although I don’t have nearly the amount of free time I thought I would have, I will say that having the ability to read for pleasure again is truly liberating, and if you don’t pick up a book now and again, you absolutely should. Oddly enough though, I still haven’t finished Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas. Instead, I’ve been reaching for The Great Gatsby, The Waste Land, and even the Heath Anthologies from my college days. I’ve been using this time to catch up on reading I should have done years ago, but the fact that I’m reading because I want to, and not because a teacher is telling me to, is so much more rewarding.

Although I most certainly read for fun (Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums was a fun one!), following college, I’ve primarily been reading as a way to keep learning. And although reading for pleasure is certainly noble, critical reading is perhaps even more beneficial. I like to read a fairly even amount of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and each genre serves a different purpose for me. When it comes to poetry especially, I like to dive deep into the book, beyond the words physically on the page. I like to spend my time making association maps to find connections between different poems and images in a collection. I like to note the similarities in style between different writers. I like to research the epigraphs and quotations. I like poems that lead me to other poems. And sometimes, I like to dive even deeper by writing about what I read (in my opinion, the most effective way to analyze a piece of literature is to write about it). And if I’m writing about a poetry collection, you can bet I’ve read it cover to cover at least 3 times. Doing this keeps my critical reading muscles in shape, helps me to focus on varying writing styles, and gets me motivated to work even harder on my own poetry.

I read nonfiction to keep me motivated (Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art is a great read for anyone struggling against resistance, ie. You want to write more than anything, but will do anything except write), and to keep me educated (I’m currently reading Autobiography of a Yogi, a great read if you have any interest in yoga, meditation, or Indian culture). The thing that’s really cool about reading nonfiction? You’ll always have something to talk about.

And fiction, I truly do read for pleasure and pleasure alone. I better bust that Tom Robbins out of my nightstand.

My point is that reading is an activity you should never stop doing. Read for fun, read for knowledge, read for personal growth.

Read books that challenge you, then read them again.

Want to see what I’ve been reading this year? Check out my reading list. What books have you been reading?


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