The Worn-Out Student’s Guide to Break Reading

By Rebecca Byrd

Final papers and exams are turned in. The mild shakiness of a days-long caffeine overload wears off. The semester’s books are relegated to the (ever-expanding) bookshelf in a triumphant gesture of victory. You actually sleep… for the whole night! Now it is time for one of my favorite celebrations: finding my break reading! While you may have just spent the entire semester with your head in your books, this type of reading is different because YOU get to decide what to read. I’ll acknowledge that some people may just want to put the books down for a while, and that’s okay. But for me, I like to take those weeks or months (if it’s summer!) to read something different. Here is a list of some possibilities for your break reading if you don’t know where to start:

A Page-Turner

You know this book—the one you’ve been avoiding until you have a large block of free time, since you know you won’t be able to put it down.  For me, a go-to is Randy Singer, lawyer/author/pastor extraordinaire. He writes fascinating legal fiction that causes me to neglect all responsibility until I finish the book. The first one I read was Directed Verdict, and I was immediately hooked. Another favorite is The Justice Game, though each one I’ve read has been excellent. Historical fiction is also fun, allowing you to escape to another time and place within the confines of an enthralling narrative. This past summer I read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, which provided a vivid glimpse into the world of Rachel, Leah, and Dinah from Scripture.

Something Small-ish

Sometimes it’s nice to sit down for an evening and read a whole book in one sitting. A favorite for me at Christmas is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It goes really nice with some spiced tea and a quiet house (which feels eerie while reading, given the content!). A thought-provoking pick and another classic is C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce. This may take an evening to read, but you will most likely think about it for days afterwards.

The Tried and True Favorite

Maybe you want to go back to something you’ve read before and know you love. It’s comforting to revisit favorite passages, a familiar plot, and characters you already know. What’s interesting is that you can read and understand the same book differently at various times in your life, since life circumstances are always changing and people are constantly learning new things. In anticipation of Harper Lee’s new release this year I reread To Kill a Mockingbird. I still haven’t read Go Set a Watchman, but I really enjoyed reuniting with Jim, Scout, and Atticus Finch in TKAM.

Something Different

On the other hand, maybe you want to try something fresh, something previously undiscovered to you. I found Flannery O’Connor this last break and took the opportunity to read Wise Blood and Everything That Rises Must Converge. Both were well worth the time and effort they took, and I relished the available “brain space” I had to think them over in the absence of school work. I’m continuing my journey through her work now and can’t seem to stay away. You just never know who or what you will discover when you take a chance on something new!

A Series With Your Kids

I recently started C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe with my kids, and they have really enjoyed it. They’re little, but they don’t mind that it doesn’t have pictures; they just like listening to the story, and I do too. Other ideas include The Boxcar Children, The Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter series. Options abound! The fun thing is that you get to read a book or a series you may not otherwise read, all while spending time with your kids (or a friend, spouse, etc.—it’s always neat to read a book aloud with someone else).

Random Pick from the Used Bookstore

I get crazy excited about trips to the used bookstore. If you share my enthusiasm, go to your favorite one (Mr. Mike’s in Wakefield is great!), pick a shelf (I usually end up going to the same three shelves), and then pick whatever interests you. The awesome thing about this is that you never know what you’re going to find, and even if you buy several books it’s easy on the wallet.

No matter what you pick, just have fun! Venture out for something new, or escape for a while with your favorite. There are limitless options out there—have a great read!

Rebecca graduated from Southeastern with a M.A. in Christian Ethics and is now pursuing a program in English Education. She lives with her husband and two little boys in Wake Forest.

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