Do you suffer from English Major Guilt?
While I am in recovery, this pernicious disease will still raise its head from time to time. Of the Modern Library’s list of the 100 best novels, I’ve read three of the top ten (I got tired of counting after that and gave up). I’ve never read Of Mice and Men or Paradise Lost or Pride and Prejudice or Lord of the Flies. Sometime I feel bad about this.
I didn’t escape this feeling by graduating. If anything, I added Seminary Student Guilt: despite having been assigned it on multiple occasions (some at Calvin), I have only read parts of Augustine’s Confessions. I have never had a desire to read Calvin’s Institutes (that’s less of a black mark here in the Episcopal church, though). And, this is the biggest one that my dear husband will lord over me at any given opportunity: I cannot say with 100 percent surety that I have read the Bible in its entirety, because I have never read it through in a systematic way.
This guilt is compounded when I fill my free time watching TV, surfing the web, reading magazines, or even, God forbid, reading “fun” books. The guilt is pervasive. It is also pointless. There are some gaps worth filling—for instance, by the time I graduate from seminary I should probably be able to say confidently that yes, I have read the Bible. But there’s also a time and a place to read with abandon things that don’t look good on a reading list.
Like I am doing this summer. So far, since the semester ended, I have read the following:
- Blood Wounds by Susan Beth Pfeffer: dramatic YA realism
- The Lake by AnnaLisa Grant: more dramatic YA realism
- Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers: YA fantasy
- Cinder by Marissa Meyer: YA dystopian
- Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi: more YA dystopian
- The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau: middle grade dystopian
- Killer Jam by Karen MacInerney: cozy mystery
- A Shade of Vampire by Bella Forrest: self-published vampire fiction
- A Shade of Blood By Bella Forrest: next in the series
- The Witness by Sandra Brown: commercial suspense
- The Selection by Kiera Cass: even more YA dystopian
- The Elite by Kiera Cass: next in the series
- The Good Neighbor by A.J. Banner: commercial suspense
- Stone and Spark by Sibella Giorello: unexpectedly Christian YA mystery
- Nerve by Jeanne Ryan: YA dystopian.
A few of these were actually very enjoyable reads that I would recommend. A few were not good books at all but were still a lot of fun to read. And a few were just terrible and I shouldn’t have bothered finishing them. Some books I did start and not finish, which used to be a foreign concept to me (and something for which I have been known to judge others), but on Kindle it’s so easy to click over to something else if I don’t love what I’m reading.
Oh yeah, I’ve also been doing the majority of this fun reading on Kindle, which is another thing I used to be just soooo judgmental about—but it’s portable and updates across all my devices, and since most of the time I remember to bring my phone with me, I also have dozens of books in my pocket, which is pretty great. I don’t hate physical books, not by a long shot, but our little New York apartment is lined with shelves stacked two-deep with books and there just isn’t room to be a collector.
In about a month, the academic year will resume, and my time for fun reading will wane, edged out by more “important” and “substantial” texts. Until then, though, I have no problem telling you that I intend to read a novel about teenage ballerinas, begin a sci-fi series, check off another YA fantasy novel, tear through a Nicholas Sparks book, and—wait for it—check out a Lurlene McDaniel book that was a Kindle Daily Deal last week (remember Lurlene McDaniel?? It’s going to be so terrible).
I have no shame.
Alissa Goudswaard Anderson (’10) lives with her husband Josh in New York City, where she is earning her Master of Divinity at General Theological Seminary. Alissa enjoys private kitchen dance parties, big Midwestern thunderstorms, and perusing other peoples’ bookshelves. For more, find her online at www.episcotheque.wordpress.com or tweet her @episcotheque.