Summer break is a time for rest, relaxation and general winding-down from the stressful events of the school year. After poring over mountains of TYCO course packets and CCL reserve hardbacks during finals, students’ heads begin to hurt and the words on the page cease to make sense. Yalies long for the moments when reading can be a relaxing pastime. But even during summer vacation, when they theoretically have all the time in the world, students find it difficult to get in all the reading-for-pleasure they might wish.
America was inundated with book clubs this summer, the answer it seemed to the problem of balancing a full-time job with a desire to keep up with the literary culture. One may trace the beginning of this trend to the baby-boomers of America taking up the torch of the omnipresent Ms. Winfrey when she decided to become a literary as well as a media mogul. Oprah’s Book Club quickly has become synonymous with popular literature, and soon any book with her approved “O” seal has become an instant best-seller. Lately, the divine Miss O has been harking back to literary classics rather than relying on new novels with books such as Steinbeck’s “East of Eden” and most recently, Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” appearing in her book club selections.
Most students choose to read independently rather than in a club-type setting, however, reading books that they did not have time to look at during the school year. A major pastime for students during vacations is catching up on forgotten classics.
“I read ‘Song of Myself’ on top of a hill in Vermont,” said Eli Clark ’07. “Let’s be honest — I can’t sit on the top of a hill in Vermont during the school year.”
Some students read books to further investigate a subject that had peaked their interest during the year. Sarah Tomita ’06 read The New York Times journalist Thomas L. Friedman’s “From Beirut to Jerusalem”, an account of Friedman’s experiences in the war-torn Middle East, to gain more depth on the subject. The book is a compilation of articles, stories and musings by Friedman about the social and political strife he observed for more than 10 years as journalist in Lebanon.
“I was embarrassingly ignorant about the Middle East, and Friedman’s book is accessible because it is in anecdotal form,” Tomita said.
Some students wanted to keep extremely current with politics, like Cerin Lindgrensavage ’06, who read the just-released 9-11 Commission Report. Other students wanted to dive into literature they didn’t have the chance to read in class.
“I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ in Spanish over the summer because I felt like everyone else had read it and that it was an important thing for me to do culturally,” said Crissaris Sarnelli ’06.
Yet other students were looking for ways to amuse themselves on long trips, and managed to learn a thing or two about important world figures while on the road. This was the impetus behind Adrian Heinzelman’s purchase of Bill Clinton’s autobiography “My Life” on CD.
“I did a lot of driving this summer, and the opportunity to listen to Clinton narrate his life seemed both intriguing and educational,” Heinzelman ’06 said. “At the very least, it made the long road trips go by faster.”
Students who worked this summer had to deal with being just as busy as during the academic school year, often limiting their choice of recreation activities.
“Unfortunately, I worked full-time this summer and did not get to read even half the books that I had planned. After work I was either too tired or looking forward to going out,” said Vanessa Mason ’06.
Mason is a copy staffer for the Yale Daily News.
Reading over vacation is clearly an important pastime for those who want to expand their literary horizons or those who just want to unwind from academic pursuits. Apparently, you can take the Yalie out of Yale, but not the academic pursuits out of the Yalie.
Still other students shunned formal reading altogether, instead looking for entertainment value.
“I read a lot of Cosmo this summer,” said the scholarly but laid-back Minta Nester ’06.