So, I'm a college student. Hooray and all that.
But what I want to discuss right now is non-fiction vs. fiction. Because I am about to read a slew of articles and textbooks, and quite frankly I'll have to stop this whole "I'm gonna read in bed all day. For fun." attitude. I simply cannot afford to spend all day reading books -- novels -- in bed all day, when I have so much to learn and stuff into my head for tests and just general knowledge in case I do need it later on.*
Today I had Early and Medieval Britain. In which we learned some very interesting things (Cheddar Man, anyone?) but more specifically, my professor gave us a list of books on Celtic and Early Britain, Ireland, and that general area, in case we need to write a paper later on. (Hint hint, nudge, wink.)
And some of the titles look interesting. Lots on ancient Ireland, on Celtic Mythology and just Celtic 101, that sort of thing. And of course, it's likely to be dry reading. Dry as the textbook we have for class. And maybe a little confusing, as names change and there's no written records from that time period and etc.
But maybe I want to try it. Inure myself to the dryness of the text and engage with it in an intellectual way. What does this time period really look like? Primary sources are one thing, but modern books? Our textbook declares that this period of Britain (the 1st millenium, which is to say about from the time the Roman invaded to the time of the Norman conquest) is shaped not just by the Anglo-Saxons -- which is a belief held by a lot of scholars -- but by the whole of Europe.
(Britain at this time is very insular -- they're islands. Separated from the mainland, and not just geographically, but culturally. Rome/Greece was where the "civilization" is -- the Celts, for all intents and purposes, are stuck in a sort of Stone Age, despite the fact that they are brilliant metalworkers. I mean, they're known for painting themselves blue and rushing naked but for their shield into battle, where they are likely to fight with all the might of a mythical Berserker.)
And I want to learn about it. Ireland fascinates me. Mythology fascinates me. And the idea that there are no written records -- that all we have to go on are archaeological finds, like spears and shields and cairns and the like -- excites me. Because, like in literature, there is some level of speculation in this. It's not that my textbook is dead right and I should memorize it -- it's that I am allowed to read it and rip it apart if I like, or I can praise it to the heavens. I can form my own educated opinions, because the text serves the dual purpose of informing/educating me, and letting me decide myself if I believe what I've been given.
This is a revolutionary idea for me. AP classes, sure, tried to teach me that, but for the first time it sinks in -- I am an adult, and now I get to inform myself. It's not just doing homework; I am paying a lot of money to learn, and that I had better do.
And all of this is a roundabout way of saying that, for the time being, perhaps I want to set aside my fiction. Just for a little bit. Maybe just the semester, or just the month. But I kind of want to try my hand at nonfiction, at the reference books I brought with me but didn't think I'd ever get around to reading. At the wealth of knowledge waiting at my fingertips in our library on campus.
And maybe I'll share some of the less-dry ones here with you. My book reviews may be dominated for a while with non-fiction. Or maybe they won't. Maybe my self-imposed sentence will fall apart on me. Maybe I'll spend my time balancing fiction and textbooks.
But a small part of me tells me I need to learn to toughen up. Discipline myself. And where better to start than in my reading style? Like I said, I am up to my ears in student debt. It'd be a shame if that fell apart because I can't sit through reading my textbook. Inure myself to the world of non-fiction. Because I am decently sure that it should be worth some of my attention, too.
I have textbooks in at least six of my seven classes. All of them want me to read and understand. So I'd best get started.
*This is not to say novels teach me nothing and are a waste of time. Novels are very informative. They have taught me, at some time or another, all that I know of myself and the basics of human nature. And, of course, plenty of authors do their research, so I may take some of the general information and know that, too. But what I mean here is that college needs specifics: for example, one of my classes, my Honors Inquiry class (which is worth 1 credit hour, not the usual 3) deals with the history of my college. It used to be a plantation, there's a slave burial ground, even. But I need to research deeply -- through the archaeological and written records, I need to examine the real individuals who worked here, who lived here, and who died here, and how it is all of these people and their influences on the college founder came to the decision to turn this college from a plantation into a college. I need letters from the founder's father, not a novel set in this time period at this college. Because I am dealing strictly with this reality, and therefore I need non-fiction.
I love fiction, but I have never given much attention to non-fiction. And I think it is time for me to try it on, and the best way for me to do so, I think, is to focus on it for awhile exclusively, to get myself into the habit of reading non-fiction. That's my way of doing things: instead of trying to get it to penetrate my daydreams and bring myself to earth, I often incorporate it into my dream world and there it sticks. The details I need.
And also, by the way, this is probably necessary background reading. To understand anything on the history of a place, I need the knowledge. I will still be sitting in bed all day, reading books. But now, I do not have the luxury of reading whatever I want or feel like reading. I just want to pick up the reading I have to do, but also am curious about and want to read, also. This very long aside is because, while I feel a tad guilty for setting it aside, fiction needs to take a backseat while I figure all of this out and make some coherent form of sense in my classes.