The Perils of Pleasure-Reading

Do you get time to read for pleasure?

In our field, the line between pleasure and work reading is always a bit blurred. Personally, I go a bit mad if I can’t read novels for fun. I always have a book unrelated to my thesis on my bedside table (along with all the other books which ARE related).

bedside table
My bedside table. I’m only a little bit ashamed.

Having said that…I do often find myself choosing books which are associated – even tangentially – with my work. I focus primarily on Stevie Smith (1902-1971), and it’s remarkable how many mid-century female writers end up in my pleasure-reading pile: Muriel Spark, Barbara Pym, Rosamund Lehmann…

weather in the streets
My current read. Still debating what I think about Lehmann.

Is that just because I enjoy the period and the style? Or am I trapped in the mind forg’d manacles of an English DPhil?

I try and counter this tendency by being a member of my college book group. I’m the only English student there – which is great. It means there’s no pressure to respond in any particular way to what we’re reading.

We eat cake and talk about a whole variety of books. So far this academic year, we’ve read Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, and Never Mind by Edward St Aubyn. Next on our list is Station 11 by Emily St John Mandel, which I’m very excited to get my hands on.

English doctoral students: how do you manage your pleasure-reading?

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