The last time I remember reading textbooks or resource books for a subject was my degree, and I was never optimistic about this. ‘Reading lists’ conjure up the impression of long, boring and sometimes unhelpful books that you are ‘required’ to read to ‘widen your knowledge of the subject’. Because they were so extensive at university, no one ever viewed them favourably. There were the few who bought every book the list and swanned around the library clutching them in their hand to show off their enthusiasm. But let’s be honest, no one is enthusiastic about 500-page textbooks on English Grammar, no matter how much you love the subject. Then there’s me, trying to find a loop hole: find it on Google books, or on Amazon for (hopefully) as little as 1p. I can safely say I did less than a quarter of the reading I was meant to at university. I really did enjoy my degree, but because ‘reading’ was drummed into us so much, forced as a necessity, it really took the enjoyment out of it. It wasn’t about finding a book and discovering a new way of looking at languages, it was: “Read chapter seven by next Tuesday’s lecture.” You look at chapter seven, see it is 70 pages and instantly want to close the book. It was the forceful nature of WHAT to read and WHEN that I really disliked.
I chose my dissertation topic myself, which focused on female and male lifestyle magazines and how they portray the topics of careers, fashion and health. This wasn’t on the ‘list of suggested dissertation topics’ we were given, but something I thought I’d actually WANT to write 10,000 words about! This type of reading wasn’t boring. My supervisor suggested different types of books, but what I found most satisfying was finding books myself on Google books, going to get them in the library and learning about a topic of interest. I was reading about the transformation of a ‘gentleman’ into a ‘lad culture’, which brought about those lad mags such as Nuts and Loaded. I actually enjoyed writing my literature review – I wasn’t told what chapter to read and by when and what book, I had a choice… and that freedom was much more rewarding.
Reading for pleasure at university was put to the bottom of the priority list, simply because there was so much that was compulsory that your ‘degree would suffer’ without, that there wasn’t enough time. But NOW, now that education is part of my distant memory… phew… I have decided I want to read. Not just fiction books (although I did have that realisation recently, here), but resource books and textbooks to help improve my writing, and written by professionals in the journalism industry. Yes, to improve writing you do have to write more, but you also have to read too, and when you’re out of education there is a tendency to not take the initiative to learn new things out of work. If I’m making the same silly mistakes and not finding new ways to be creative, then I’m hoping getting my head in some books will help me out.
So, I’ve done just that. I’ve ordered some books (without being told too!). Geek.
Shortly on my reading list will be:
Writing for magazines. By Catriona Ross
Writing for journalists. By Wynford Hicks
Feature writing for journalists. By Sharon Wheeler.
English for journalists. By Wynford Hicks
I plan to read and review some of these books, so keep your eyes peeled.