Take a break from cramming and curl up with a good book this studying season
In the midst of midterms and studying for final exams, you might think reading beyond what is required is a task only for the procrastinators and overachievers. But never fear: these books are versatile, easy to get into, and I promise you won’t have to write a midterm afterwards. The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs, A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz, and Solo by Rana Dasgupta are all written in such a manner that if you need to cram for a week straight, you won’t lose your spot in the book. These are perfect reads to just relax and be engrossed in. Give your mind a useful vacation: these books won’t kill brain cells, which are apparently beneficial.
Rightly put on the cover, The Know-It-All is about “one man’s quest to become the smartest man in the world.” He does it by reading something you’d never wish to be mandatory in school: the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. Don’t let this dissuade you from reading the book though, as Jacobs writes satirical and witty thoughts and stories about the different entries he reads. This structure makes the book easy to pick up for a few hours a week, no small feat when you’re bogged down with theories and equations for school.
Despite the suggestion of the title, A Fraction of the Whole is not a nice way of describing your social life while in school. Toltz’s novel is an amazing and quirky story that will keep you informed and confused right until the last chapter told from the perspective of Jasper Dean. He recounts an obscene relationship with his father Martin, a man whose picture is the definition for eccentric lunatic. This book will have you feeling contemplative, sad, angry, bothered, but will most definitely have you laughing. It will leave you with this overall sense of contentedness, like somehow everything has a purpose or meaning no matter how obscure.
On the note of purpose and meaning, Solo, by Rana Dasgupta, is a book that has a more serious tone then the other two. Ulrich, a man who lost his sight, is now 100 years old. He remembers reading an article about parrots who were the only living species to remember a language of a society that had been wiped out by catastrophe, even though the parrots had died from the stress of being shipped to be studied. This gets him thinking about if he has anything to offer the world. He “embarks on an armchair adventure” where he recounts for us his trials and joys throughout the duration of his life, which is lived in a very tumultuous period in Bulgaria. I’m about halfway through the book and it honestly is not worth passing up. In fact, none of these are worth passing up, even if you don’t read them until semester break.