Berkeleyan: A newspaper for faculty and staff at UC Berkeley


Berkeleyan HomeSearch BerkeleyanBerkeleyan ArchiveUCB NewsUCB Calendar

 This Week's Stories:
Regular Features

Summer Reading

by Tamara Keith, Public Affairs
posted July 15, 1998

I have always had a strange relationship with books. When I was still in the womb my mother started reading to me, yet I couldn't read on my own until second grade. It would have taken longer if it weren't for a friend of my grandmother who worked with me for several hours every day after school.

Because reading even the simplest words was such a challenge for so many years, I never learned to appreciate books as a form of entertainment. For most of my life, they simply served as a source of frustration and information.

In seventh grade my eccentric and frequently evil (we had to diagram sentences several hours a week) English teacher, Mr. Graham, gave my honors class a unique assignment. We each had to pick a book that interested us, read it, and write a short report within a month. This was the first time I was ever allowed to choose which book I wanted to read for a class. My parents suggested I read Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s "Cat's Cradle" (an icy world ending tale).

I was hooked from the first line until I finished its ironic conclusion. Not only was I enthralled right up until the end, but I wanted to read it again and I wanted all my friends to read it, too. This magical experience made me realize that reading didn't have to be painful. From then on I tried to read at least a couple of pleasurable books every semester.

With a part-time job and a full load of classes at Berkeley, my fun reading time has been greatly reduced. Basically my only opportunity for reading comes during semester breaks. All school year long I yearn to read the novels lining my bookshelves but I know that the second I open a novel my school work will fall to a back burner.

The opportunity to read is one of the things that makes summer so much fun. The night after my last final this year I was once again free from the constraints of class reading assignments. I went to my shelf of fun books and pulled down "Earth Abides." This apocalyptic novel may have been written by a Berkeley professor but it was far from academic.

Next on my list is "Sophie's World" because it claims to bring the fun of fiction to the greats of philosophy. When I finish that I plan to move on to "All the King's Men" because it inspired Scott Simon of National Public Radio fame (one of my biggest heroes) to become a journalist. I've also been dying to read Huston Smith's "Forgotten Truth" because it's supposed to highlight the common links among major world religions, something that's had my little wheels turning for several years now.

There are so many books and yet so little time between semesters. It seems that no matter where I go these days I have a book in my grasp and reading glasses close at hand. A good book and a comfy chair; now that's my idea of a vacation.

[ Back to top ]

UCB Home

This site is produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs, University of California, Berkeley.
Copyright 1998, The Regents of the University of California.
For comments concerning this web service please e-mail