The winter break (officially known as Reading Week) is almost upon us. Canadian students and professors receive some useful study and preparation time before they head into the home stretch of the Winter term. American university folk, whose term runs 16 weeks instead of 12, have to wait until March for their spring break, which isn’t even nominally associated with “reading” but rather with Daytona Beach and the Anheuser-Busch company.
The origins of reading week are mysterious. It is thought that this recess period was conceived as a paid week for faculty when foul weather-cancelled classes could be rescheduled. Professors stood at the ready, in their gowns and mortar boards, eager to fill-in the the storm-swept barren zones in their charges’ mental landscapes. With snow days increasingly rare, this make-up function becomes incoherent. Fortunately, just as with other holidays like Christmas and Easter, the expectation regime is so well-ingrained that even as adherence to the root content falls away commitment to the formal structure rises. Thus, halfway through the term, the academic community feels firmly entitled to take leave of its quotidian responsibilities and replace them briefly with a fresh set of possibilities.
Whatever Reading Week means on the ground for specific individuals, there is surely the opportunity to actually, physically, consequentially read. Ideally, this reading will be related to work-product: for professors, research for an article-in-progress and/or lesson planning for the final weeks of the term; for students, getting a leg up on the course texts or reviewing material in anticipation of midterms or final exams.
Occasionally, during this period of serious study and preparation, some of us will read for pleasure. Most always, we will choose a book we’ve never read before. But sometimes, we will read something again. As one wag put it, “the true test of a book’s quality is its amenability to repeated readings.” Thus, a good recommendation for a book is simply to explain why you’ve read it more than once.
The question of the moment, then, is: during the upcoming reading week, What Would You Re-Read?
Post your responses below.