The average Kenyon student reads hundreds of pages each week. We pore over journal articles and textbooks, proofread our own essays over and over and comb through the JSTOR archives to find the perfect source. To put it simply, we’re a literate bunch. But if you approach a student and ask them what they’re reading, 99% of the time they’ll respond with, “something for class.” Reading for pleasure is a fiction at Kenyon, and I think that needs to change.
If you ask me, the main cause of this problem is how inaccessible non-academic books are on campus. If you’re in the mood for a murder mystery or romance novel, you certainly won’t have an easy time finding one in Chalmers. Because it’s meant primarily as a study space (and a storage receptacle for that statue that looks like a walnut frozen in carbonite), all the actual literature is relegated to L1 and L2. If you want to find a book, you have to undergo the daunting task of venturing into the library’s dark, seedy underbelly. And if you manage to brave this peril, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything that resembles a pleasure read. I know it’s common sense for a college library to have mostly academic texts, but with over 250,000 books on file, you’d think Chalmers could throw in a copy or two of The Secret History.
There’s one other place on campus where students can go to find books of this decade. Surprise, surprise, it’s the bookstore. However, the bookstore’s selection is painfully limited; with so much space dedicated to snacks, school supplies and hand-crafted Nepalese tchotchkes, there’s very little room for actual books. If you’re looking for something specific that isn’t a Penguin Classics or a New York Times bestseller, you’re probably out of luck. And on the off chance that they actually have the book you’re looking for, be prepared to shell out at least $20. I don’t blame the bookstore for this; I know they’re operating on a tight profit margin, but it still sucks that reading for pleasure is out of so many students’ budgets.
I personally have found my way around Kenyon’s book problem with the help of my Kindle. I can get anything I want instantaneously, and e-books are a lot cheaper than hard copies, but this still isn’t an ideal situation. I would much prefer to be reading for free (and my mom would definitely prefer it too). I’ve heard rumors of a so-called “Gambier Community Library,” but I have yet to see proof this fabled space actually exists, so for now I’m placing the burden of change on Kenyon. And to my fellow Owls: If you’re looking for something good to read, don’t be afraid to approach me and ask to borrow a book. I’d be happy to lend you something! But I can’t promise I won’t force you to read Donna Tartt.
Dorothy Yaqub ’26 is a columnist for the Collegian. She has not declared a major and is from Santa Barbara. Calif. She can be reached at email@example.com.