My answer to the classic question, “What three things would you take to a deserted island?” has unfailingly remained the same all my life – books. I started reading independently at a very early age (shortly after I turned two) and spent a lot of my nights throughout my childhood sneakily reading under the covers with a flashlight when it was way past my bedtime (probably the primary causes for my appalling eyesight today). When it came to turning the final page of my novel, I felt a little lonelier – as if I had just lost a friend, or as if the lifetime of bravery and heroism I had lived vicariously through its pages had come to an abrupt end.
Coming to college, however, changed a lot of my reading habits for the worse. I turned in fantasy and chick-lit (in my defense, very well-written chick-lit) for my Alberts’ Molecular Biology of the Cell textbook, that infamous red book beknownst to Life Sci students. I’ve had to read the Iliad in under two weeks (read: I crammed a lot of SparkNotes into two nights). Reading became a chore, more or less, and I found myself developing a mild phobia towards any body of text longer than an inch.
A lot of you fellow book lovers out there might find the same occurring to you (unless, of course, you adored books so much you chose to pursue a career out of reading them – I’m looking at you, English majors). Those of you rolling your eyes at our emotional ties towards books – you’re not any better than us. A study performed at Carnegie Mellon actually shows that the volume of white matter in brains actually increased after just six months of daily reading activity. For you non-Neuroscience students, white matter is a vital tissue that affects how your brain learns and coordinates new information. Additionally, being well-read is usually a good gauge on how well you can understand the material you’re learning and how accurately you can interpret information. This goes a long way in your academic and professional career – and subsequently, helps lot with understanding the readings you do for class. That’s why exams such as the MCATs, which are predominantly science-based, contain a Verbal Section as well to solely test your reading comprehension skills.
I’ve tried fitting in leisurely reading more and more these days. Instead of reading every article/GIF-list on BuzzFeed before sleeping, I try getting cozy with a book instead. Pro-tip: If you have trouble sleeping at night, this will actually benefit you – melatonin signaling, the hormone in your body that makes you sleepy, is deactivated by the light in your LED/AMOLED screens. The bonus is now you can fall asleep much earlier and still dream of being khaleesi, and planning your next tactical move (I’ve been trying to keep up with George R.R. Martin’s actual novels instead of just the show). Also, whenever I’m studying at a library on campus and feel like stretching my legs, I find myself wandering the stacks and I’ll always manage to find a book or two that catches my eye. Have you SEEN how many books there are at Robarts, let alone at the other 30+ libraries on campus?! It’s ridiculous. (Fun fact: We have the 3rd largest library system in North America, trailing behind only Harvard and Yale.) Check out this list of UofT libraries to find a subject area and read to your heart’s content.
Or in this case, your T-Card?
Put down your smartphone. Pick up a book.