School may be out, but class is always in. Summer is my time to catch up on books I’ve tossed aside during the academic year in favour of (often) less favourable texts – less favourable largely because they are, by nature, mandated reading.

And as Oscar Wilde put it: “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

While I can’t speak to what or who my reading will make me – and I presume it’s an answer that is ever-evolving anyway – I can say wholeheartedly that I’m looking forward to two months of warm weather, Metro Vancouver beaches and a whole lot of inspired pages.

Everything we read is learning in one way or another. If it’s not about hunting for answers, then it can be the discovery that there aren’t any. You can learn from beautifully written prose that metaphorically speaks to history in a fictional, yet true and honest way; or you can gain insight into how to write poorly.

You can learn about what’s going on in the world, or what isn’t. You can find out who is saying what, when and where, and determine for yourself what that then means. Reading can lead to learning that is introspective and reflective, or observational. It can be innovative and creative, or calculated and rational. Reading almost anything offers a chance to think critically, to expand perspectives and to challenge your thoughts, habits and biases.

In my opinion, one of the most fulfilling ways to learn is to read. And as T.H. White put it in The Once and Future King, learning is everything:

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

As students head home for the summer to recharge, or pursue summer studies right through until the fall, I’ll be in my own version of summer school with a mandatory reading list of whatever looks intriguing.

Hayley Woodin is Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Media Specialist.

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