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Students reading for fun

Last summer I read a fantastic little book written by a professor at Otago University (where I studied as an under-graduate).

The Torchlight List: Around the World in 200 Books by Jim Flynn

In this short book, Jim Flynn lists 200 books which he urges us to read in order to learn about the world around us. The books listed include Classics, History books, Science books, modern novels, and much more.

What I took away from this book of books was that reading is one of the most effective ways of learning that we have access to. And it won’t cost as much as a university degree (trust me…damn you study link). Think about it, a lot of uni papers (and here I am coming from an Arts perspective) involve a whole lot of reading about which you write a few essays and then sit an exam at the end of semester. Would you learn any less if you just bought the set texts and read them?

Another point Flynn made was that students at university tend to read only within their subject area…the old ‘learning more and more about less and less’ syndrome. He urges his readers to read widely and read outside of our discipline.

At the time of reading this, I wholeheartedly agreed. I ran straight to the book shop and bought a book on science…which I read and felt extremely multi-disciplinary in doing so.

And then I went back to uni. This year I have been studying the MTeach secondary at Melbourne Uni. And it is rather busy. 3 semesters work compressed into 2, on top of school placements. And I truly do not have time to read much more than 5 mins at night in bed before I fall asleep with the book in my hands. I want to broaden my mind and read more than just educational pedagogy (as you might be able to imagine) but I have such little time to do it in.

So the tousle between what I would like to be doing and the lack of hours in a day continues…

Regardless of my feelings on this point, one thing is for certain. The Torchlight list is a great place to get inspired for your next read. On the most basic level, it is a list of fantastic books.

The Torchlight List: Around the World in 200 Books New Zealand: Awa Press, 2010. ISBN 9780958291699


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Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’

I decided to read Eat, Pray, Love because of all the hype which has surrounded it. A friend of mine insisted it was “amaaaaazing”, it was being turned into a movie, and my boyfriend’s Mum took it on holiday after being convinced that it was essential travel reading. 

Eat, Pray, Love is a biography of New Yorker Elizabeth Gilbert’s year of travel and self discovery after a drawn out divorce and resulting depression. She wanted to visit 3 countries in 12 months, spending 4 months in each. First stop was Italy where she was on the quest for pleasure derived from good food. Second stop was India where the journey took a noticeably more prayerful and less indulgent turn. Finally, she journeyed to Indonesia in the search balance and love through other people and her relationships with them. 

I was so disappointed with this book. It is a self indulgent account of an event which isn’t exactly novel or (in my opinion) worthy of the crisis status it was given. Ok, so I have not been through a divorce myself so I am perhaps not the best point of reference, but in the grand scheme of life’s hardships being suffered around the world it rates pretty low. 

The India third of the book was particularly hard to read. The whole thing seemed like page after page describing her different experiences while praying and chanting. She glosses over any real explanations of the religion she is tapping into. She makes it seem as though spiritual enlightenment is a frivolous and easily achieved state. It is the most self indulgent and tedious section of the novel. 

The book does have it’s positives however. The times when she does write of the countries she is visiting are well written and interesting. She has a good knowledge of the history of these places and includes a number of interesting stories and facts about her surroundings. She inspired me to learn Italian and to go on the hunt for some authentic Italian food. Her travel writing does the countries she visited justice. 

Another positive I took from the book was it’s structure. The three sections which correlate to the three countries are each divided into an equal number of parts. All the divisions and numbers have spiritual importance to the author which had no real meaning for me, but created a nicely balanced book. 

I’m disappointed that this book has been taken as a self help book by so many women around the world. It offers no help but merely tells of one persons experience and what worked for her. It is a sickening example of modern society’s desperation for something to jump on to explain Gilbert needs to focus more on her travel writing and leave out the intense spirituality and self centerd rambling. 

I feel like I must end this review with a quote, not something I usually do, but something I feel is very appropriate in this instance.

In the words of Frances O’Brien from ABC’s ‘The Librarians’ when faced with a meditating real estate agent, 

“That woman who wrote Eat, Pray, Love has got a lot to answer for.”


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