People often assume that we have relatively poor English skills just because we go to a school that’s predominantly scientific and engineering-ic. That, of course, is simply not true. Well, not necessarily, anyway.
For my part, I’m quite literate (for you skeptics out there) and even rather enjoy reading, depending on the material. If I didn’t have the cash flow of a parentally dependent college freshman, I’d call myself a book collector. As it is, I’m more of a book amasser, or a book depository sans snipers. Being the semi-compulsive thrift shopper that I am, I’ve accumulated a modest but significant personal library at home. I’m particularly proud of my reference section, which I plan on gradually relocating to my dormitory one three-pound tome at a time. Hopefully, by improving my at-home resources, I will need to leave my room for the library less and less, doing my part to perpetuate the myth that MIT students are reclusive and antisocial. No need to thank me — I’m happy to help.
In all seriousness, I like being able to have information on hand without defaulting to the Internet for all of my research needs. I can’t even begin to tell you how handy my copy of the MLA Style Handbook has been for my “Works Cited” pages. I’m too stubborn to use www.CitationDoohickey.com or whatever it’s called for the same purpose. The same stubbornness compels me to pull my all-nighters entirely without the aid of caffeine or energy drinks. Besides, some days, I’d rather thumb through my New York Public Library Desk Reference rather than click to Wikipedia if I want to know which fork goes where, or how much vodka separates a Screwdriver from Sunny Delight. It keeps my imminent carpal tunnel on its toes.
Considering how many peripherals I have hooked up on my desk, hauling my laptop out of my room to go stargazing is too much hassle, especially when I already have three books on astronomy to bring with me. I continue to prefer a mouse over a touchpad, and finding a star map online takes too long in this winter weather, even if I’m virtually guaranteed to get better wireless reception out on the terrace rather than in my metal-encased room. Moreover, if I were to happen to fall off said terrace, I’m fairly certain that a book on first aid would survive the fall a lot better than my computer would, or I, for that matter. It’s also nice to have something to read when all of my friends are too busy studying other heavenly bodies to hang out with me. Tragic, no?
My addiction to desk references aside, reading also helps me to de-stress, although if you’re in a particularly book-heavy course, I can understand if you’re somewhat less than sympathetic on that point. My girlfriend recently bought me The Physics of Superheroes, and I’m fully intent on using it as a supplementary text for 8.02. It’s going to go on my shelf right next to The Action Hero’s Handbook.
For those of you who remain unconvinced as to the importance of having a book collection, consider the last time you saw a mad scientist without a bookshelf that was more than meets the eye. (Your lab professor doesn’t count as “mad,” no matter how many times you’ve been set on fire.) Books have a litany of uses besides reading. If I were inclined to exercise, they’d serve as excellent free weights. I personally like being ironic and keeping my secret cash stash inside Law and Economics — or at least, I will, until just before this article goes to print. And if you still don’t believe me, ponder for a moment how smart you’ll look to the object of your affection with a shelf full of books on their interests as gleaned from their Facebook in mildly sleazy fashion.