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Karen Lorang



Karen Lorang '07 is an economics major from San Diego, Calif. A captain and goalie on the field hockey team, she was named Centennial Conference Defensive Player of the Week in September. Karen is also a resident advisor, a writing associate, and serves as the student groups advisor on Student Council. Write to her at

ooks come to mean so many things at Swarthmore. At times, they are heavy and burdensome, seeming to have a magical ability to induce yawning and droopy eyelids. Other days we can't put them down, finding ideas on their pages that make us think, question, and wonder. At these times, they bring out the best in us, and are a quintessential part of the Swarthmore experience.

Given the mixed feelings books elicit, it is no surprise that students constantly question just how many they want in their lives, and for how long they plan to keep them. After considering the habits of my friends, classmates, and family, and then interjecting plenty of personal opinion and bias, I've come to some conclusions.

The first, simply, is that books are meant to be read. Having lots of books and never reading them is no better than not having the books at all. If you know you aren't going to read a book, you probably don't need to buy it in the first place. Still, trying to read most of the books on your reading lists is generally key to success.

I have friends that refuse to buy books at all, preferring instead to borrow them from the library or from friends. Others are careful to look online for the best prices, or resell their texts at the end of the semester whenever possible. And then there are other students, like myself, who have filled up their smallish dorm rooms with every single book from every reading list for every class they have taken since freshman year.

Books are meant to be read. Having lots of books and never reading them is no better than not having the books at all.

As an economics major, I'm tempted to argue that students engage in sophisticated (if unconscious) cost-benefit analysis, considering their individual budget constraints, the marginal benefit of each page read, and present discounted values of possible future resale income. But as a borderline bibliophile, I'm tempted to wax poetic on the inherent value of books. For this tendency, I blame my family. My parents recently moved into a much smaller house. Throughout the process, my father's unwavering insistence that he had already narrowed his book collection as much as he possibly could was hilarious. Somehow, my mother wasn't as convinced that he couldn't survive without the outdated textbooks from his freshman year.

The best method for acquiring books depends on several factors. Our bookstore is wonderful, but there is often a price advantage to looking online. And our libraries carry many of the books you might need. Just remember, if you love highlighting and scribbling notes, there is good reason to try to get your own copy.

Once you have purchased a book you must eventually determine its fate. Some books you probably won't sell back because you are so bitter that the $110 textbook you bought is now only worth $5 because the publisher released a new edition. Some, you can't wait to get rid of. Others, you will definitely want to save because they will be useful in later classes, or they changed your life, or you plan on getting around to reading them, or you hope they will someday become fodder for a small-scale domestic dispute much like my parents'.

And then there are those books that you aren't too sure you care about. Consider keeping them for a while. Later down the line, you might think of someone who would really enjoy them, or find new meaning in them yourself. Whatever you do, don't let the general stress of finals cause you to purge everything that reminds you of college. Someday you'll want to hold on tight to every memory of freshman year, including the books.

Return to "For the Love of Books"