For anyone who read the @GCWLibrary tweet on Joseph Brodsky’s renowned quote “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them” you might be seeking more memorable advice from this Nobel-prize winning Russian poet and essayist, who left the Soviet Union in 1972 upon advice from the nefarious authorities. After surviving the Siege of Stalingrad, he was largely self-taught and learnt Polish and English to such expertise he could translate John Donne. To learn more about him it’s worth following the musings of Brain Pickings, a sumptuous blog that explores the intellectual side of life, and a blog post entitled ‘Joseph Brodsky on How to Develop Your Taste in Reading‘ that contains some immeasurable advice. Brodsky not only recommends that everyone reads and then develops their library, but actually revisit books to prevent them being covered with layers of dust, absorbing the writing from fine authors like …well, it depends on your mother tongue as Brodsky may have ironically frowned on translated prose. For instance, if you’re Polish then Leopold Staff, Czeslaw Milosz, Zbigniew Herbert and Wieslawa Szymborska are recommended. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are surprisingly omitted from the list of the chosen, if you’re Russian. Heavy points are scored if you have read any (or even some) of these!
Years ago I read the famed Bloomsbury Good Reading Guide, which helped me to extend my reading and awakened me to the notion that literature genuinely transforms.
How do you learn new words and especially use academic language suited to a university? Expanding your vocabulary can make writing assignments easier and more enjoyable. Here are a couple of tips:
- Firstly it is important to read as extensively as you can; absorb the language used in a scholarly journal article. Get into the ideas the author (s) is expressing and learn how to convey an academic argument.
- When searching a scholarly database like Science Direct take note of the language used and how the paper is written. Investigate the themes and how they are threaded together to deliver a convincing argument, or not (!).
- Buy a good quality dictionary and an extensive thesaurus to identify synonyms and antonyms. Remember to always keep them at your side when you are drafting your assignments.
- Read a quality newspaper like the Guardian or Independent regularly. Newspapers are subsidised at the SU shop in the Main Building.
- For the slightly more ambitious reader fine literature penned from literary masters like Donne, Faulkner, Montaigne, Tolstoy, Zola or Flaubert to name just a few would be worth delving into, and get inspired to write more fluently.
- For anyone interested in the power of the written word it is certainly worth regularly visiting Maria Popova’s well-crafted Brain Pickings blog and particularly her piece on Kurt Vonnegut called ‘How to Write with Style: Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Keys to the Power of the Written Word‘.
screenshot of the most renowned thesaurus available….