Books, books and…. oh, more books! A neverending story.

Being a booknerd is almost a bare necessity if you want to study history at BA or MA level. To keep up with the vast reading requirements, you really must love reading and be prepared to invest a significant amount of your time in books and libraries. I’m not complaining! Best thing ever, right ?

So I checked my TBR list of books. I can tell you it is not getting any shorter. Sometimes I don’t know what I like better: reading the books, or browsing and buying books. Don’t underestimate the uplifting power of a good bookhunt. And off course, then there are the (online) magazines, myriad blogs, social media, and some historical fiction……

Last year I decided to clean up my bookshelves and start buying and reading more focused on a few subjects. The main part for the ‘non-fiction section’ is now focused on medieval history and art. I still buy a lot of ‘random medieval’ books, so I’m still trying to find more focus and specialize in some subjects. But which ones…. too many interesting topics.

As I checked my list, I noticed I accidentally created a theme, so I’m going to stick with that for now. I really want to know more about the ladies of the middle ages (not to be confused with middle aged ladies ;-). I think they played an essential part in the expansion of the medieval kingdoms and are deserving my attention. I noted that as I’m back at the university again after 15 years, a lot of perspectives have shifted away from ‘white male history’ and a lot of new perspectives are being explored. I like it!

Also, I have some other lovelies to read. As you see, this is more of ‘the random’ kind of books. Of the many interesting topics I can’t choose from, I know that ‘medievalism’ is one of my favorites: the Romantic image of the middle ages, systematically formed in the 19th century in reaction to the industrial society. For a large part it was responsible for a strongly romanticized and idealized Middle Ages that also influenced knowledge, image, views and study of the middle ages for some time. But, who knows, I’ll pick up the Ravens (cheeky birds!), Chaucer’s people (fun!) or Robert de Bruce (Scots!) first.

All I need to do now is find the time to read it all. So, new plan (or essentially the same plan as ever, but a good reminder):

  • put down my phone
  • stay away from Netflix
  • keep a blanket and my cat on stand-by
  • don’t read 6 books at once (but maybe 2)

Reading books should never feel like a chore. I admit, in a busy week it is sometimes difficult to find enough time to read. And if it is really busy, I start longing for some quiet reading time. It’s one of the things I can really relax to and can take my mind of things.

Books are a great joy and an essential need in my life. I actually live right on top of our local bookstore, so I can get my ‘fix’ very easily. Just some browsing is enough to brighten the day. As much as I love the Middle Ages, I really like living in an age (and country) where books are available everywhere.

Back to university: a new adventure

Yes! This is happening. I’m so excited!

In exploring my options to make the most of my ‘medieval hobby’ I checked several universities with a Medieval studies programme. I ended up choosing between Utrecht or Leiden. A though choice, since Utrecht is my alma mater and I always enjoyed the atmosphere there. However, Leiden offered better opportunities for me to combine it with my parttime dayjob. The University of Leiden is the oldest university in the Netherlands, founded in 1575, and offers a great curriculum in Medieval studies.

When I was first studying for my BA degree, I always contemplated that I would probably be one of ‘those old people who would return to college one day because they can’. And guess what? That’s me now. OK, I’m not thát old (and still pretty cool, off course ;-), but problably will be compared to this generation of college students.

Now, on a more humble note: I decided to start this adventure small. Initially, I had a wild plan to start with a full MA programme. But that asks a lot of commitment, time, commuting, and also money. It would be very taxing next to my dayjob and not a very achievable goal for the moment. So I chose a lighter curriculum.

I will follow a series of contract courses on medieval topics. I will start this semester with a more generic mid level course on Medieval expansion  in Europe. Consider this a test run, just to see if my brain still can handle university level after all this time. Let’s dust off the cobwebs and release the rusty chains first.

In the next semesters I hope to enroll for the courses on Middle English Language and Literature. I really want to understand medieval languages and manuscripts better. This is a part that I did not make the most of during my first time in college, and would really like to make up for it. Off course, I’ve been seeing and reading a lot of medieval history and art over the years. With the blog and these courses I hope to consolidate my love of learning and all this ‘random’ knowledge to a more tangible form.

One of my favourite benefits of attending university again, is full access to the entire collection of the university library, brick and online.
A lot of source material and articles are available on the internet these days, but this opens up a whole new world of possibilities and enables me to start doing better research again.

It feels like a new chance, a dream that actually can happen. I just have to make it happen. So, I will start this semester in February as a student at Leiden University. Yeah!