Getting Out of Your Head Freshman Year


College is the time to meet new people. The time to figure out what you’re passionate about and pursue it with a safety net. The time to work hard, go out and have fun. Even for the most responsible students, all of these options can be hard to balance. If weighing what you want to do, what you have to do and what you feel like you should be doing is getting to be too much, a tried and true method for getting out of your own head is to go somewhere you can relax and read a good book. Here are my top three places to read in the city, along with a few book recommendations, for when the expectations of freshman year get to be overwhelming.

Elizabeth Street GardenElizabeth Street between Prince & Spring streets

Giving off some major southern gothic vibes, this garden is for those who think there’s no green in the city. Here, you can lean up against an old statue, lounge in the grass and let everything go. The perfect book to bring with you is “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt, which not only complements the garden with its themes of decay and growth, but also with its twisted, almost dark undercurrent. Based on real life events, “Midnight” will transport your thoughts from your own worries to the murder on which the novel hinges. Did southern socialite Jim Williams shoot a male prostitute in cold blood or in self defense? Take the train down to Nolita and find out.

The Strand Rare Books Room828 Broadway

Adored by all book lovers, the Strand Bookstore near Union Square is one of my favorite places to lose myself. The packed shop houses three floors of books, both known and unknown, as well as holds talks by authors and academics alike. A secret that a friend and I stumbled upon while looking for a place to read? The rare books room. This floor is the least crowded in the Strand, because you can only get to it by elevator, and holds some of the most valuable books in the city. First editions, signed copies, vintage novels—they live in the rare books room. I can’t recommend a specific book for the Strand because part of the experience is milling through the stacks and finding something you’re drawn to. Regardless, once you’ve found your book, make a beeline for the four leather chairs in the rare books room. Leather, wood and carpeting are the perfect materials to surround you as you read—just don’t fall asleep!

Bryant Park—40th to 42nd Street between 5th and 6th Ave

Bryant Park holds a special place in my heart; a 15-year old me came to Bryant Park to read the first summer I ever came to New York. Whatever you need—a sunny day, a mini-meltdown on the phone with your mom, an ice cream, somewhere to relax—Bryant Park will supply. Located in midtown, this huge, lush park with an amazing lawn for lying down is also a great place to people watch. Because midtown sees all sorts of people, and because Bryant Park is a great place to observe them, “Let the Great World Spin” by Colum McCann. McCann weaves together stories involving immigration, the loss of a child, religion and the famous tightrope walk of Philippe Petit across the Twin Towers in a book that will leave you in awe of storytelling. It will make you feel closer to the people around you, but more importantly, it gives you the perspective you need when you’re feeling overwhelmed. McCann writes about people coping with their new situations, which, when it comes down to it, is all freshman year is really about.