Monday, July 23, 2018

Ten Books with Sensory Reading Memories

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic was my suggestion! The organizer had to go back and add more details, so I take it not everyone understood the original explanation — whoops! When I look over the titles of books I've read, I can often remember approximately when I read the book or where we were living at the time, but there are certain books that just take me back to the experience of reading them: where I was, who I was with, what the temperature was like. These are ten of the ones I came up with that give me that feeling.

1. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
In my first job out of college, I would usually go down to the basement of the building to eat my packed lunch because if I sat in the lounge space on our floor people would bug me on my lunch break. The basement was freezing and there was always music playing too loud, which made it hard to focus, but I would take a book with me and try to read. This is one of the books I specifically remember reading in that basement, because I was paranoid that someone was going to see me reading it and think I was some punk kid in her first real job already dissatisfied and trying to cut corners or something.

2. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
I read a lot as a kid, and I spent many lazy days at my grandma's house on school vacations reading books wherever I could find a nook or cranny where I'd be relatively undisturbed. A lot of the books that I read growing up have since faded from my memory, but I don't think I read the Alice books until I was a bit older, when we'd moved across the country and would still fly back and stay at my grandma's for vacation. She had this old, scratchy brown and orange couch, and I don't remember if it was this book or Through the Looking-Glass, but one of them I read primarily while lying on that couch trying to escape everyone's notice so I could read in peace.

3. The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
The summer my husband and I moved across the country, we also spent a week at the New Jersey shore with my mother-in-law and her boyfriend. This was in the pre-kid days, which meant nobody cared if I just wanted to sit in a beach chair under an umbrella, stare out at the ocean, and listen to an audiobook for hours, which was exactly what I did with this book. My mother-in-law is also a big reader, and it's always a joy to go on vacation with fellow readers, because they want to sit quietly and read just as much as I do.

4. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
I was already most of the way through this book when we got the call that our son had been born, but it will forever be associated with the week we spent in a hotel room waiting for clearance to fly home. Our son wanted to sleep all the time but would only sleep if someone was holding him, so we had to sleep in shifts because otherwise he would just cry and cry. So on my turns I would sit there holding him, trying to read this book and being so, so tired. And let me tell you, the last section of this book, if you have the unabridged version, is super long and boring. In retrospect I should have just downloaded something more action-packed to my Kindle and come back to the Tales later.

5. Citizen by Claudia Rankine
I've read this twice now — once on audio and once in hardcover — but the first time, when I listened to it, I put it on while I was cleaning our apartment. I listened to almost the entire thing in one night (I think it's under 2 hours of audio) and I remember I just kept scrubbing into the crevices of our kitchen so I could keep listening to it! That may be the only time I've voluntarily spent over an hour deep-cleaning our apartment, haha.

6. Devilish by Maureen Johnson
I've mentioned before the summer that my now-husband and I spent living with his aunt in New Jersey in her non-air-conditioned house when it was very, very hot. After failing to find a job I spent a lot of days walking to the local library and then just reading all day in the air conditioning. I remember reading this entire book while lounging across a chair, and it was one of those things where after a while I was slightly uncomfortable and the air conditioning was getting too cold but I was tired enough and enjoying the book enough that I didn't really want to get up, so I just kept lying there until I finished the entire book.

7. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
This book is quite long and I listened to it on audio, so obviously I listened to it in many different places and at many different times, but I distinctly remember that I was listening to it during a period when it was very difficult to get my son, who had just turned 2, to nap. I did not want to do the thing where you strap the kid into the car and drive them around to make them nap because he never slept well or very long in the car, so instead I would put him in his stroller and go down to the basement of the building and walk up and down and up and down this one hallway until he fell asleep. This involved having to ignore him telling me how he wasn't tired and didn't want to nap, so I would put in my headphones and listen to this book. And I just remember that the lights down there seemed so bright but I didn't have another place where I had the room to walk and also had control of the lights, so I had to power through. Thank goodness that stage didn't last too long!

8. Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther
I brought a lot of Christian memoirs with me on my World Youth Day trip, but this is the only one I remember reading in a specific location rather than just in bits and pieces while waiting for buses and such. The day we went to Wadowice, Pope John Paul II's hometown, I had a rare hour where I didn't have to be anywhere and wasn't with anyone else from the group. I sat in the sunshine in the main square across from JPII's childhood home and read the last part of this book, where Esther has begun to heal from her abusive fundamentalist upbringing and find beauty in Catholicism and the Virgin Mary.

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
The summer the seventh and final book came out, I was interning in Indianapolis for the summer and my now-husband was working for catering at our college in Ohio, so every weekend I would drive the two hours to violate school policy by spending the weekend in his dorm room. The book was coming out on a Saturday so we'd ordered our copies from the campus bookstore, and they were supposed to be having a big party at like 10 to hand out everyone's reserved copies but we got there early and they said we could just have our copies before the store was overrun with children. So then I lay on the bed in the dorm room and read. All day. The building wasn't air-conditioned and it was really, really hot in there, like being in a sauna, but I just kept reading. A friend showed up to visit my husband and so he took a break from reading to hang out, but I kept reading. It got late, I was tired, but I couldn't stop reading, and I finally finished around 1 a.m. and went right to bed, and then the next day was so impatient for him to finish the book so we could talk about it!

10. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I was reading this book when we went to visit my husband's extended family for New Year's, and after we rang in the new year everyone wanted to play games but I had like 10 pages left in this book and I said I couldn't possibly play until I finished it. I was sitting on a couch in the corner under this one lamp and everyone was at the table across the room telling me to hurry up and finish so I could come play, and I was telling them if they would just hush and let me finish then I could come play... and so I may have rushed the ending a bit.

What books evoke specific reading memories for you?

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Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Five Little Pigs and The History of Love
Five years ago I was reading: The God We Never Knew and Thinking, Fast and Slow
Ten years ago I was reading: In the Time of the Butterflies

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