Books to Remember

With any luck by the time this posts I’ll be on a plane bound for Tokyo and Typhoon Lan hasn’t totally disrupted my plans. This means I won’t be able to respond immediately to comments, but I’m hoping some TKZers will join in and comment nonetheless.

I’ve been thinking about those reading moments that become etched in your mind – where you remember the exact time and place you read a particular book so that the memory itself is almost as potent as the book. This has happened to me on a few occasions – usually while I’m traveling – and it’s amazing just how vivid the recollections can still be. Like the late night flight to NYC where I read the first Harry Potter book. I distinctly remember the moment I got to Diagon Alley and just how magical that seemed. The memory is so strong I can visualize the pages of the book in the pool of overhead light.Then there was also a train ride from London to Manchester when I first read Philip Pullman’s The Northern Lights (or as it was called here in the USA, The Golden Compass) and how it felt being transported to an alternate Oxford while the English scenery whizzed past out the window. (NB: I’m hoping to reclaim this sense of exhilaration reading Philip Pullman’s latest – The Book of Dust – on the flight to Japan (or to be more accurate I will be fighting over it with one of my twins who has already disappeared off with the book to start it!).

I’ve had many flights where the book I was reading so totally consumed me that I was still  voraciously reading it after landing – gripping the book until the very last moment when I had to get out of my seat and deplane. This happened to me with both Tana French’s novel In The Woods and Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity. What is surprising is why only some books provide such vivid ‘reading’ memories and yet others, just as equally good, seem to slip by – where I recollect the book but not the moment of reading it. Perhaps it’s the mark of an amazing book or maybe it’s the confluence of circumstances that make the reading part so memorable – but still it’s amazing how certain readings stay with you, while others just seem to fade away.

So TKZers what is your most vivid memory about reading a particular book? Why do you think some books inspire such strong recollections of the moment they were first read?


This entry was posted in Writing by Clare Langley-Hawthorne. Bookmark the permalink.

About Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Her first novel, Consequences of Sin, featuring the Oxford graduate, heiress, and militant suffragette Ursula Marlow, was published in 2007. This was followed by two more books in the series, The Serpent and The Scorpion (2008) and Unlikely Traitors (2014). Consequences of Sin was a San Francisco Chronicle Bay Area bestseller and a Macavity Award nominee for best historical mystery.

14 thoughts on “Books to Remember

  1. Clare, best wishes for a wonderful trip. Your travels sound exciting, especially when enhanced by a good book.

    For me, reading on long trips is also memorable, but for a more mundane reason. A cross-country plane ride is the only time I get to read uninterrupted for hours at a time, a wonderful luxury. Mostly, I snatch a chapter or two at bedtime, reading a story piecemeal. To be able to read a book beginning to end in total immersion is a rare treat.

  2. I think some books inspire strong recollections because they cause a physical reaction, not just an intellectual one. When I was reading Koontz’ Intensity, I was lying on the sofa and noticed I was holding my breath, my arm pits and chest were sweating, and my stomach was full of panicked butterflies. Geez, what a book!

  3. Safe travels, Clare! Hope you have an amazing time.

    I think Debbie nailed it in the above comment. When you can read a book in one sitting they tend to stick with you longer, IMHO.

  4. Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. It is one of those books I’d never read and always intended to, so I finally made the effort not long ago. It was an effort at first. The characters all have names and nicknames that bore no similarity (at least if you don’t speak Russian). And then I got to the crime. Wow! I almost couldn’t bear to read on. It scared me silly and broke my heart. It was very emotional for me. For all the thrillers I’ve read, this book comes closest to depicting the true nature of evil behind a premeditated murder. I was in the guest room at my mother’s house and remember needing to look around and take a break every few pages, which for me is the sign of a truly thrilling read. Thanks for your post.

  5. Way back in 1976, I was reading James Clavell’s “Shogun” while on vacation on the island Abaco in the Bahamas. We were pretty isolated in a little open-air, almost Asian-style house that looked out over a beautiful bay with little turtle-like cays. I was sitting out on the deck very early morning, reading, when a tiny yellow bird landed near me and jumped up to sit on the book. Sitting there in the quiet, looking out at those islands, with that little creature, I was transported, as if my magic, to medieval Japan.

    It’s odd how some books just seem to fit with the place where you are reading them.

    Safe travels!

  6. School holiday work in a large retail store.
    Anya Seton’s “Dragonwyck”.
    Guess who landed in hot water when she didn’t hear the bell at the end of her lunch break?

  7. There are so many memorable moments I could share, but two books come to mind…
    1. The Testament by John Grisham.
    The memorable moment was the brief relationship Nate O’Riley forged with the Minister. It was a short part of the novel, but it resonated with me for several reasons that I will not bore y’all with. I wish Grisham had spent more time building this relationship, but I think it was meant to be a “divine appointment” type of meeting.

    2. The Unexpected Guest by Agatha Christie.
    The memorable moment was the “unveiling” of the murderer. Why it was memorable was because I did not see it coming and it was not your typical “unveiling” of a murder, like a Hercule Poirot Mystery

  8. Exodus by Leon Uris–like Elaine, I was in the 10th grade and it was a school night. I finished it about 7 the next morning, then had to get dressed for school. My 10th grade English teacher didn’t believe me when I told her I’d stayed up all night reading. Made me so mad.

  9. I got my first copy of Jane Eyre in sixth grade, at the school book fair. After I paid for it, I climbed up onto the auditorium stage and leaned against the wall to read until the teacher made us go back to class. I finished it in two days. Can’t even count how many times I’ve read it since then. But each reading is special.

  10. Gone With the Wind was my beach book the summer after 8th grade. I finished and said “I can do that.”

    It was my first of summer beach books for many years after that.

    Several years ago I played Mona in Come Back to the Five & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. It was my stage prop book and my backstage book.

    Haven’t read it in awhile. Haven’t made it to the beach in years. Maybe I’ll reacquaint myself with both next summer.

  11. Although it is not one of the great books of literature, I remember reading Misery by Stephen King 20 years ago while staying at my girlfriend’s house. She was off at school and I was sick and stayed home. I read it all day and remember being annoyed when a delivery came to the door.

    Right after writing my thesis, I had the free time to read something of my choosing instead of what was mandated by my school. Someone had just given me Angela’s Ashes and I read it the next couple of days while sitting on a bench in the city park. I loved being able to get out of the house and read for pleasure instead of for study.

Comments are closed.