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Thoughts When Not Actually Reading

Book Memories

We often say that books “take us away” on magical journeys through space and time and that we lose ourselves in books.  Certainly I love that about books; the feeling that when I pick one up I may become part of whatever is going on between those covers for a while.  But I have often felt that the opposite is true, as well.  That many books I've read have become points in time and space for me, reminding me time and again of where I was (and who I was) when I read them.

One of the best reading memories I have is of reading To Kill a Mockingbird in my back yard one summer.  I think I was about 12, a little older than Scout, but since I was lying in a hammock under the trees on our farm and doing my best to work my way single-handedly through a bushel of fresh peaches, I was definitely identifying with her independent country soul.  I know the book didn’t take me that long to read, but it was eye-opening and the beginning of a great orgy of summer reading.  It was the same summer my mother was sorting boxes of used books for an upcoming jumble sale to raise money for some worthy cause, and after To Kill a Mockingbird I naturally moved on to all manner of other reading material out of those musty boxes, some more properly termed eye-popping than eye-opening!  Good summer.

The Haunting of Hill House transports me to the back seat of the family car as we traveled through the west on a family vacation.  Threatening skies and a crowded car, but for one of the only times I can remember I was only mildly nauseated as I read in a moving vehicle.  I remember distinctly reading and re-reading the passage where the family walks through the summer fields near Hill House in a creeping terror.  I found the passage terrifying but couldn't figure out why.  [Note to self:  Read this book again!]  

Mention Watership Down and it's the week after a devastating ice storm, all six of the members of my family huddling around the wood stove on our tiny enclosed back porch during a week without power. Violence in the rabbit warrens?  Sounds about right.

Stephen King's Danse Macabre and I am on the couch recuperating from a particularly exhausting case of mono my first summer home from college.  I think The Hunger was also in my book pile, but it's Danse Macabre that triggers the memory.

When I lived in Brooklyn I worked on the Upper West Side in Manhattan so I had a long daily commute.  On my way to the train I passed more than one used book seller with paperback books for 50¢ or so.  I probably bought at least one a week and read both ways on the train and at every lunch.  I read tons of books during that time, but for some reason the memory of a small greenish copy of Villette takes me right back to that space.  Ah, the joy of 50-cent books and no real responsibilities.

Lots of books have taken me to lots of amazing places.  What I find is that some of them continue to transport me to very specific places on my own timeline.  Where do your books place you?

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