books and place

Friday Book Chats: Books and Place

Many people have studied the connection between music and memory – the ability of music to instantly take you back to another time and place that you associate with a particular song or melody. I’ve found that books can have the same effect. There are certain books that I can’t think of without remembering the circumstances surrounding my reading them—where I was or who I was with or what that season of my life was like.

Today’s Book Chat is all about the books that evoke specific memories for me and hold a special place in my heart because of the times and places they remind me of.

Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. I read this book on my honeymoon. I don’t remember why I chose it, only that I’d read some of Kingsolver’s other books before and this one was available from the library. Since hubby tore a meniscus in his knee just two weeks before our wedding and couldn’t walk without a stabilizing brace, we spent a lot of our honeymoon cruise lying around on the ship and on the beaches and fully embracing our new role as married adults – you know, ordering pb&j sandwiches from room service at all hours of the day. I’ll never be able to think of Taylor Greer and her accidental daughter, Turtle, without thinking about snorkeling in Cozumel.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. It’s possible that one of the reasons I love this book so much is simply because of my history with it. I was first introduced to it while on a study abroad trip in England. My friend Bethany read it aloud to me during our time in the Lake District and I fell in love. A few years later, I took a road trip with my best friend from Boston to Pennsylvania with a stop at a wedding in upstate New York. I wanted to read the book to her while she drove, but I’d forgotten to bring it along. We checked the map and found a book store that appeared to be right beside the interstate so we took the exit and went in search of the book. The “bookstore” was at a tiny college bookstore in rural Massachusetts a good twenty minutes from the interstate. Also, they did not have the book. We were stressed out by our detour since we needed to make it to the wedding on time, but it made for a great memory. I love this book that tells the story of Oskar Schell, a precocious nine-year-old who has recently lost in father in the 9/11 attacks on New York City. Oskar finds a key among his father’s possessions and becomes fixated on finding the lock this key fits into.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak. I actually started this book as an audio book which I borrowed from the library in Raleigh and listened to while I was doing long runs for my marathon training. Although I only made it halfway through on the audiobook before I had to return it and later finished reading this the old-fashioned way, I cannot think of it without hearing the narrator’s deep, rumbling voice and imagining the greenways that wind their way around Raleigh’s lakes and streams and woods. This is a fantastic book that tells the story of a young German girl, her adopted parents, and the Jewish fighter they hide in their basement during the Holocaust, as narrated by the omniscient character, Death.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. While the final book of the Harry Potter series would probably have been memorable regardless, this one was especially meaningful to me because it was released while I was in Russia. I had gone to Russia with a team of other girls from college to work with a ministry that was running summer camps for orphans. After just a short time there, there was a salmonella outbreak at our camp and the government shut our camp down, took the children away, and asked us to leave the country. Not only was our trip cut short by a month, but I had horrible food poisoning that left me 15 lbs thinner after just 2 weeks. When we left Russia early I was full of mixed feelings, mostly relief at that point to be going home when I’d been so sick. We flew from Moscow to London. When we landed at Heathrow Airport I high-tailed it to a bookstore and paid an exorbitant 30 quid for  the hardback British edition of HP 7. I read it the whole way home and finished it while struggling through jet lag at 3 am the next day. The HP books are dear to me for lots of reasons, but the memory of how I ended up with this specific copy will always be special.

What books hold special memories for you?


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A Year of Biblical Womanhood Rachel Held Evans ($2.99)

Cold Tangerines Shauna Niequist ($2.99)

So Brave, Young, and Handsome Leif Enger author of Peace Like a River. ($1.99)