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Fond Memories of Great Books!

November 14, 2013
This was a great novel, but my fond memory has almost nothing to do with the book itself.

This was a great novel, but my fond memory has almost nothing to do with the book itself.

Most readers remember the great books for their content.  That’s not always the case with me.  I forget most of the details about most books I read after I’ve finished reading them.  I’ve even forgotten the details of the great novels.  But I have wonderful memories of a lot of great books, not for the characters or the prose, but for what was going on in my life when I read the books or the circumstances in which I read them. 

Below are three books that I know I liked a lot. I don’t remember much about these novels, but I have great memories about reading them.  

The Shining – by Stephen King. 

I was a teenager, and it was summer, and I had never read a Stephen King book before.  In front of me, I had a choice of three books: Carrie, The Shining, or The Stand.  I chose Carrie because it was the shortest, and I read it in a day or so (no great accomplishment).  Then I read The Shining while on vacation, some of which was during the ten-hour-a-day drives in the car.  I got car sick easily, so I sat up front with the window open. 

The Shining was so great that I’d read until I got nauseous (from reading itself, not from what was going on in the book) and then I’d lean against the open window with the 65 mph wind in my face until I felt better, and then I’d read until I got nauseous again.  The rest of my family was scared that I’d throw up in the car, but I didn’t… that time.  It was a great accomplishment, to read that much in the car without throwing up.  I was proud.

When The Shining movie came out, I could tell who had read the book first and who hadn’t.  People who hadn’t read the novel thought that the “Heeeere’s Johnny” scene was cool, and those who had read the book thought that scene was kind of stupid.  Everybody, however, liked saying “Heeeeere’s Johnny,” even if we thought the scene was stupid. 

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

When we were reading To Kill a Mockingbird in my 8th grade English class, I brought in another paperback that I was reading at home, Some Kind of Hero by James Kirkwood(?).  I liked it in 8th grade (but it was made into a really bad movie with Richard Pryor later on), but I don’t know if the book still holds up.  Anyway, I was showing a friend in my class a page that had the f-word on it (not because it was the f-word but because it was used in a funny way). 

My English teacher (who also taught German) confiscated the book, read the page I had been showing off, and then wrote something inside the book.  When he returned it later, I saw that he had circled the f-word and written in the margin “verboten.”  I don’t know German, but I know what “verboten” means.  For the next couple weeks, I stuck with To Kill a Mockingbird when I was in English class.  I think it holds up fairly well, and it was made into a slightly better movie. 

The Pillars of the Earth– by Ken Follet 

I read this before Oprah even had a Book Club (it’s important to me that everybody knows that).  I don’t always enjoy or finish long books, but I got into this one a lot.  It was different from Follet’s usual spy stuff.  But the reason I remember this novel is because I was reading it when I met my wife (but not at the exact moment when I met my wife). 

The night I met my wife (I didn’t know she was going to become my wife), I gave her my phone number.  I didn’t ask for hers because I didn’t think a woman should give out her number to a (possibly creepy) guy whom she had just met.  I thought there was a chance she’d call, but I knew she’d make me wait a few days (which she did).  I was reading The Pillars of the Earth while I waited (but not every waking moment while I waited.  I had to go to work too). 

When she called me, and I told her what I was reading (it wasn’t the first thing we talked about), she seemed impressed.  She had heard of the book before but hadn’t read it.  Even though she likes Oprah, she didn’t read it years later when Oprah selected it for her club.  My wife doesn’t like other people picking out her books for her.  We don’t have that copy of the book anymore.  I kind of wish that I’d have kept it. 


These aren’t the only books that I have fond memories of.  I have a lot more, but enough about me!  What fond memories do you have of the great books you’ve read?  What fond memories do you have of stupid books you’ve read?  And finally, what fond memories do you have of mediocre books you’ve read?  In other words, what fond memories do you have of the books you’ve read?

  1. Thinking of reading this Mockingbird after Catcher in the Rye. Is it worth a read? :))

  2. This is so true! A lot of the time the main reason we remember a book is because of what was going on in our lives when reading them. What a great idea for a post! And great stories too. The first thing to pop into my head is the book I was reading when I went into labour with my first child. I was trying hard to finish it before the baby came, and I was so close! It was The World According to Garp.

  3. thewriterscafe247 permalink

    I am afraid I have no fond memories of To Kill a Mockingbird. I had to read it in 11th grade and the teacher I had that year…he could take the most enjoyable books in the world and make them feel like dry and pretentious nonsense. He insisted on reading all of the books aloud to us which was patronizing enough in itself, but he also had this big southern drawl which made listening to him feel like watching molasses drip on a cold day. Now when I try to read that book I cannot shake the feelings I had in that class. It’s weird what different teachers can do to the same book all through how they present it.

    • Ugh! That sounds brutal. If his drawl and attitude were as bad as you say (and they probably were), it was probably impossible to tune him out and read at your own pace (which was probably faster than his). Did he check to see if students were on the same page that he was reading?

      • Anonymous permalink

        He was one of those guys who would stop reading midsentence and then we would all have to finish saying the sentence aloud with him. He said it was a good way to make sure we were paying attention. It was Junior year! For goodness sake most of us could have read Shakespeare blindfolded and here was this guy making us participate in some sort of grade school sing along. So no matter how good that book is, anything associated with it makes me mad.

  4. I also read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school – have you ever met anyone that didn’t? I adored it. Even though it was forced reading (I, like your wife, don’t like to be told what to read) I still loved it but like you, I don’t remember much about it. I have loved so many books but I couldn’t tell you everything that happened in them or where I was when I read them (assuming I wasn’t on the metro), I seem to have a memory problem!

  5. I have great memories of Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia and such books since my mother would read them to us when we were small, even when I was toddler. So I learned all the archaic language in those books (or some of it) while I learned more normal words.

  6. What an interesting idea! I have never thought of that…the one memory that stands out is reading The Da Vinci Code…it was the first non-child development/pregnancy book I’d read in a long time and my child was 1.5 years old. I couldn’t put the book down and would read it with one hand on the frying pan, or my son would grab my book and say, “No book! No book!” It does take me back to those early years as a new mom.

  7. Reblogged this on Consumed by Ink and commented:
    I love this idea! It is so true that sometimes we only remember books because of what was going on in our lives at the time we were reading them. The first example that pops into my head is the book I was reading when I went into labour for my first child. The World According to Garp. I remember that I was almost finished, but I don’t really remember much about the book anymore. How about you? Any stories to share?

  8. bdallmann permalink

    I am so like this. I don’t often remember the details of the books I read, just the impression I had while reading them. Many conversations about books I have go like this:

    A friend: “I just picked up [this book].”
    Me: “Oh, I LOVED that book!!”
    Friend: “Why?”
    Me: “…I don’t remember, I just know it was great.”

  9. The Dark Tower…all seven books…simply fantastic and rife with good memories. Good article as always incidentally.

  10. What a relief to hear that I’m not the only one! One thing I’ve found, though, is that while I don’t remember the stories, a particular scene or sentence might stick with me. From “The Power And The Glory” when a father sees the young daughter that he basically abandoned and had no real part in raising: “He felt an immense load of responsibility that was indistinguishable from love.” (pretty close to direct quote).

    Has any single sentence better captured the essence of parenthood?

  11. I tend to remember books that I could not put down, rather than the personal events occurring at the time. And I rarely read other folks recommendations unless they are my friends …

    My husband told me about Ken Follett and I read everything I can of his. I loved Pillars of the Earth and his most recent one World without End … they really bring the past to life.

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