Fond Memories of Great Books!
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?