ShelfTalk: Reading Spaces

Do you have associations of certain books based on where you read them? Nora Ephron struck a chord with me as she described not only the books that had a big impact on her but also where she was when she read them.

“I did most of my reading as a child on my bed or on a rattan sofa in the sunroom of the house I grew up in. Here’s a strange thing: whenever I read a book I love, I start to remember all of the other books that have sent me into rapture, and I can remember where I was living and the couch I was sitting on when I read them.”

Nora Ephron I Feel Bad About My Neck

Photo credit: Isaac Leedom. "Reading." Flickr. Last accessed: 6.10.13.

Photo credit: Isaac Leedom. “Reading.” Flickr.
Last accessed: 6.10.13.

I remember the lazy evenings I spent one summer reading Joyce Carol Oates’ We Were the Mulvaneys on the white-carpeted floor of my bedroom, the breeze ruffling the pages of the fat book. During the final August days before leaving to begin my freshman year of college, I lingered over the closing pages of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera while reclining on the plaid sofa in the home of a family I was babysitting for at the time. Years later, I read Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections in its entirety one rainy weekend while staying at a B&B in upstate New York. During the first blizzard the winter after we moved into our new home, I remember taking Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems collection down from the shelf in the office, sitting curled up with the book and the hunter green wool blanket on the guest room bed, and reading all the poems about snow and winter in the early pre-dawn light. And more recently, I remember staying up late (and suffering the consequences for doing so) to finish Kathryn Stockett’s The Help on the guest room bed. Just as memories about reading a particular book often remained tied to a specific place, so it goes with the spoken word. Many of my journeys in the car have been accompanied by the narrator of an audio book. I listened to Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book during the long car trip out and back to visit family one Thanksgiving weekend. And I remembered while out working in my garden the other week that I spent many hours the previous spring weeding the flower beds while listening to Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. 

– Colleen Mullally, Reference Librarian

Certain books do have a shared memory of place associated with them. We’d love to hear from you. What are some of yours?



2 Responses to “ShelfTalk: Reading Spaces”

  1. Liz says:

    The summer between my two years of library school, the last Harry Potter book came out. I had the day off and spent the whole day reading it on the back porch of the apartment where I lived that summer. I took breaks to make lunch and dinner, ate those on the porch, and finished the book as it was getting dark.

    Also, I do a lot of my reading on buses and trains. One summer, I lived at my mom’s and had an hour-plus commute to my job at the Newberry Library in Chicago. On those train rides, and in the compact park across the street from the Newberry, I got a lot of reading done. I particularly remember reading The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky and On a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino on the train, and White Teeth by Zadie Smith in the park.

  2. Donna says:

    Like Liz, I devoured the final Harry Potter book in one weekend, sitting in my “reading” chair (which also happened to be plaid but had an off-white cover!).

    Growing up, I always read in my bedroom, lying perpendicular on the bed, facing the window, with the door closed. I remember reading many Agatha Christie mysteries, among others, in this position.

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