Reading Journal (7 Oct): Books for Every Season

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Two years ago, I awoke at 3 a.m. to the realization that my son was going to be born! At 3:13 p.m., he finally made his arrival at a squirmy 3116 grams. I love being a mom, and I love watching him grow up! Happy two years old to him!

I’ve been thinking lately about how I remember the books I read by the things that are happening around me.

When my son was about two weeks old, I was reading East of Eden. I remember because in one of the early scenes in the book, the drunk widowed man feeds his newborn son beer instead of milk. I remember looking at my newborn and thinking that wasn’t such a good idea.

When my son was newborn, I read Kissinger by Walter Isaacson and Nelson Mandela’s autobiography – I remember where I was sitting, and while my little one kicked on a blanket nearby or slept on my chest, I read. The place and my son are connected to my memories of the books.

When we moved into our apartment last September, I remember sitting on the floor, waiting for the movers to arrive (my son was napping in a port-a-crib nearby), and reading Dubliners. When I visited my in laws last November, I was reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and A Christmas Carol. This last visit, I was reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

It’s interesting to me how those books will be associated in my mind with those places, the people who saw me reading, and that time of my life. I wonder what I’ll remember in this coming year of my son’s life.

Do any books you read have a place or person memory attached to it?

Abandoned/Finished Books

I finished the first two books before Friday! I haven’t stayed up late reading for a long time; it was fun!

  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (310 pages; children’s fiction). FINISHED! For the RIP IV Challenge.
  • Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (215 pages; fiction). FINISHED! For the Banned Books Challenge.
  • Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda (90 pages; Spanish and English translation, poetry). FINISHED! Also new Library Loot.

Currently Reading

Each week, I list my progress so I can see how my reading compares week to week.

My Books

There are some old books I didn’t read at all. But I did finish two books before Friday last week, so it was a pretty good week.

  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White (130 read of 190; children’s fiction). I am reading this aloud to my son at a very slow rate. I didn’t read any this week (I have a cold and avoided reading aloud!)
  • The Stories of John Cheever (21 of 61 stories, 820 pages total; fiction/short stories). Part of my Pulitzer Challenge. I did not read any this week.
  • Our Latter-day Hymns: The Stories and Their Messages by Karen Lynn Davidson (75 read of 350/455 pages; nonfiction). I have a cold so I didn’t feel much like singing the hymns; I didn’t read it either because I want to sing them as I read about them.
  • Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter by Seth Lerer (230 read of 330 pages; nonfiction). I read one and a half chapters this week.
  • La Casa en Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (10 read of 115 pages; Spanish translation, fiction). For Hispanic Heritage Month. (I will probably finish it and review it after Oct 15.)
  • Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (190 pages; children’s fiction).

Old Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and Marg that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

  • Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda (50-100 skimmed of 324 pages; nonfiction). I picked this up to get ideas for The Classics Circuit. Make sure you submit your own ideas for future tours!
  • Norton Critical Editions: Oliver Twist (fiction/nonfiction). This edition of Oliver Twist has analysis and criticism at the back of it.
  • The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White (250 pages; children’s fiction).

New Library Loot

I keep getting sidetracked from the books I own with these great library books!

  • The Great Equations: Breakthroughs in Science from Oythagoras to Heisenberg by Robert P. Crease (140 read of 270; nonfiction). For the Dewey Decimal Reading Challenge (500s). I haven’t read anything science or math related all year. I hate math. This book is pretty good but some is still over my head. The math makes my brain hurt on occasion!
  • Better by Atul Gawande (about 6 ½ hours, on disc 1 of 6; nonfiction). For the Dewey Decimal Reading Challenge (600s). I don’t often browse for books (I normally know just what I want) but occasion found me without an audiobook. I saw this one and recalled a review of a different book by this author on A Striped Armchair. I like the premise: A doctor explores what it means to be “better” in a field were perfection is expected.
  • MacBeth by Shakespeare (play and audiobook). For the RIP IV Challenge.

Fiction Finds

My TBR additions are out of control this week. No, I will never catch up to all the books I want to read.

  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I want more Gaiman! Amanda from The Zen Leaf says this one is pretty good.
  • Stardust by Neil Gaiman. I want more Gaiman! Amanda from The Zen Leaf says this one is excellent.
  • The Lemoine Affair by Marcel Proust. Five Borough Book Reviews’s review gave me the idea that maybe I can read Proust!
  • Paper Towns by John Green. Raych at Books I Done Read loved this, and she too hates teenagers (as she said, “present company excluded”). In fact, I think I’m going to go find this book this month!
  • Gemma Bovary by Posy Simmonds. Cara at Oooh…Books recommend this in a comment on my Understanding Comics post.
  • The Enchanted Castle by E. Nesbit. Karen at Books and Chocolate loves childhood fantasy (as do I) and wishes she’d found Nesbit while a kid.
  • Summertime by J.M. Coetzee. Teresa from Shelf Love says “When is an autobiography not an autobiography?” I’m intrigued.
  • Day of Tears by Julius Lester. Nymeth at Things Mean A Lot says “the story is told exclusively through the character’s voices.” It’s the story of a slave auction so it sounds emotional, but Nymeth says “it doesn’t try to use slavery as the backdrop for an inspirational story of survival, but it’s not completely bleak either.” I want to read it!
  • Anthony Trollope. Karen wrote about one of his books and I started getting sad that he came in last for the most recent Classics Circuit vote. (Maybe The Way We Live Now.)
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque. Jenny at Shelf Love makes this sound relevant still, unfortunately.

Nonfiction Finds

All three of these sound really good!

  • I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti by Giulia Melucci. Stacked says this book will make you hungry and it’s better written than the other foodie memoirs out there right now.
  • Shakespeare by Bill Bryson. Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot.
  • The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders by Emmanuel Guibert. Recommended by Shannon in a comment on my Understanding Comics post.
Reviewed on October 7, 2009

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • That’s actually why I started keeping track of books I read in the first place. I have a horrible memory, but I found that I could keep better track of events in my head based on what books I was reading. I started keeping a list in 2006 of what I read, plus some favorite quotes. That was the winter break of my freshman year in college and I was reading Rayuelas or Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar. On the train ride back home after my grandmother’s funeral, I was reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The summer before I left for college I was reading The Brothers Karamazov. Name a book and I can tell you with fairly decent accuracy where I was and when it was, so I understand completely!

  • Happy Birthday do your son!

    I look forward to hearing your thoughts on that book on Children’s Literature – it sounds right up my alley! Also, I want Classics for Pleasure too. I really love Michael Dirda. And oh, The Enchanted Castle! It’s the only Nesbit I’ve read so far, but I loved it.

  • Happy birthday to your son! What a quick birth 🙂

    I definitely associate books with memories. I’m rereading some James Herriot books at the moment and they remind me of my younger years and when I wanted to be a vet (before I knew about the blood and yucky bits!). I like trying to recapture great feelings by rereading books.

  • Specific books definitely remind me of specific events or times. The Three Musketeers, for example, reminds me of my first Christmas in San Francisco. Finnegans Wake reminds me of the very cold and wet January weekend we moved back to Portland from San Francisco and, in particular, the funny little hotel we stayed in while waiting for the movers.

    Because I love Christmas and make the most of it, I try to pick a special book to read at Christmas time so that I create a memory. Usually something long, historical, and that I know I will enjoy.

  • Happy birthday to your son! Seems like a lot of people are having birthdays lately :-)!

    I remember reading “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” (loved it) two years ago while we were inbetween places, staying at a temp apartment.

    Oddly enough, the only book I remember reading during any of my pregnancies was “Truman” by David McCullough. A friend loaned it to me while I was on bedrest during my first pregnancy. Ever since then I’ve read most of David McCullough’s books.

  • Loved this post! Books are definitely associated with very concrete memories for me-when I think about a book I’ve read, where I was reading it/how I felt/what I was eating-it all comes up.

  • Amanda, I find I’m associating books with place more and more!!

    Stephanie, I’m so glad you liked it!

    Lu, that’s awesome that blogging helps you remember the places.

    Nymeth, the children’s literature book is good — it’s a text book, so sometimes a bit dense, but overall I’m enjoying it. I started it last year (six chapters) and “forgot” it for six months so I picked it back up. I’m reading many of the books he mentions and Robinson Crusoe derailed me 🙂 ( I loved the book, but just …. it was long.)

    Bella, yes, can’t complain about my child’s birth: smooth as silk, so it was a good experience!

    I think I read some James Herriot when I was a kid too! Back when I didn’t realize I hate animals…. (sorry)

    Rose City Reader, that’s a great idea for Christmas books! I’ve been rereading A Christmas Carol for the last 2 or 3 years but I’m getting tired of it. So glad for a different book to read idea to remember the season! Hmm… which to choose?!?!

    Valerie, I’d never wish bedrest on anyone or myself, but sometimes i think of all the books I could get read! (Wouldn’t be quite like that now that I have a little one already. That would be a nightmare to be on bedrest!!)

    I loved McCulough’s bio of John Adams, and I’d wanted to read his others. It was just so awesome I decided John Adams was my favorite president!

    Eva, Oh I didn’t even think to mention the food. mmm. I do like to eat while I read!

  • Oh, I definitely organize my memories like that, too – by what I was reading, and what I was wearing. I’m kind of reassured to hear that you got any reading done at all when your son was newborn; perhaps oddly, it’s one of my fears about having a kid someday, that I’ll no longer have any time for reading.

  • Rebecca, my son also turned 2 on the seventh! Sounds like you and I were doing the same thing at the same time two years ago!

    The summer I turned eleven, my family went to France. While we were there, I read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier about ten times. I can remember the smell of the house we were in, the roses at the window, the feel of the scratchy upholstered chair I sat in to read it. There are many other books I associate with certain times and places, but that one I hope I’ll never forget.

  • This was very fun to read. I am already creating some of those memories with my own newborn. This week she nearly spit up on a special edition of Shakespeare, I managed to get the book out of the way but it taught me a lesson….old paperbacks are the way to go when I’m nursing her and reading at the same time 🙂

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