Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Salon: On the comfort of reading

This week has been a whirlwind of emotions and movements. Two weeks ago, Mr. Nomadreader's grandmother went into hospice. One week ago, she passed away. After a cross-country drive, this weekend has brought the happiness and joy of being with family as well as the sadness of saying goodbye. This morning, as I lounged on the couch at my mother-in-law's home reading a novel that will likely not make my best of 2012 list, I realized this novel will linger longer than many because it's the one I happened to be reading this particular weekend, and I love it for that.

I, like many of you, find immense comfort in reading. I love fiction that challenges me, that exposes me to new places and ideas, that make me marvel at imagination or use of language, and novels that make me feel things. Reading is a large part of my life, and it's a large part of my everyday routine. This weekend I've realized there is the comfort in the routine, and this weekend in particular, I probably don't want to read a truly amazing book; I'm not emotionally capable of reading some novels. I wanted something a little lighter, a little more comforting, yet one that still examined human relationships and the impact of death, love, and the decisions we do have control over. The Red Book, through serendipity, proved to be perfect.

I'll post my formal review of The Red Book closer to its publication date of April 3, 2012, but today it happens to be a novel I read on a very personal, emotional weekend. I can picture myself smiling when I come across it unexpectedly on someone's bookshelf five years from now. This book and I shared something special, even though its specialness had little to do with the book itself. The Red Book comforted me this weekend, and for that, I will forever be grateful. Tuesday, as we'll take this 1200-mile journey back to our current home, I'll be curling up Wild Thing, Josh Bazell's sequel to Beat the Reaper (my review). When I pre-ordered it for my Kindle months ago and noted it released on our anniversary, I pondered many scenarios of when I would read it and what that day would hold. This one never crossed my mind, but now the thought of reading Wild Thing aloud to Mr. Nomadreader as we drive across the country seems perfect, especially as I recall us sitting on the couch of our screened-in porch almost two years ago as he read Beat the Reaper and I read a book on planning a destination wedding.

Now tell me: are there books you associate with a certain time or memory because you happened to be reading it then?

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10 comments:

  1. Oh, I hope Wild Thing is as good as Beat the Reaper. I loved that book!

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  2. First, my condolences to you and Mr. Nomadreader on your loss. I can definitely understand the need for a comfort read at such a time. (I just posted about "Precipice" as being such a book, for very similar reasons, and can probably think of some others.)

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  3. I also wanted to share my condolences. My last living grandmother passed in December which affected me more than I could have imagined. Books are definitely huge comforts for me. I went through a really rough time about 3 years into college and two books really stand out from that period - Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides and A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham. I feel like my bookshelf is filled with little memories and that's why I can stare at them with a goofy grin on my face!

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  4. I'm sorry for your loss. =( I completely understand what you mean about that comfort read and memory of different times. I definitely have specific books that will always tie to me a specific memory, good and bad. I love that about books!

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  5. Carrie, your post resonated with me about remembering where you were or what was going on in your life when reading a certain book. For about (10) years in a row, we would vacation in Aruba and I would read 5-7 books each week we were there. i still remember so many of the titles as well: The Reader, Rapture of Canaan (a book I loved), several nelson DeMille novels, several Ann Patchett books, and many many more. Funny how that happens.

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  6. So sorry to hear about Grandmother NomadReader. :-(

    I tend to remember the books I read while traveling, even if they're not my favorites. Something about being in another place...

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  7. So sorry to hear about her passing, but I can so so so relate to this post and this feeling of connecting books to times in one's life. As well as the comfort in reading and the habit itself. The Lovely Bones and The Hours are two books I associate with the passing of my own grandparents and the feelings working through those issues. While it was a tough time, it's worth reminiscing about and thinking of those books that accompanied me on the journey.

    Thanks for this post, Carrie.

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  8. I'm so sorry to hear about your husband's grandmother, but glad to hear you found comfort in reading. You're in good company here - I imagine every one of us has had moments like that. I hope books continue to offer you comfort.

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  9. I'm so sorry about your husband's grandmother. There have been a few books that helped me through tough times like East of Eden by John Steinbeck and The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson.

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  10. So sorry about your husband's grandmother. I'm glad that reading helped you during this time.

    One of the things I recently did was look through my read bookshelf at goodreads and on my physical shelves, and say the first word that came to mind. Most often for some books, the words were related to whatever big experience I was having at the time of reading. It was interesting because I read some of those books years ago, and yet the book still evoked those memories sharply. I was thinking of doing a "scrapbook" of sorts - write down an essay each for a book that reminds me of something that happened to me, however small or insignificant, so long as that's the main memory that came to me. Interesting, isn't it? How you can have a shelf of books to tell the tale of your life someday?

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!