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I remember it like it was yesterday, reading...

Bick

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I had a brief exchange on another thread with dannymcg regarding a book he read back in 1984, in which he recalled exactly where he was and the circumstances, in which he read it.

It occurred to me that this was not bad thread material. There will be some books you've read where the location or time is not especially memorable, but there may be others where the time and place is etched in your memory like it was yesterday. There are a few books like that for me, so I'll start:

A Fall of Moondust - Arthur C. Clarke
I recall this very vividly - it was one of the first real SF books I read, and I was staying with a couple of school mates for a weekend at a holiday cottage in Bideford in Devon, and we were discussing books 'worth reading' in the early evening.

The Famished Road - Ben Okri
A funny one to recall perhaps - but I have a very vivid memory of sitting on a park bench beside Highfield's Park boating pond in Nottingham one spring Sunday morning in 1991, reading this with a mild hangover. It was quite a warm pleasant day, but not hot, and by lunchtime I felt a lot better. I drank too much as a student. But I also read some good books, so I guess some of my leisure time was well spent.

The Denial of Death - Ernest Becker
I lived in New Jersey for a couple of years in my twenties and have a strong and clear memory of reading this on the bus into Newark from my home in Montclair. I picked this up as it features in Woody Allen's Annie Hall. I popped over to NY all the time and frequented the parks, Jazz clubs, and Yankee Stadium on a regular basis and Woody Allen had a considerable influence on me at the time. Alvy (Woody) tells Annie she has to read this book so I thought I'd give it a go - its actually very interesting and persuasive. I can see the slushy snow on Bloomfield Avenue out the bus window even now.

What about you? I may well think of others (esp. SFF) in due course, but these are perhaps the strongest three memories of reading regards the place and time that I have.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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I remember reading Andre Norton's The Zero Stone in the Fremont High library when I lived in Sunnyvale. I can't remember which year or which class it was—this was back in the 1960s—but we spent about an hour a week in the library, and I also spent my lunch hour there when I could (after a while they decided we weren't supposed to do that) which gave me time to find and start a lot of memorable books there. Lots more by Andre Norton, a great many historical novels by Margaret Campbell Barnes and Anya Seton and Margaret Irwin. And specifically, for science fiction, two that I remember: The Midwich Cuckoos, by Wyndham, and You Shall Know Them, by Vercors. Oddly enough, I can picture exactly where in the library these last two books was shelved. The library was located in the original school building, a large Spanish revival style building from the 1920s, though the school had long since expanded into a few dozen additional more modern classrooms.

Mostly, though, I don't do well reading in public spaces. Too distracting. So I've done the vast majority of my reading at home, where strangely I can read through just about any distraction—or so I have been told by family members trying to get my attention.
 

Extollager

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A good idea for a thread, provided contributors stick to the original post -- referring to very particular moments with books. I hope this thread doesn't become lost in overly general responses.

For me this is going to be harder than I might have expected.
 

dannymcg

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Yeah, I got one.
Valentine's Day 1973, I was about 15 miles from Cambridge, on a job where we were putting up wooden fence panels around the grounds of a vicarage.
Heavy snowfall and sub-zero winds stopped us early morning so back to our basic accomodation.
Some set off on a half mile trek to a pub but I felt too cold outside.
Then I spied a book amongst some very dull looking tomes - The Hobbit.
Finished reading it about 3 am on Feb 15th.
The weather had eased so the job continued at 07.30 in the morning, I did the zombie all that day!
 

Boaz

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June 1988. Just graduated college and moved into my parent's third floor refinished attic in a 8,000 square foot house. They were gone for a week and I started reading Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon one evening. Around one o'clock in the morning, I got to the part where the prince is locked up in the top of the tower and Flagg comes to murder him in the dead of night. As Flagg screams his evil threats up the single staircase, I realized that I was alone in the room at the top of the house.... My imagination and the similarities of mine and the prince's predicaments terrified me.... especially after growing up in Wichita while BTK was active.
 

Alex The G and T

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I reckon I was 10 or 12 twelve years old, at the time. I was deep into a week-long backpacking trek into the far backcountry of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We were way up into the alpine granite country. The day's hiking was done and camp set up. I took myself off to a quiet spot next to an icy mountain cascade for a bit of a rest.

I was reading Moby Dick. Somewhere in the depths of an exciting whale hunt; the book slipped from my fingers and fell into the rushing waters.

I was instantly catapulted into an epic pursuit. Scrambling over boulders, crashing through shrubberies, in my own desperate quest for my elusive White Whale.

Unlike Ahab, I managed to retrieve the quarry without injuring myself. Much.
 

Bick

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A good idea for a thread, provided contributors stick to the original post -- referring to very particular moments with books. I hope this thread doesn't become lost in overly general responses.
Always a risk Extollager, but thus far folk have submitted posts that are exactly what I was after - and more interesting reminiscences that I came up with myself!
 

Bick

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Funnily enough I have another one, but I don't know what the book was, even though it was highly memorable.

Let me explain. Reading books while travelling is especially memorable I suspect, as the places that are new to us and what we do there stick in our memories so clearly. In 1998, I was travelling around Ecuador on my own, and had signed up on an excursion with a French guide into the Amazon rainforest. I pitched up in the small town of Coca after an overnight bus journey from Quito. Coca is on the border of the jungle, and I stayed in a shambolic old hotel for a day before setting off on the boat journey down the Shiripono River to meet the primitive Huarani 'indians'. There was little to do in Coca, but I found a book under the old bed, left by a previous tenant. The cover was lost, as well as the title page. I could tell (I think from the back cover) that it was by Robert Ludlum, but I never did discover the title. I read this on the wood veranda of my room, surrounded by trees and with parrots squawking around me. By the evening I'd read a hundred pages or so, but I didn't finish the book and I left it in the room for the next guest. In the evening I met another guest who was also travelling on the same guided trip. We had dinner together in Coca that night, and it turned out she was a TV and film actress from Hollywood, convalescing from a fight with cancer.

All of which made the book a memorable read - but I don't know what it was! At the start, one chap was waiting up for days in a hotel room, as he knew an assassin was coming for him, and he couldn't afford to drop off to sleep. He stayed awake for about 3-4 days I think, and in the end killed the assassin and then left the hotel.
 

dannymcg

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Funnily enough I have another one, but I don't know what the book was, even though it was highly memorable.

Let me explain. Reading books while travelling is especially memorable I suspect, as the places that are new to us and what we do there stick in our memories so clearly. In 1998, I was travelling around Ecuador on my own, and had signed up on an excursion with a French guide into the Amazon rainforest. I pitched up in the small town of Coca after an overnight bus journey from Quito. Coca is on the border of the jungle, and I stayed in a shambolic old hotel for a day before setting off on the boat journey down the Shiripono River to meet the primitive Huarani 'indians'. There was little to do in Coca, but I found a book under the old bed, left by a previous tenant. The cover was lost, as well as the title page. I could tell (I think from the back cover) that it was by Robert Ludlum, but I never did discover the title. I read this on the wood veranda of my room, surrounded by trees and with parrots squawking around me. By the evening I'd read a hundred pages or so, but I didn't finish the book and I left it in the room for the next guest. In the evening I met another guest who was also travelling on the same guided trip. We had dinner together in Coca that night, and it turned out she was a TV and film actress from Hollywood, convalescing from a fight with cancer.

All of which made the book a memorable read - but I don't know what it was! At the start, one chap was waiting up for days in a hotel room, as he knew an assassin was coming for him, and he couldn't afford to drop off to sleep. He stayed awake for about 3-4 days I think, and in the end killed the assassin and then left the hotel.
Goddam! Now we got a book Search ;)
 

Boaz

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@Bick I read a bunch of Ludlum in '89. You may have read The Bourne Supremacy. Bourne always battles fatigue... sleep is a weapon is one of JB's mantras. Fairly early on in Supremacy, Bourne foils an assassination attempt... in the Caribbean, I think. The setting might have resonated with your experience.
 

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I think I read most of Ludlum during a spring in the late 80s, sitting in the back garden of a house where I rented a room for a semester, overlooking the beautiful lake in the Indian hill station of Kodaikanal. I was working as a teaching assistant at an international school there during a year out before university. The school had a fantastic library, and I probably did more reading than work. I also worked my way through lots of Camus, Sartre, Garcia Marquez, and the Autobiography of Malcolm X (that one borrowed from the dusty Missionary Union library), sitting in a deck chair on that lawn.
 

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Sitting in the back of a hired car driven by my parents in Tenerife at 13, listening to Elton John whilst reading The Martian Chronicles. "Rocket Man" is now intrinsically linked with Bradbury in my mind.

Reading Back In The Jug Agane (one of the nigel molesworth books by Willians and Seale) at a school library at 13. The copy had nearly fallen apart and was bound in two black sheets of card, and could have been a fancy notebook.

Finding Titus Groan in the school library at 15. The cover art was by Peter Harding and the library, which could have been part of Gormenghast, had a low ceiling and reeked of wood polish.

I could think of others, I'm sure.
 

Bick

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Nice recollections.

Boaz - Thanks for the suggestion, but I don’t think it was Bourne Supremacy (I’m familiar with that one); but this need not become a book search thing :)
 

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Frank Herbert's Dune: June 1971, age nineteen, a field on the outskirts of Florence. I'd met up, as planned, with two woman friends, but this did not turn out as I had hoped, as I was delegated to look after their luggage in the field while they got wined and dined in Florence. With nothing else to do and feeling sadly marginal, I started on the book I'd brought with me. For the first eighty pages or so I was lost, but then it came together, and as soon as I'd finished it, I started it again. Once I'd finished the second read, I decided I'd had enough of that field and guard duty and headed onwards. I do remember the pleasures of going for a regular morning wash in the wash rooms of the Uffizi Gallery (free entry and uncrowded in those days). I did really enjoy the book. I'd read nothing remotely like it.
 
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Hugh

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And Another:
C.S.Lewis: "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe", September 1960, Age Eight.
Perhaps the second or third day of the first term of boarding school. I and the other numb emotionally dissociated new boys were shown the school library and how to use it. I was drawn to this interesting title with good pictures and took it out. The wonder of this book was a significant refuge to compensate for the trauma of separation from all that I knew. Very apt too, as, with hindsight, something had indeed been frozen inside my fellow pupils and I.
 

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The Lord of the Rings (omnibus edition) - I read this while on a trip (wasn't the first time I'd read it) to Holland, Germany and France with my grandparents when I was oh, 14 or so. I was (and still am) painfully shy which was not something my grandparents could understand and they dragged me hither and yon and introduced me to everyone they met, old friends, distant relations...and expected me to converse with them and interact. While I did, very slowly and with much prodding, I escaped every night into the book. It was a giant paperback with all three books in one and it was my sanity.
 

HareBrain

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The Hobbit -- mostly read on the back seat (dark brown vinyl, hotter than the surface of the sun whose rays it had absorbed) of a Triumph 1300 at the age of ten, en route to a military aircraft museum whose identity now completely escapes me.
 

Extollager

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Mid-May 1983: I'd just gotten married a month before and rode with my wife from Klamath Falls, Oregon, to Urbana, Illinois. She had to begin a job in Illinois while I finished out my job in Oregon, so I flew back by myself, with Graham Greene's The End of the Affair to read on the plane.
 

Toby Frost

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It's interesting what you remember and what you don't. I actually have loads of memories like this, maybe dozens. I think a fair chunk of my early life is mapped out in my memory by what book I was reading at the time.
 
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