The books I’ve read hold the story of my life
For the past 8 years I’ve kept a record of every book I’ve read. For some that might sound like a silly chore, and for some that is perhaps all it would be. But books have accompanied me through the small and big events of life, and when I think back on a particular book I often remember where I was when I read it and how my reading of it interacted with my goings-on back then.
When I look through my list and see The Last of the Mohicans (James F. Cooper), I am reminded of one lazy summer holiday, and how every day I’d read a bit more while floating on a lilo in our swimming pool. I read and fell in love with several very English books such as the Scarlet Pimpernel, Pride and Prejudice and Mortimer’s Rumpole series while living with an aunt in Sheffield. Just two years ago I was transported to the enigmatic world of the high Caucasus by John le Carré while I stayed with my family in a chalet facing the Amphitheatre. (I agree there is something of irony to reading about one distant place while sitting in another, but holidays are when we read the most, and so I find this happens often.) And I read the actor Bruce Marchiano’s book In the Footsteps of Jesus while simply sitting on my bed in the evenings during term time, but I sat there mesmerised as he opened my eyes to Jesus as a lover who dragged himself to the cross for me, and it was a non-descript, happy time in my life.
Every reader has these associations, but very often the books we’ve read we give away or misplace, and many of the memories attached with them go too. Simply by having the reminder of a title and its author, I can find myself thinking: oh yes, I remember you, you lovely book, and how I was reading you at midnight the night before my exam when I should have been asleep. The books offer up remembrances of times and occasions both good and bad, as well as commonplace, but even mundane memories hold appeal as part of who I was, how I used to think and feel, and how I grew to become who I am now. So since I have always enjoyed reading, my list of book helps me remember the story of my life.
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