I absolutely love this! One of my favourite things about reading is that after I’ve read a book, the memory of where and when I read it sits on my shelf like a makeshift scrapbook. So many of my books have stories surrounding them that mean very little to anyone but me. My life can be told in books, and it is one of the most special things about them.
Which is why the creation of this tag makes me so excited. The lovely Jen Campbell, author and YouTuber extraordinaire, created this tag so that we could tell the stories of our books. The idea is to get 10 books from your shelves and tell the story of them; the time and place you read them, or whatever makes them stand out in your memory.
I could have chosen a hundred, but for today, here are.. well 11. I’m cheating a little.
1. Where Rainbows End by Cecelia Ahern
Growing up, my family went to a cottage every single summer. It was on a quiet lake and perhaps my favourite place, ever. My brother and I always brought friends with us, and the most frequent visitor was my childhood friend, Amanda. We did the same thing each year we went up which was to bring a stack of books, cute romantic comedies and a ton of Nutella. This particular summer, we each went through about 3-4 books in the week which was unheard of for us. One of ones I read was Where Rainbows End. I remember cuddling up on the old worn-out couch by the fireplace with this one and it is one of my coziest cottage memories.
2. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
I bought this on a work trip to New York City (I feel so cool saying that but sadly, it only happened once). I was an intern for a large publisher and the trip was scheduled so tightly that we only had one evening with a few hours to ourselves. I used mine to scope out the closest Barnes and Noble. It was pouring rain that night, so I borrowed an umbrella from the hotel and walked to Times Square. I stopped in a Starbucks to grab coffee, called my boyfriend because I missed his voice, and then trudged on through the rain. It was mid-October, so I decided to get something a little eerie and picked up Rosemary’s Baby. I hadn’t seen the film and knew very little about it. I took the book back to my hotel room, pulled my blinds open and read while torrential downpour provided soothing background noise. That evening was atmospheric, calming and perhaps one of the most perfect nights of my life. Oh, and I loved the book!
3. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
Books about animals are always tear-jerkers. I knew this going in but that didn’t stop me from finishing this book under my desk during a class one afternoon. As I read the last 5 pages, I realized I had tears streaming down my cheeks. The friend sitting next to me asked what was going on, saw the book and gave me a look of concern. I tried to say something but a sob came out instead and I had to excuse myself from the classroom to go bawl in the hallway. Definitely not my proudest moment, but I later heard from the teacher that she had loved the book (and cried) too.
4. My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler
I moved to Montreal knowing no one, so needless to say, I spent a lot of time reading. I don’t remember what made me buy My Horizontal Life, but I do remember sprawling out on my bed diagonally, laughing out loud at Handler’s crazy sexual extravaganzas. On days when I was feeling lonely, this book made me feel like I was chatting with a girlfriend over cocktails, getting all the juicy details of her most recent summer adventures.
5. He’s Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt & Liz Tuccillo
When I was sixteen, I worked in a clothing store in the mall. It was a small mall and pretty quiet most nights, so I would just chat with the older girls who worked there. One of them told me (after I had just talked about my crush for a good hour) that I needed to read a book called He’s Just Not That Into You. I was offended, until she explained that it was a hilarious book that actually was a ton of fun to read and would give me perspective on who was worth spending my time on. This was a LONG time before the film, so I had never even heard of it. I used my break to run to the bookstore at the other end of the mall and buy the book. The same friend mentioned earlier, Amanda, and I spent the night reading it out loud to each other. I slept at her house and we annotated the book with our own notes and experiences. I’m too mortified to look at those notes now, but when I see it on the shelf, I think of us as teenagers reading that book like it was a love bible and it still makes me smile.
6. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
My fifth grade teacher read the first Harry Potter book to us, but she would only read one chapter at the end of the day, or perhaps two if we were all well behaved. I couldn’t wait that long to find out what happened, so my parents bought me the book and I finished it myself. I NEEDED to know what happened, so my grandmother took me to a huge book warehouse near where we lived and bought me the next two books. I remember staying up late, with my little night light on, reading the scene where Mrs. Norris gets hung on the wall. I was MORTIFIED. And when my mom poked her head into my room, sighed and ordered that the light be turned off, I just couldn’t do it.
7. The Disappeared by Kim Echlin
In the summers during university, I would go back home to my old job and work full time. In the evenings, I would read well into the night in my childhood bedroom. One night, I read Kim Echlin’s Giller winner, The Disappeared. There is a scene in this book that shattered me. I surprised myself by bawling my eyes out for a very long time. The book is written in second person, and it won’t be for everyone, but every time I look at it, I remember that night, and the next morning where I told my mother the entire plot line in vivid detail and I got that look like “why on earth are you reading these things?” My mother’s favourite books are all tremendously sad, so I think I know where I got it from ;).
8. The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
There seems to be a pattern here.. I do love books that make me cry. But this one was special. My father has been through a violent and lengthily battle with cancer, and though I knew, and still know, that there are many people who understand what it’s like to watch a loved one suffer so openly and intensely, it is hard not to feel solitary in those moments. Will Schwalbe’s intense love for his mother, and his appreciation for her shine through in this book, as he recounts her life, and his last few months with her. I am so grateful to still have my dad with me but I also feel grateful for Will and this book, which comforted me on a completely different level. I finished this book on an early Sunday morning and lay in bed crying afterward, both for Will and his mother, and also for how beautiful this book was and how amazing it felt to be understood …. it scared the crap out of my boyfriend though.
9. Innocence by Kathleen Tessaro
Finally, a funny one! I read this when I was probably fifteen, and my distinct memory of this was laying in a bubble-filled tub reading this book and getting to a sexy part that shocked me. My parents never censored the things I read, and on a trip to the bookstore so my dad could buy woodworking magazines, I was allowed to go pick out two books for myself. Teen books weren’t really a big thing when I was younger, so I went straight into the adult section pretty early, like most readers my age. I tossed this book, and another of Tessaro’s onto my dad’s pile at the cash and started it as soon as I got home. Such scandal! There were drugs, and sex on drugs, and ghosts and all around debauchery which wasn’t in my usual books. Looking back now, it was nothing earth-shattering but back then I felt like I had stumbled on a gold mine, which I clearly had to hide.
10. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
This is timely because the sequel is FINALLY coming out soon! But I remember reading this on the streetcar on my way to work, and holding back tears during a particularly difficult scene. I was making faces trying to hold in what could potentially be a horrible mess, when I looked up and saw one of the Directors from my work standing right beside me. I can’t remember if he had said hello to me right then, or waited until later to remark how “into the book” I looked, but it doesn’t matter. Now, anyone my coworkers and I recommend this amazing book to, also get a warning not to it on public transportation. Unless you want to accidentally cry in front of a boss..
And lastly, a special plus one.
When my dad was in the hospital, I flew home from school to spend a few days with him. There was a huge, old bookstore between the hospital he was at, and the hotel my mom was living in to be close to him. On our way back to the hotel one evening, I stopped into the bookstore with my mom. I had decided to buy Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier. One of my favourite teachers loved it and this old shop had the edition I was looking for. My mom grabbed it from my hand and said my dad had wanted to get it for me. I didn’t actually read the book until years later and I absolutely loved it. Whenever I see it on my shelves, I think of my parents and how strong they are. My edition is a bit battered, but very loved, much like we all were back then.
And THAT was a lot of storytelling. I would love to hear some stories from some of my other blogger friends! So I’m going to tag Eva @ The Paperback Princess, Natalie @ Browsing Bookshelves, Andrew @ Tea in the Cloister, Sarah @ Sarah Says Read and Lindsey @ Reeder Reads! Looking forward to hearing some of your stories, and thanks to Jen for creating this awesome tag!