Memories and Book Connections

By Laura Herrera

Funny the way our memories are triggered by sight and sound. Bits of our lives are held in high regard and easily recalled.

Medium rare steak, right out of the oven at Grandma’s makes me recall the homey smell of sizzling steak with drippings, alongside potatoes and candied carrots. And sitting at her eat-in kitchen table listening to Grandpa grumble between shoveling food into his mouth.

Or listening to a music station, hearing a song not heard for years while recalling many of the lyrics, without thought. But if asked what you’d eaten for dinner 3 nights ago, you might pause for a moment to figure out it was pork roast, rice, and veggies.

Why, oh why, then can I recite these lines from memory?

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendor in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not but rather find,
Strength in what remains behind.

From Wordsworth’s Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood. It has me recalling the Keeping Days series of Norma Johnston’s, which I read as a teenager. Book 2 is aptly named, Glory in the Flower.

While I very much admire poetry, and have written some, there are few poems I can recite from memory. And for those of you who were required to memorize The Raven in high school, well….”my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted—nevermore!” And, I know, there is psychology behind our memories and why we perhaps selectively recall information.

Book Connections, However, are Another Matter

When you consider the breadth of books you’ve read in your lifetime, can you name 10 or 20 that have influenced you? Where the story is as fresh now as it was then (say 5 or more years ago)? What drew you to that book? The cover? A recommendation from a friend or co-worker? Found it at a book sale? What escape did the story offer?

Here are 11 of my favorites reads (in no order, and none are recent releases):

1. Shadows of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafón – Daniel and the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. Reading this book is like peeling an onion slowly.

2. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon – Jamie and Claire (swoon!) Time travel, adventure and history (and so much more). “Jesus H Roosevelt Christ!” as Claire sometimes swears. One to savor and re-read, then re-read again. And that goes for her entire series!

3. Thale’s Folly, Dorothy Gilman – “a gentle style of storytelling” as one reviewer notes, and that seems appropriate. Follow along with Andrew as he rediscovers his true passion.

4. The Treasure Box, Penelope Stokes – “Love is the key that unlocks every portal.” One of my favorite Christian authors.

5. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad – A classic novella, to be sure, and not everyone’s cup of tea, or something stronger. There’s a little bit of Charles Marlow in all of us, isn’t there?

6. Charlotte’s Web, E.B. White – While no fan of spiders as a child, the story of Wilbur, a runt of a pig saved by Fern, and the spider – is as captivating now as it was as a child.

7. Michel, Michel by Robert Lewis – a young Jewish boy is raised in the Catholic faith after his parents die during WWII. The familial and religious struggle within this story stays with you long after you finish this lengthy tome.

8. Home to Harmony, Philip Gulley – Minister Sam has a new church assignment in his hometown and a cast of characters vying for his attention – “homey and heartwarming”. And there are multiple Harmony books to enjoy!

9. Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier – “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Cue a comfy chair, slippers, and a soft blanket next to the fire.

10. Skipping Christmas, John Grisham – when a husband and wife decide Christmas is too much trouble (let’s go on a cruise!) ….. and everything goes awry.

11. Cold Tea on a Hot Day, Curtiss Ann Matlock – found this gem at a Half-Price bookstore many years ago. Fell in love with all the characters in Valentine, Oklahoma, especially Marilee’s son, Willie Lee. And bonus, it’s part of a series!


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