Books and Places: The Tag

Chelsea @ Chels and a Book tagged me to participate in the Books and Places tag. The idea is that you pick ten books and then tell the story behind where you read the book. This tag couldn’t have come at a better time actually, since I knew I needed to post something but had no idea what to post since I’m still reading Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White. So thanks Chelsea!

When I was reading Chelsea’s post I was struck by just how well she knew the stories behind when and where she read her books. I wasn’t sure that I could do the same thing for the books sitting on my shelves. But then I went over to pick the books for this post and was surprised by how many books do have a story attached to them for me. Here are the stories of my books.


Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. If you’ve been around here for any length of time you know this is my absolute favourite. I’ve read it I don’t know how many times at this point. But I do remember one time, when I was in the Netherlands for the summer visiting my father. He lives on a farm in a village and he and my stepmother worked all summer. I didn’t really have anything to do and I’d only brought 3 or 4 books. I’d already read whatever chicken soup for the teenaged soul I was reading at the time and I think I also brought Candace Bushnell’s 4 Blondes and something else. Pride and Prejudice was the only book I could read over. I read that book many times that summer. I would sit outside in the (weak Dutch) sun on the picnic table, finish the book, sit and think about it for a minute and turn it over and start again. All summer. When a book is a companion like that, you never get over it.

Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster. A friend messaged me on Facebook to say she had just read this book and she thought I would love it. That the author’s voice kind of reminded her of me. I was intrigued and basically ran right out and got it. I ended up running a bath and reading it in the tub. I was giggling in the tub within minutes and didn’t stop the whole time I was reading this book. It was the first time I’d ever read any non-fiction that was funny and I didn’t know that that was allowed to be a thing! Lancaster’s footnotes in this book are legendary, running the gamut from “fucking loser” and “Yes. She finally ended it last month. Whore.” to See? I’m not a total shrew.” This whole book is a profanity-laced delight and I loved it. Lancaster and I are very different people but I appreciate her so so much.

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi (and Curt Gentry). I credit this book with introducing me to my husband. I was reading this book when I met him and talked to him about the failed police investigation. He’s a police officer and he said later that it was refreshing to talk to a girl who didn’t ask him if he’d ever shot his gun. I went home and spent the whole next day in bed reading this book waiting for a text from a certain red-head. We almost had a table called Helter Skelter at our wedding but didn’t know who to seat at it…

Everyone Worth Knowing by Lauren Weisberger. This is my favourite book of hers, even over The Devil Wears Prada. Possibly because of the reading experience that went along with it. I had just started working at a bank, my first grown up job. And on my lunch breaks, I would walk over to the bakery down the street which was owned by my friend’s parents. I would get lunch and a brownie – they made the most amazing brownies that had walnuts in them (before these brownies, I never ate brownies that had nuts in them) and were iced with the greatest frosting. I would sit in the back of the cafe with my brownie and read about Bette making her way in PR in Manhattan. To date one of my favourite ways to read.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. About two months after I met my now-husband, I was leaving to study abroad in Amsterdam. He came to the airport to see me off and brought me books because he already knew how much I loved to read. The Poisonwood Bible was one of the books (Marley & Me was another – he was intent on making me cry). No one had warned me about this book! I brought it to Spain with me and read poolside in the blazing hot sun. And then cried my damn eyes out because the book was so sad and I missed this lovely, thoughtful guy so much already.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling. When the Harry Potter books first came out, I thought Harry Potter was the author. I vividly remember Christmas shopping when the first three were out and they were in all the bookstore windows everywhere. The summer that the 4th book came out, I had just got a job working in a fairy store. Yeah – they sold fairy merchandise but it was mostly a base at which to hold fairy birthday parties for kids. The owner wanted me to get familiar with everything they sold and told me to read the Harry Potter books if I hadn’t already. The store was always dead (not a huge market for fairy stuff) so one day I decided to actually read them. I picked The Chamber of Secrets because the first book was only in paperback and I didn’t want to warp the spine if they still wanted to sell it. I spent maybe a half hour leaning over the counter reading it before I realized that I couldn’t start with the second book. I needed to buy these books for myself and read them. And that’s how I came to fall in love with JK Rowling.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman is a more recent read than most of the others on this list. I read it late last year. I hadn’t intended to read it at all but it kept popping up in my life. I probably read most of it on the bus (it is where I do most of my reading) but I finished it late at night in bed with my little night light on so as not to disturb my sleeping husband. As I was nearing the end I was crying so hard but trying to cry silently so as not to wake my husband. I finished it and just lay there with tears streaming down my face, completely devastated by this little book.

The Birth House by Ami McKay. I had a day off from work and school and picked this book up, meaning to just casually read a little of it before getting on with whatever I had planned for my day off. I ended up just sitting in the corner of the couch for hours, devouring it. I only moved to get food or go to the bathroom and by the time my then-boyfriend came home, I had finished it and done nothing about maybe getting dinner started.

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin. I brought this book with me to Portland last fall. We had a little bit of down time in the hotel room and I cracked it. But I never seemed to get very far with it while we were in Portland. But then we had a 6+ hour drive back home and it was pouring rain. Pouring. I sat happily tucked in the passenger seat and let Toibin tell me the story of Nora Webster trying to find her way after the death of her husband. There’s nothing better than reading on a road trip, especially with such an absorbing book.

Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon. This book is something like 900 pages. Of non-fiction. So there’s no one story of reading it. I toted this beast around with me everywhere while I was reading it and frequently cried on public transportation while I did so. This book can be incredibly difficult to read. It can also be uplifting and hopeful and beautiful. I just remember sitting on the bus, crying all the time when I was reading this. Sometimes they were tears of joy, reading about families who had embraced their children’s differences and other times they were tears of sadness or frustration reading about families that just couldn’t handle them. One of the most powerful books I’ve ever read.

Alright, there you have it. Ten bookish stories. I’m not going to call out anyone specifically, but if you want to do it and you are in need of a post idea, feel free to jump in!

21 thoughts on “Books and Places: The Tag

  1. I love this post! I think I will do this tag as well. And of course now I have to go read A Man Called Ove. (I think I had already resolved to do that when you originally posted about it, but now I REALLY want to read it.)

    • Sometimes we need a reminder! It’s really so good. I was texting a friend this week, someone who doesn’t read my blog, and she mentioned that one of the best books she’d read recently was A Man Called Ove so…it’s catching.

  2. What a fun idea. Nora Webster was definitely one of my favourite books from the past year. I’m a fan of The Birth House as well. And Pride and Prejudice — what can I say, except that it’s my favourite book of all time. I enjoyed reading the stories you attach to each of the books on your list, and I’m impressed that you can read in the car (or were you listening to an audiobook? That’s the only way I can read while travelling in a car).

    • I’ve never actually listened to an audiobook! I can read in the car, always have been able to. I read on the bus for about 2 hours a day. I remember the first time I found out that reading in cars was not a universal thing – my cousin was so surprised that I could do it, she was like “you don’t get car sick!?” Reading in cars is one of my favourite things to do!

      • I’m amazed that you don’t get car sick! I read in the car almost every day, but it’s always with an audiobook. One of my favourites is The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall — Susan Denaker is so good at the different voices for the characters, and her reading has definitely shaped my experience of those novels. I listen to Austen audiobooks a lot, too (surprise, surprise), and I especially like Juliet Stevenson as the narrator of the Naxos Austen books.

  3. Oh, the reading I could do if I could read in the car. Sigh…

    What a fun post! I feel like I wouldn’t be able to find 10 books with interesting enough stories behind them, but now I am wondering if I do. I will have to think about it. It’s a great way to get to know more about you – I love your Helter Skelter story. And, now I want to re-read The Birth House.

    • It still surprises me when people tell me they can’t read in the car. I don’t know what I would do with myself if I had to just exist for long car rides!

      I guarantee you would be able to find stories for at least 10. Now that I’ve written the post I’m thinking of all the books that I left off the list!

  4. I love this post! It’s so wonderful to remember that books don’t just contain stories; they become part of our stories. Now I’m thinking about some of my books and the memories surrounding them — reading The Great Gatsby while laying out on my college’s quad on a sunny fall day; reading On the Road on the London Underground during my semester abroad; reading Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert while sitting by a river, in the shadow of a butte in the Utah desert.

  5. Your The Poisonwood Bible story is so sweet I felt my heart grow three sizes when I was reading it! Bookish gifts are honestly the best, especially when they come from the heart. This was such a wonderful idea for a book tag!

    • Who knew that your heart was in such need of growth! 😉
      Bookish gifts ARE the best. They are my very favourite, especially when the person seemingly knows me better than I know myself – I would never have actually picked The Poisonwood Bible for myself!

  6. Pingback: Books and Places: Lots of Memories | My Book Strings

  7. Love love love your answers :). That Helter Skelter story is amazing. Now I want you to take a break from book posts and tell your and your husbands love story lol. Also love that you try to cry quietly so to not wake him up lol. I do that too!! Though maybe sometimes not too quietly because I’d like to be hugged so if he wakes up.. well… haha. Thanks for doing this :).

    • hahahaha I promise you it’s not that exciting. We met in a bar, he bought me pizza. Then we did long distance for months which was really hard. Some great trips, a dog and a mortgage later we’re married!
      I don’t want him to wake up because he thinks it’s hilarious that I cry at books (and movies and TV) and he’s more likely to laugh at me than hug me.

  8. Oh this is fun! I want to try it – probably will next week. I love how you have those few books that kinda trace your relationship with you husband. Very cool!

  9. Pingback: Learning To Walk Away | The Paperback Princess

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