A book and a place

I read Tuesdays with Morrie while sitting outside of the Tower of London.

I had a reason. I had just flown in from the States and was set to meet Kerrie – who was already in London for study abroad – at Traitor’s Gate. It’s a short book, and I finished it while sitting on a bench, about 100 feet from the entrance.

I enjoyed the book. It’s against all critical examination of the book, but I actually enjoyed it. This was months before the Oprahfication of the book, months before the TV movie and years before Mitch Album began spitting out cash cow follow-ups in a trite attempt to stay relevant.

But was it the book I enjoyed? Or is it the memory of where I was when I read it?

Reading is an activity based in sight and strengthened by imagination and experience. Unless a reader is able to completely turn off everything, however, you’ll find that the other four senses want a piece of the action. While the eyes and brain are working at making the story come alive and soaking in the glory of the written word, the rest of the senses are jealous, seeking fulfillment, easily distracted.

It’s no wonder then that when a good book is paired with a great location – or, at least, a memorable location – the two are forever joined.

In Cold Blood was purchased at Shakespeare and Co. and was read while relaxing and waiting in Hyde Park and Heathrow Airport, respectively. Among the Thugs was read on a flight to and from New Orleans. A Year in Provence was read while camping, as was Tortilla Flat. The locations are just as much a part of my memories as the books themselves.

Sometimes it even helps the book along. I read Housekeeping over a series of nights while rocking Sierra to sleep. The glow of the night-light and the sleepy nature of the location brought a mysterious and sullen feel over a book that’s often bathed in darkness itself.

So yeah, I liked Tuesdays with Morrie. It was about a teacher, and I was currently going to school to be a teacher. It was about realizing what you have and how to live life without misgivings, and I was an emo kid who loved that sucker stuff. But more importantly, it was short. And it was read outside of one of London’s most famous monuments.

Next time you recommend a book that you just couldn’t put down, think about this. Was it the book you loved? Or the circumstances surrounding it?

This was lovingly handwritten on October 17th, 2007