If you regularly surf the internet via Google you’re familiar with its colorful logo, which changes on occasion to commemorate bits of historical interest, often the birthday of someone long dead to note how old they would be if they were still alive. On Feb. 27 that person was John Steinbeck who would have been 112. To commemorate the day, each of Google’s letters was replaced by an image related to one of Steinbeck’s books.
I think I’ve read all of this Nobel Prize winner’s books and reflecting back on them, I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I read one book in particular. It was the summer between my junior and senior year in college when I read East of Eden lying by a lake near Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. My roommate Diane was with me, and I remember remarking to her how much I liked the book. All these years later, if I close my eyes I can be right back on that beach lying on a towel in the sand. I can smell the suntan lotion, feel the hot sun beating down on me and hear the waves lapping against the beach and the roar of motorboats going by. I remember that the book got a little sandy as I turned the pages reading about Adam and Cathy and Caleb and Aron, and I had a tough time tearing my eyes away from it at the end of that sunny day on the beach.
I can’t remember where I was when reading each of the many books I’ve read over the years, but I do remember some specific locations. When I was in college I went through a phase of reading authors from the John Steinbeck era. I read books by Irwin Shaw, Herman Wouk, Theodore Dreiser and Wallace Stegner, some while working in my Dad Fast Eddie’s dry cleaners when business was slow at night. Fast forward a decade and one December I was on a train cruising along the Australian coastline when I finally decided to tackle Charles Dickens and read Great Expectations. When I lived in the DC area, I was part of book club and living in my small apartment in Falls Church when I read Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz. When I read Barbara Kingsolver’s book The Poisonwood Bible I was living in an apartment in Denver that had a giant bathtub, and I spent a lot of time soaking in it and reading that book. I also read parts of The Poisonwood Bible during a plane trip, one of many books I’ve read on planes, and left it on the plane requiring me to purchase another copy.Lots of books were read sitting in the backyard of my house in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, including The Time Traveler’s Wife, one of my favorite books of all time (the movie, not so much). My introduction to the funny and laugh out loud Janet Evanovich series marked the first time I listened to a book on tape. Over the years I’ve listened to many of Stephanie Plum’s bumbling adventures as an inept bounty hunter while traversing the miles between Colorado and North Dakota. During my long stretch of unemployment in Colorado not that long ago I re-read To Kill a Mockingbird, and I also read The Help with reading at the time being a free and much needed escape from my pressing money woes.
I could go on and on – so many great books and so many varied and interesting places where they’ve been read, providing fond memories of not just the book but the unique reading location and related life experiences.