Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Sensory Reading Memories

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

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Hello lovely readers! Time for another Top Ten Tuesday, this week’s one is really interesting and not something I’ve considered much before but once I started thinking about it I found that there were certainly many books that are inextricably linked to a certain time in life, season or even just a feeling. So, here are ten books that have a sensory memory for me personally.

1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

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Summary: from Amazon

The Triwizard Tournament is to be held at Hogwarts. Only wizards who are over seventeen are allowed to enter – but that doesn’t stop Harry dreaming that he will win the competition. Then at Hallowe’en, when the Goblet of Fire makes its selection, Harry is amazed to find his name is one of those that the magical cup picks out. He will face death-defying tasks, dragons and Dark wizards, but with the help of his best friends, Ron and Hermione, he might just make it through – alive!

Why:

I read all the Harry Potter books obsessively and very quickly but I remember the reading of Goblet of Fire most vividly. I think I was maybe 11 or 12 when it came out and it was a huge book – much longer than the first three! In fact it was kind of like a doorstop and this didn’t put me off at all because it meant more Harry Potter for me to read! I have such a strong memory of sitting on a wall between my family’s and my neighbours garden. It was summer and I can so clearly remember how excited I was to read it and how I finished it in a couple of days.

2. The Twins at St Clare’s by Enid Blyton

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Summary: from Amazon

Schooldays at St Clare’s are never dull for twins Pat and Isabel O’Sullivan in Enid Blyton’s much-loved boarding school series.
In book one, the twins are simply not having it. St Clare’s is beneath them and they’re determined to cause a stir. But life at St Clare’s is not as easy as they thought. They have several surprises and arguments before they admit their troubles are of their own making, and settle down to make friends. Expect mischief at St Clare’s!

Why:

I have had problems sleeping my whole life starting pretty much from when I was born. To deal with this insomnia when I was young I would listen to the audiobooks of The Twins at St Clare’s on a cassette tape at night whilst trying to fall asleep. So for me this book conjures up such a strong memory of being about 8 years old and lying in bed trying to get to sleep and listening to these comforting books.

3. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

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Summary: from Amazon

‘Oh, it seems so wonderful that I’m going to live with you and belong to you. I’ve never belonged to anybody – not really’ When a scrawny, freckled girl with bright red hair arrives on Prince Edward Island, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are taken by surprise; they’d asked the orphanage for a quiet boy to help with the farmwork at Green Gables. But how can you reject a child like an unwanted parcel, especially when she tells you her life so far has been a ‘perfect graveyard of unburied hopes’? So the beguiling chatterbox stays. Full of imagination, spark and spirit, it is not long before Anne Shirley wins their hearts.

Why:

I’ve recently been watching Anne With an E on Netflix which has renewed my love of the Anne of Green Gables books. For me I completely associate Anne with my grandma’s house! Both my mum and grandma loved the book so I read it at my grandma’s and also watched any adaptions of it on video there too. It’s a nice memory to associate with such a heartwarming book I feel!

4. The Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood

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Summary: from Amazon

Offred is a Handmaid in The Republic of Gilead, a religious totalitarian state in what was formerly known as the United States. She is placed in the household of The Commander, Fred Waterford – her assigned name, Offred, means ‘of Fred’. She has only one function: to breed. If Offred refuses to enter into sexual servitude to repopulate a devastated world, she will be hanged. Yet even a repressive state cannot eradicate hope and desire. As she recalls her pre-revolution life in flashbacks, Offred must navigate through the terrifying landscape of torture and persecution in the present day, and between two men upon which her future hangs.

Why:

I will always completely associate The Handmaids Tale with my fifth year English class. At the time I wasn’t really a fan of the book mostly because we, as a class, over-analysed every inch of it! Now I can totally appreciate the book’s power and the message it is conveying but at fifteen I was just sick of going over it all in microscopic detail and the book will always remind me of that class and teacher.

5. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

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Summary: from Amazon

There is nothing to be found in Lemony Snicket’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ but misery and despair. You still have time to choose another international best-selling series to read. But if you insist on discovering the unpleasant adventures of the Baudelaire orphans, then proceed with caution…

Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are intelligent children. They are charming, and resourceful, and have pleasant facial features. Unfortunately, they are exceptionally unlucky.

In The Bad Beginning, the siblings encounter a greedy and repulsive villain, itchy clothing, a disastrous fire, a plot to steal their fortune and cold porridge for breakfast.

In the tradition of great storytellers, from Dickens to Dahl, comes an exquisitely dark comedy that is both literary and irreverent, hilarious and deftly crafted.

Why:

I’m not sure this counts as a sensory memory as these books just remind me of my childhood in general, rather than a specific time or place but I really love them so wanted to pop them in my list! These books (despite their miserable plots) give me a real sense of warmth and comfort and just remind me of the fun of reading something different and unexpected rather than cozy and sweet books!

6. Perfume by Patrick Süskind

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Summary: from Amazon

In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent . . .

Why:

This is a book that also takes me back to high school and writing english essays. Perfume was the book I chose to write a critical essay on when we had the chance to choose our own books. It is also the first really dark novel that I remember reading so it stands out in my memory and always takes me back to being about 16. It’s also a phenomenally well written and shocking book that I would highly recommend.

7. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

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Summary: from Amazon

On a trip to the South of France, the shy heroine of Rebecca falls in love with Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower. Although his proposal comes as a surprise, she happily agrees to marry him. But as they arrive at her husband’s home, Manderley, a change comes over Maxim, and the young bride is filled with dread. Friendless in the isolated mansion, she realises that she barely knows him. In every corner of every room is the phantom of his beautiful first wife, Rebecca, and the new Mrs de Winter walks in her shadow.

Why:

I finished Rebecca for the first time just after midnight and my house was really dark and quiet, because of this I will always have such a strong memory of this eerie darkness whenever I reread this classic. It helped that the story is super atmospheric and gothic of course but whenever someone mentions the book it always conjures up a gloomy darkness in my mind.

8. An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

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Summary: from Amazon

Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

Why:

An Untamed State is a book that conjures up a memory of summer and hot weather for me personally. The book is set in Haiti which certainly helps evoke the feeling of heat and humidity. It’s a pretty disturbing and dark novel so it doesn’t create a stereotypical happy summery feeling but since I hate hot weather and summer in general I don’t tend to read very cheery books in summer anyway! It’s also the first Roxane Gay work I read and whilst it’s a difficult book to read at times because of the content, it is also a great novel.

9. The Scandal (Beartown in the US) by Fredrik Backman

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Summary: from Amazon

In a large Swedish forest Beartown hides a dark secret . . .
Cut-off from everywhere else it experiences the kind of isolation that tears people apart.
And each year more and more of the town is swallowed by the forest.
Then the town is offered a bright new future.
But it is all put in jeopardy by a single, brutal act.
It divides the town into those who think it should be hushed up and forgotten, and those who’ll risk the future to see justice done.
Who will speak up?
Could you stand by and stay silent?
Or would you risk everything for justice?
Which side would you be on?

Why:

I read Beartown which is set in a wintery Sweedish town during Christmastime which was just a perfect time to read it! It’s not exactly filled with Christmas cheer nor is it even set at Christmas but because I read it during the festive period it always reminds me of that cold and wintery feeling of curling up in a warm blanket and reading a fantastic book.

10. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

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Summary: from Amazon

When four graduates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome – but that will define his life forever.

Why:

I read A Little Life last year and it was one of the most emotional reading experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve been suffering with a chronic health problem that came completely out of nowhere for the past two and a half years now. It involves extremely severe pelvic pain that has put me in hospital several times. The main character in A Little Life suffers from chronic pain and whilst my life has been frankly a fairytale compared to the trauma that Jude suffers I felt like I related even more strongly to the book because of my own health issues. Chronic health problems also, more often than not, create mental health problems and I really associate this book with just being in a very difficult place emotionally and healthwise. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant experience reading it because of this but it’s one of the strongest connections I’ve ever felt to a book.

So there it is, my top ten list of books with sensory reading memories! I would be really interested to know what you think of my choices, what books have created a sensory memory for you or just any of your thoughts at all so please lets chat in the comments!

28 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Sensory Reading Memories

  1. Jordanne says:

    I think Harry Potter would be one for most people (myself included), it’s just one of those defining books in several generation’s reading life. I just started A Series of Unfortunate Events after watching the Netflix Series, I feel like they did a really good job. I wish there was an Audible Audiobook narrated by Patrick Warburton. Great list!

    Liked by 2 people

    • lifewithallthebooks says:

      Thank you! Yes I totally agree about Harry Potter! And I’m absolutely loving the Netflix series of unfortunate events too – I am so with you on a Patrick Warbuton audiobook – his voice is just perfect for Lemony Snicket! Plus Sunny the baby is so adorable! 😊

      Like

  2. Jessie says:

    Great list! I also have strong memories of reading Rebecca, Anne of Green Gables, and The Handmaid’s Tale. I agree with you about An Untamed State, and am very curious about Perfume as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. liveforbroadway says:

    Yay, this list was super lovely! I have so many books that remind me of classwork and over-analyzing them, so I totally feel you on The Handmaid’s Tale. That being said, hearing your thoughts on Rebecca was interesting–it’s one of those books that I always want to read, but haven’t quite worked it into my schedule. And, of course, it’s so sweet–the memories you have associated with Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter and A Series of Unfortunate Events! I feel the same.

    Liked by 2 people

    • lifewithallthebooks says:

      Thank you 😊 I think a lot of us feel the same way about those books which is so nice! Rebecca is a great book – so atmospheric – I’m sure you will get to it at some point! I hope you enjoy it when you do! 💛

      Like

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