This is all about the trip down memory lane. It sounds strange at first to think a book, dead leaves stuffed full of inky imprints of soul, could come with a strong sensory memory attached to anything other than your eyes. But if you think about it, a lot of different things combine to be part of the reading experience. Where you were, what you were going through at the time, your environment, even what you were eating.
Most of my book sensory memories are about food, to warn you. Blame the fact that bookworms need regular nutrition to keep up with all that reading. And totally feel free to blame this list if you’re feeling the urge to go snack after you read it.
1. Matilda, Roald Dahl
Matilda has a hot drink while reading, and that always makes me want a hot drink while reading. I had to look up what Bovril is, since it’s not an American thing. And I’m not fond of Ovaltine, although we do have it here. So I substitute hot cocoa or tea whenever I read this book.
2. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Reading this book when I was younger, I always wanted to try some Turkish Delight. Some magic hot chocolate would be a nice second choice. The wish was deferred for many years, but my cousin recently moved to New York City and, because she is a wonderful person, she sent me some from a Turkish market. And you know what? It’s freaking delicious. Not sell-out-your-siblings-to-certain-death yummy, but really very tasty.
3. Redwall, Brian Jacques
I defy anyone to read a Brian Jacques book and not feel hungry at the end of it. Probably 45% of the books are deliciously detailed descriptions of epic feasts. Who could blame me for buying the Redwall Cookbook? The recipes are vegetarian, and all pretty great. Rock cakes! Trifle! Tea bread! Cheese and onion traybake! I feel so British when I use this cookbook.
4. Savor the Moment, Nora Roberts
I mean. Look at that cover. And the main character, Laurel, is a pastry chef. Descriptions of her cakes are a huge part of the book. By the end of it, I’m fighting the urge to head for the nearest bakery (not very hard).
5. Chocolat, Joanne Harris
Again, luscious depictions of chocolate making and chocolate. This list may have been a mistake. Now I want a snack, but I can’t decide which book-themed treat to make.
Here are five more books with sensory memories *other* than food, because I’m making myself too hungry!
6. Ozma of Oz, L. Frank Baum
Pretty much all of the Oz books come with delightfully bizarre and amazing illustrations. I have considered getting one as a tattoo. (No joke. I just have to pick the one I really want on my body for the rest of my life.) But none of them enthralled me as a child quite like the image of the princess Langwidere changing her head for a new one in Ozma of Oz. The smooth, cut-off neck! The flowy gown! The calm way all of the heads watch this process! And the casual way she decides she’d like to add Dorothy’s head to her collection. CHILLS.
7. My True Love Gave to Me, ed. Stephanie Perkins
I saw this book all over #bookstagram and bought it to see what the hype was about. As a short story collection it’s pretty great, but my favorite part was the soft, smooth, velvety cover! I didn’t know about this new publishing trend for paperbacks, so it was a complete surprise when I took it out of the box and felt this fun texture. To be brutally honest, I sat there and petted the book for an embarrassingly long time.
8. The Wee Free Men, Terry Pratchett
One of the first Terry Pratchett books I read, and the one that introduced me to how hard it is to read his books in public without snort-laughing and attracting odd looks. For some reason the audibly visual description of Tiffany wanging a river monster with an iron skillet made me laugh so hard I teared up.
9. Beauty, Robin McKinley
Surprising absolutely no one at all, I was a huge booknerd as a teen. Robin McKinley is one of my favorite authors, and I used to sneak her books in my backpack to school. When we were supposed to be working in class I would read this book under my desk. Beauty holds the (dubious) honor of being the book my biology teacher chucked across the room after she’d asked me to stop reading four or five times. True story. (No books were harmed. She made sure it landed safely on her desk. She did throw it, though.)
10. The Stand, Stephen King
My top favorite Stephen King novel (yes, I even like the ending). It’s one of the only books that has ever given me a physical reaction to reading. My stomach clenched, my hands were sweaty, I was nervous through the whole 1,000 pages. A tickle in my nose made me sneeze around the halfway point in the book, and I nearly gave myself cardiac arrest thinking I had Captain Trips. Basically you should go read this book immediately, so you too can have an anxiety attack the next time your allergies act up.