Memories Within Books

This week’s topic  for Top Ten Tuesday is “Books with Sensory Reading Memories.” But what are sensory memories?

When information is brought in and retained by the senses, this is what is known as sensory memory. The effects are extremely short term with this information forgotten within a few seconds.1

Sensory memories are short-lived however books can help us retain our sensory memories. Reading is a complex process and engages all of our focus/senses for a prolonged experience. So the information brought in by our senses during this time gets better retained in our memory when it becomes associated/connected to our reading experience. This can also work in reverse with a sensory experience reminding us of certain books or stories.

To me, the books with sensory reading memories are older books such that when you take them out of your bookshelf and open them you are filled with a strong feeling of nostalgia for the all the times you read it before.

All the scents, sounds, temperatures, feelings you experienced earlier come rushing back to you at once and you get this strange feeling in your heart.

The Tortoise and the Hare

Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1912

The Tortoise and the Hare was one of my earliest childhood books.

I remember I had one with a blue book cover. I could understand the story just by looking at the pictures.

It evokes my earliest memory of going to school, being woken early morning, the warmth of the golden sunlight as I walked outside with my mom, the feel and smell of a new bag, and later clutching hard to my book for comfort – I didn’t have school books yet other than the ABC’s and a few fairy-tales my mom had bought for me, so I got to put my storybook in my bag that first day.

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I first read Great Expectations in one of these little classic illustrated editions. I remember reading it in the afternoon when mom and papa were napping after lunch, and it was quiet. Rereading it now in the full original version still evokes the scent of my childhood library, the little white cupboard my papa had found for me to store my growing collection of books. I had also collected illustrated adaptations of several classics, including Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri

I didn’t have many books with young girl protagonists, other than some fairy-tales like Thumbelina, and this was one of those rare ones. Maybe it was because I was always drawn to the books with fun action and adventure, and these usually had boy protagonists. I did not like Alice or Wendy, and I forgot about Dorothy. But I remember liking Heidi.

Rereading Heidi also evokes the nostalgia of watching the animated show on TV with my mama, usually while she cooked lunch. We lived in the Emirates at the time and I’m pretty sure we watched it in Arabic on a local channel, without understanding a single word! But it was still beautiful. Especially more so because Switzerland looked practically like heaven to a girl like me used to views of the desert and the sea: Palm trees, hot sun, hotter beaches, bordered by a city-scape of tall glittering buildings.

Just looking at this old cover of Heidi I can almost smell those flowers, hear the bleating of the lambs and breathe in the cool mountain air.

I hope to reread as well as re-watch Heidi someday soon. Preferably with my mom.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling

image This was the first Harry Potter book I got. At that time I had only seen the movies for the first two, and I was exploring the famous Anarkali bazaar of Lahore and feeling vaguely disappointed when we had walked to the end of the main street without finding anything interesting. There was an open book-stand there right on the curb, I paused and tugged at papa’s sleeve so we went over to look at the books. He asked what book I wanted, as just standing there in the middle of a busy market street, tired from walking in the heat, was bound to get awkward. I suddenly remembered the magical movie I had seen on TV and that it was based on a book series, so naturally I burst out with “Harry Potter.”  The bookseller had copies of the first three. I could only pick one, it was an old family habit to buy one book, read it, then buy another. Since I knew the story of the first two I decided to go with the third.2

Thinking about reading Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban now brings back the scent of summer monsoon, the feel of the humid air, the scent of jasmine creeping into the house from the lawn in the evenings, and all my attempts trying to read the book to my cousin (she was staying over for the summer, and it didn’t work as she’s into romances).

The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien

I read this book during summer vacation in my first year of college (11th grade), I was sixteen I think. Shy and introverted. The girls in my classes were all nice but most of them had their own groups with old school friends. My old friends were all back in UAE, so I felt a bit awkward and out of place. I did eventually make lots of amazing friends, but for time being my closest friends were the books I read.

As I look at The Lord of the Rings sitting on my shelf I vividly recall the heat, the bright sunshine streaming through the opaque windows of my room, the sweet smell of the heavy book in my hands as I struggled to find a comfortable reading position. It was the biggest book I’d ever read at the time (excepting schoolbooks). And it made my fingers very dry, so I finished mom’s hand cream while I read it. I think I can still smell it when I rifle through the pages.

That’s all for this time. Check out my related post “The Smell of Old Books” for more on this topic. Also, see my very first Top Ten Tuesday post here.

Top Ten Tuesday is an original blog meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. and is currently being hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.


1 Quote from “Sensory Memory“. Retrieved Jul 18, 2018, from
2 Obviously I then had to go back and get the rest of them immediately after I finished it!


19 thoughts on “Memories Within Books”

  1. This is such a lovely list, the way you describe your memories is so vivid! I read Heidi as a child too and I loved it so much, I definitley wanted to live in the alps.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was so fun to read! Your childhood looks like it was filled with such delightful books and memories. I’ve been loving reading through everyone’s TTT’s this week, because it’s so cool to see which books have such meaningful memories attached to them for people. ☺️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Awesome choices! I actually have a story about Azkaban also. It’s my favorite HP book. I had a paperback copy of it and I let my classmate borrow my copy. When it came back to me, the spine was OBLITERATED. Needless to say, it was the very last time I let anyone borrow my books.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I actually find sensory memories to be some of my longest and best retained memories haha. Funny how that works for different people right?! But I LOVE looking at a book and remembering a sight or smell or feel connected to it too.😍

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s