Friday, February 26, 2010

One-shot reads

This morning when I looked out the window to see that it was snowing, again, and promised to do so all day, I just about lost it. 

We'd finally gotten all the ice off the sidewalks earlier in the week, and I was starting to hear birds singing in the morning, and it's not dark out when I leave work anymore...and then another winter blast.

My primary urge upon seeing the snow blowing sideways was simply to go back to bed, preferably with a giant bag of cookies, and stay there until April.  Or at least all day.

But my thoughts instead ran like this:  I have a stack of midterms to week is going to be crazy-busy...I really need to get back to work on that article...the mailman has to work today, so why shouldn't you?

After an hour or so of feeling guilty, I compromised:  I wouldn't go back to bed, but I would spend the rest of the morning reading Sue Grafton's U is for Undertow, which I'd started a couple of days before.

As it turned out, I couldn't put it down and ended up spending the entire day reading it all, finishing mid-afternoon.

It's been a long time since I read an entire book in one shot, and while it was a guilty pleasure, I had no regrets.  Not only did getting absorbed in the story help me get through a day that started out feeling unbearable, there's just something so meditative and Zen-like about sustained reading like that.

When I posted something on Facebook about having spent the day that way, my friend Mike replied saying he had fond memories of spending a similarly snowy day reading Donna Tartt's A Secret History years ago. 

I, too, remember other marathon reads with great nostalgia:  Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone over a rainy weekend before final exams,  P. D. James' The Skull Beneath the Skin on a cross-country flight.  And of course, countless library books during childhood summer afternoons, which I consumed like potato chips while sitting in the butterfly chair on my parents' screen porch.

So, I thought I'd pose the question:  what books do you all remember reading in one shot?  And what kind of memories get conjured up when you recall that experience?


Jane said...

Joy Luck Club (on a trans-atlantic flight -- engrossing, reading alone in darkened plane with a reading light on here and there -- I wept)

each of the volumes in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City series (one at a time all the way through, as my friend Joe loaned them to me, on the couch during a hot summer, so delicious)

Accidental Tourist (read it straight through and then did something impulsive, which is so not like me, or Macon, but which turned out right)

Since becoming a parent, I don't think I've had time to read a book straight through, and the ones above are pre-parenting memories. However, last summer I did get up every morning at 5am to read Diaz's Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao for a few days in a row, and that counts now for me reading something "straight through." Loved it.

Catherine Zoerb said...

The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood during one particulary discouraging week in grad school. Just what the doctor ordered!

I read a lot in one shot as a child. I've always been a fast reader. The only one that comes to mind is a book I was obsessed with as a teen called The Wind Blows Backwards by Mary Downing Hahn.

Mmmm...reading a book all day. Sounds delicious!

Christy said...

I couldn't put down Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road,' though I'll admit that my evening fatigue (evening is my only dedicated reading time these days) means a marathon is reading a book in 5days or so, rather than the 2-3 weeks it seems to take me of late.

Michael said...

I read most of House of Mirth on a plane trip to Florida and can vividly recall being truly shocked at the ending. I was seated near the rear of the plane, maybe even in the very last row, and I remember gasping out loud at the sudden tragic turn of events in a novel that had seemed fairly light to me up to then. It was my first Wharton, read a few years before she was "discovered" by Hollywood, but not my last.

I read the bulk of The Alienist on a beach at Cape Hatteras, and got quite a wretched sunburn that day.

Otherwise, I rarely read a book in one sitting unless it's quite short. I do, however, have memories of snow days spent curled up with a book for most of the day, with only trips to the fridge or the pretzel cupboard for sustenance.

literaqueen said...

I was upstairs in my parents' library reading the 4th Harry Potter book and gasped outloud late at night. Not sure if my parents heard me or not.

I don't have the stamina for all nighter reading marathons any more, but I came close with The Elegance of the Hedgehog (can't remember the author).