29 August 2014

Reading creates a place in time

There's been a surge of decluttering in my life lately. Among other things, I have been sorting through my books and reading lists, crossing off books I've read and making sure they are present on the spreadsheet I've been keeping since middle school to document my bibliophilic triumphs. As I've looked back through the list, the strongest impressions I have are where I was when I was reading some of these books.

I remember reading Quicksilver by the pool on a cruise, although Eliza from System of the World is linked to my bedroom during grad school, where I read every night before bed. Books I wouldn't have remembered that I had read remind me that I read them and learned about social connectedness from Six Degrees primarily on the stationary bike during undergrad while I was dealing with knee injuries. And I have read an awful lot of books in airports, DTW in particular, it seems.

I don't know if this location associative memory is common for other people. Thinking about it, I realize it's quite distinct for me, even beyond my reading. When someone reminds me of a conversation, I frequently ask them where we were when we talked about it and that context triggers the entirety of the discussion. My best theory is that I've moved so many times that knowing where I was is almost as good as knowing when something happened. My next question is whether this will be an equally pronounced effect as I'm starting to switch to e-books.

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