How Do You Remember What You Read?

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71 thoughts on “How Do You Remember What You Read?

  1. Ahhh, a subject near and dear to my heart.

    I’m not a fan of note taking, except for non-fiction, but taking down names for fiction helps me a lot. It is one of the main things I take advantage of at Librarything. Remembering a characters name helps me remember their whole storyline.

    For me, writing out a spoilerific synopsis “should” be enough. I’ll check back in another 10 years though and see 😉

    Associations don’t work for me anymore because then I have to remember all the associations, hahahaaa.

    However, I am a HUGE proponent of re-reading. Now, not every book is worth being re-read or even written well enough to BE re-read. Some books are just trashy fastfood. And finding out what books get the honor of staying good years later is a lot of fun. Of course, sometimes you re-read something that you thought was Fantastic (with that capital “F”) and then you re-read it years later and you shake your head at your past self. Poor silly past self, he just didn’t know any better 😉

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    1. I’m still trying to find an efficient note-taking strategy but always steer clear from it since I feel like it’s more of a distraction than a tool depending on where you do your reading. I do like the idea of writing down names, unless the author provides a character list. I think that’s a nice way to remember a character’s story.

      I do know how much you love you rereads though hahahah I definitely only see advantages to it, unless it’s all a person does in their life. I do pray that my rereads will help me further love a book instead of shattering my image of it though!

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      1. Funny you should mention a character list. I have found those don’t help me at all. For some reason, I do need to write down a character’s name, whether online or on paper.

        My love of re-reads is definitely a more recent phase of my life. I don’t know if it was because of turning 40 a bit ago or what, but now I really do enjoy them 🙂

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  2. Love this post, Lashaan! I pretty much review every book I read, so I take notes while I’m reading, highlight things I love or hate, etc. Either on my Kindle or I do write in the margins of ARCs🤣 I cannot write a review without notes!

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  3. I find the best way to remember what I read is to devote my attention to it. I turn the TV off, turn the music off, put my phone in another room and just devote myself to the book. It makes it easier for me to lose myself in the story and retain more. That’s part of why I remember so many of the places I photograph when I travel– I’m so focused on the moment and the scene that I soak in all the details of the place.

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    1. I love that! To completely immerse yourself in the story by cutting off all possible distractions. I think I’ve heard people say that they couldn’t do that because it puts them in the perfect position to sleep as well! 😂 I do realize that my concentrate is so much higher when I’m in absolute silence though. Might have to explore this strategy a bit more! 😮

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  4. What a fun post this was to read 😊 But well, I don’t think that is humanly possible to do so. (unless you put a hard drive into your mind). But that’s not only true of books, but also with tv shows. Sometimes when a first season of a series comes out, and it takes a while before the second season gets released, I tend to rewatch at least the last episode to jog my memory.
    I think the books you remember the most are the ones that in some way make an impact on you in an emotional way. At least for me those are the one that spring to mind the most (ermm…pun intended I guess 😂😂).

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    1. I know, right? 😂 Sometimes I wonder if it’s not better to not remember everything just so we end up revisiting them and discovering things we might have missed the first time.

      I do like that point about emotional impact. In the end, the author is the one who decides if we remember their story or not. 😱

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  5. Great post! It is a big issue for me, I really wish I remembered more… your list of tricks is pretty comprehensive. Personally, I’m to lazy to make notes, but I write down quotes. I re-read more and more, often in audio.

    I also create associations a bit different than the ones you mention – I can’t go to Berlin each time I read on IIWW 😉 but I often read books in series that complement each other (historical fiction – non-fiction about the same period – complemented by a movie or tv series, matching music or even a computer game…).

    Woody Allen said that he get an urge to invade Poland (my country :)!) each time he listens to Wagner, I have an urge to correct the mistakes of Allied generals each time I read about Hitler invading Poland 😉

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    1. Thank you, sir! I fear I might end up having to find more and more strategies to remember some stories because it really is impossible to remember them all.

      Hahahaha it would be pretty cool if it was that easy to make those landmark associations more often 😂 But yes, that’s an excellent example!

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    1. Thanks, Nicki! Hahahaha I know what you mean! 😂 It’s why I also avoid not reviewing a book for too many days after I read them. Taking notes is just so tempting to make things easier but it’s such a huge distraction from just reading! 😬

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  6. Ooooh great topic here Lashaan! I have noticed that we have two kind of readers. The majority (like me and I think you) forget many things about the books they’ve read. A minority though recall every little detail! I would say that the books I do recall (because there are oddities) are the ones that were either deeply controversial, either deeply emotional. So I think to remember book some parts of my brain must be activated if I say so and probably going to your point with “association”. I think when the book touches something that I associate with a personal memory, experience, even something unconscious I will remember it. Kind of working backward yes? LOL

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    1. Hahahah thanks, Sophie! I totally understand and I totally agree. In the end, the author and the story they tell has the most power on our ability to remember their stories. The best stories we read sure does often touch us emotionally and leave us in pieces.

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  7. Cool post, Lashaan! Different mnemotechnics work for different people 🙂 I enjoy re-reading, and reviewing 🙂 but I usually take notes and write down quotes only from non-fiction books – as usual, too many books, not enough time! 🙂

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  8. Great topic Lashaan, thanks for the tips! I struggle with remembering what I read sooo much it gets very annoying! I love the idea of note-taking though it actually increases the friction between me and reading, so I try not to do that too much, except with non-fiction books. I try to keep a “book list” and write some sort of review but I usually forget about that notebook… Also I just think I am terrible at reviewing stuff… I should try it to do it a bit more maybe!

    I’ve never thought about association but I do like the idea of “thematic” things so I might try to do that next time! Rereading is also something that I do quite often as I know the time I will spend rereading a certain book will be “worth it” because I have enjoyed the book in the past.

    For me what works a lot is also seeing and holding the actual book in my hands. I like the idea of having a Kindle where you can have all your books in one place, but for some reason I always forget the books I read on Kindle…

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    1. Thanks, Juliette! No problem ahhah I think taking the time to reflect a little on what you read to then write a little review of it will definitely help a little in remembering the story.

      I think thematic associations are the easiest ways to read and remember books but sometimes it can be hard to be in the mood for it as well.

      I think rereading is something I could only really do with classics right now since I feel like I have a 100000 of other books I really want to read before rereading anything 😂

      Oh, you’re preaching to the choir when it comes to Kindle hahaha I’ll always be pro-paper and could never really root for ebooks even if they have their benefits! 😂 I think having the book in your hands is definitely the cure to remembering the book, its title, its cover and its greatness! 😂

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      1. Yes, I might try to do that for the next book I read, though I’m only reading huge books at the moment so I think that by the time I finish them I’ll probably have forgotten the beginning 😬

        Thematic associations are great but then that also means you’ll prioritize a book that is not specifically on top of your list for another one that better fits your life at that moment!

        I understand your point for rereading, but I’m guilty for rereading, rewatching and redoing too many things 😂 😂

        As for e-books, I truly love the idea behind it, and actually feel bad that they don’t “work” on me, but they just don’t 😕

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  9. Love this post ♡ I agree with all your pointers. Another thing that helps me is keeping pics on Instagram. The setting or set-up is another reminder to me of the book and my time enjoying it or not. My favorite way is when I establish a rapport with the author in some form of exchange via email or social media. Knowing an author’s reasoning, choice or motivation behind the story will leave another impression to remind me of a book.
    Great post, Lashaan:) As always!

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    1. Thanks, Scarlett! So interesting that Instagram photos play a role with your ability to remember the stories! That says a lot of the quality of your pictures! 😍 But I do love the idea of connecting with the author. So much harder to forget when you understand what they’re trying to say.

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  10. I enjoy the moment I am reading the book, and I don’t stress about remembering them later. I do have selected key memory standouts of some of the books I’ve read from the past. I think those that I retain indicate those were the items worth remembering.

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  11. Hi Lashaan,
    this post was really interesting!
    The reading speed surely affects our memorization of what we are reading, but I’m a speed reader, so I can’t really control it. However sometimes i notice that I don’t remember the details, so that’s why I love re-reading. Everytime you re-read you catch things that you didn’t notice before.
    And i completely agree on choosing the perfect time to read a specific book, if you are only pushed to it by the hype, but you don’t feel like reading it at the moment, don’t do it. I do this all the time, in the sense that I choose what to read depending on my mood and this really helps, that’s why I usually have problems in reading the books that I have to read for school.
    Annotating! Yes! I started taking notes a few years ago and I’m never going to regret it. It gives so much more to the story. I also like it because through your annotations you connect with the book and when i lend my book to a friend he would know what I liked and see the story from another perspective.
    I also discovered that I like reviewing books and that I better review a book right after having finished it, otherwise I will forget some important things I wanted to write about it.
    Association… I don’t know if I associate my books to my surroundings, I don’t think so. Maybe I’ll try to do it!

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    1. Hi Martha! Thank you for your kind words! I totally understand about the speed at which you read. The people I was particularly targetting were those that forced themselves to go at a higher speed for the sake of finishing faster. Otherwise, people should definitely go at the speed they’re used to. But re-reading is the easiest solution to this for sure. I think the older we get, the more likely we’d want to re-read, not only to remember stories we’re slowly forgetting but to relive adventures that we adore.
      Oh man, I totally agree with you on those school reads. It’s why I believe a lot of students struggle to enjoy mandatory reads. They just don’t happen to be what we want to read at that time. It’s why those reads turn out so dull and don’t always help us love literature as a kid.
      Okay, first of all, it’s super cool that you got friends who borrow from you and who don’t mind the annotations! Second of all, it’s definitely a wonderful thing to be able to see a story from the eyes of another reader. I think it’s why I enjoy secondhand books with marks (not too heavily marked though)!

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    1. I sooo want to take more notes while reading but I feel like I’m never in a position to take out a notebook to do so or know how to take the notes to make it pleasant to read through them afterward hahaha And I totally agree that the reasons behind re-reading are various and that the main one should be for the love of the book before anything else! 😀

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  12. Ahh this is such a great post, Lashaan, I love it! I think I’ve gotten to really love writing reviews, just to keep memories of the books I’ve read and most of it all, how they made me feel. I think I also associate books to my surroundings, that’s such a great point! There are stories that hit me harder than others and somehow, I’ll remember that I was sobbing in that particular moment on my commute home or something hahaha. 🙂

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    1. Thank you so much, Marie! I too love writing reviews for that. But I have to admit that I haven’t yet gotten to the point of rereading what I’ve written in the past and dread the day that I will have to hahah Oh man hahahaha that’s a perfect example of how we remember certain stories! 😛

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  13. Great post, Lashaan! 😍 I personally always forget what I read except if I REALLY liked the book (actually, if I don’t really like it I stop reading it, so I guess I only finish to read books I truly enjoy and maybe I remember all of them? 😱 no…)! And since I love re-doing things I liked, I usually find myself wanting to re-read something more than starting something new 🙄

    I think reviewing is a good way to remember the books, or talking about it with someone! Also, having all your books at the same place and trying to mark them with stickers or something when you read them might be a good idea! Or even writing a few words on the book itself! Or using goodreads..!
    Do you personally write things on your books? 😱

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    1. Thank you so much, Caroline! ❤ Hahahah I think you're selling yourself short! I'm sure you remember a lot of the great books you've read. It's totally normal to forget those that weren't so impressive too. There's nothing wrong with re-reading though. You just shouldn't ALWAYS do it and try to keep some kind of significant gap between the last time you read and the next time you read it just to be make it much more impactful as a read. I tell myself that any book I want to reread would need at least a 5-10 years gap, otherwise, it's too early and I'll remember a lot of the story.

      I think notetaking and talking about the book are great ways to remember them more. It's like learning something for an exam. But this time, you do it because you enjoy it hahah I personally don't write in my books although I've contemplated the idea… I've tried it for mandatory books for school but it always turned out ugly and not too fun to reread. I'm better off taking notes on my computer if I have the motivation/energy/time to do so. Otherwise, I am still thinking of lugging around a notebook for notetaking but I think it's too much of a hassle, for now, to do so. 😮 I'd need to find a good notetaking strategy if I want to do that. 😮

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      1. Yeah, I think 5-10 years is a good gap! Even if I like re-watching movies I remember ver well, I’m not sure I could do it for books!

        When I “need” to remember something about the book I usually either take pictures of the page with my phone or fold the corner of the page haha 😛

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  14. I am terrible for remembering plot points for sequels, so I love to reread! And, I totally agree with writing reviews. Sometimes, I’ll go back to my reviews/review notes just to remind myself of what I thought of the book at the time 😂

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  15. Those are all very good tips on remembering what you read and I do love re-reading. I always feel like I pick up on the little things when I reread, making the reading experience even richer.

    I am also a massive advocate for reading what you want, when you want to. I’ve learnt the hard way that I will not enjoy a book if I force myself to read it. It’s why I’ve adopted this winging it philosophy, even if it means I’m not reading as many books.

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    1. Yep, that’s exactly why rereading is so cool. I’m sure when I get around to doing it, I’ll appreciate some stories even more than I used to.

      I totally understand and I think it’s something I would do even more if I had more time in my hands to read. It just makes reading even more enjoyable when you pick up something because you WANT to pick it up!

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  16. I really enjoyed this post. What you said about waiting for a book to call you to read it is very true for me. I can’t read and enjoy the experience if I’m motivated by guilt (reading what others are reading).
    Retreading can be a lot of fun I find! Some books you draw something different out or forget the little details. It’s a joy discovering them again!

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    1. Thank you so much! I’m quite haply to hear that! 😁 And yes, some books are so much better when you read exactly when you WANT to read them. I can definitely say that rereading some of the classics I’ve read as a teenager have made me love them so much more, and I think it’s due to how much more life experience I’ve acquired over the years! 😱

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  17. I agree with the categories you have here. Writing reviews certainly helps me remember books and also rereading them. Association also helps, especially if something great occurred while I was reading the book.

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    1. Right? Especially when we really take the time to write what we thought about the books. At least for me, the longer the review, the more likely that I remember it for a long time hahaha And if I got a lot to say it’s also provably because there was some kind of emotional investment too!

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