No- I’m not going to go into the lyrics of that Earth, Wind and Fire song. And some of you are probably smiling in recognition, and others are going “What’s Earth, Wind and Fire?” What I am going to talk about is: how much do we remember from the books that we read.

Never Not Reading proposed this question yesterday: After you’ve finished a book, have you forgotten the title character’s name? A few days ago, when we were all watching Jeopardy, there was a question; “Who was Templeton in Charlotte’s Web?” Now, I’ve read that book multiple times- I read it with my daughter when she was younger. But I couldn’t remember which character was Templeton. Rat- for those of you scratching your heads….

So how good is my memory towards what I read?

I routinely forget the authors. I will tell someone that I really liked a book, and then I will stumble for the authors name. So I guess this means I really don’t care if the author is male or female. But really, how bad is it that I can be amidst a book, and have absolutely no recollection of who wrote it?

Some of my blogger friends post the What did you finish, what are you reading, and what are you about to read. Yeah- I may have finished a book yesterday, but I find myself going into Goodreads or my nook to see what it was.

Is it an age thing?

Do I read too many books?

Outside of the title and author (like they count for anything) do you remember the contents of a book? I have book club this coming Tuesday. I finished the book about ten days ago (“The Guest Book” Sarah Blake- ha- didn’t even need to look that up) but I’m going to have to glance over it before I go to club, because honestly- not quite sure I remember the small strokes, or frankly, the big strokes…other then I thought it was average. That part I do remember: very average.

I’ve read 29 books this year. While a few stand out, it’s the books on opposite ends of the spectrum. I remember the books I loved, and I remember the books I hated. The ones in the middle- well- they’re kind of lost in my mind. I sort of, kind of remember the plot, but details…don’t even think about quizzing me.

I know when my daughter is reading something for school, she takes copious notes. Her books are filled with post it notes, and they’ve been taught the Cornell system for remembering things from books. Her school often requires the students to buy certain texts so that they can write notes in the margins and highlight. (Hence why Rebecca is floating around my house) So clearly, even when clinically reading a text, we still need reminders as to what’s important, who people are, what are the clues tossed in along the way…

So, I guess what I’m asking you today is: Do you remember the details from books? Do you think it’s important to remember things from books? What are the parameters? Are some books just more forgettable than others? And why can some people pull a quote out from thin air? Do you just memorize a few all purpose quotes?

98 thoughts on “Do You Remember….

  1. I have, in vain, tried to find the title of a book that I read that had such a huge impression on me for days after that I felt like I was hung over. I kept thinking it was A Complicated Kindness…I reviewed the book briefly and realize that it is not the book I am trying to place. That was a good book, but not the one I was thinking of.

    I googled phrases, topics I remembered from the book. Nothing. Still don’t remember.

    But thanks for the mention of Goodreads…I have to go in there and update something. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No. I’m awful at remembering details of books, even classics, say, which everyone else seems remember. If you’re in a class, that can be embarrassing. But I’ve given up the classes now, so that’s no worry!

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  3. Billy Collins’ poem “Forgetfulness” has apropos first lines:

    The name of the author is the first to go
    Followed obediently by the title, the plot,
    The heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
    Which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
    Never even heard of,

    I used to remember the details of books (I did recall that Templeton is the rat!). But my ability to do that now has faded, like the bloom of my youth. 😉

    So I have a notebook in which I jot down the book title, author, and a brief plot and character summary to help me remember. The problem with this system, which I have used for several years now, is that it is in chronological order, and not organized by author or title. When I am wondering about a book I’ve read in the past and want to recall a specific, leafing through that notebook isn’t exactly speedy or efficient.

    I’ve read 25 books so far this year. My favorite to date is “Say Nothing” by Patrick Radden Keefe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always looking for books that people enjoyed so thanks! And I have the same problem. My daughter bought me this cute reading journal, but yeah, it’s chronological, so I have to think about when a read a book then look back for it…LOVE the poem btw

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  4. I usually remember details from what I read. Perhaps not character names or finer plot details, but the broad strokes I definitely remember. For example, without referring to Goodreads, I remember that one of the first books I read this year was Catherine Leroux’s ‘Madame Victoria’. I remember the names of the two major characters, the structure of the book, and my reaction to it. With the next book I read, ‘The Darkness’ by Ragnar Jonasson (pretty sure that’s his name), I don’t remember the characters’ names, but I remember the structure and whodunnit. That was 80+ books ago.

    If I forget character names, I’m not too bothered by it, but if I see the book’s title or cover I can recall at least the broad strokes of it. I don’t take notes or have any special formula for remembering books. Remembering what I read, I think, is a byproduct of reading a lot of books for a long time.

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    1. I always remember the ideas that a book generated in my head, what is made me question or think about,so I guess I remember them-on a macro level. And if I didn’t use goodreads, there is no way I would remember what I read this year for the most parts. And it really is all about how much I liked or didn’t like a book

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  5. I seldom remember authors names unless I’ve read a lot of their work. Even when I’m reading it I don’t pay much attention, unless it’s so good that I want to see what else they may have written. I am probably the youngest in my library book club, (most of the ladies look to be in their 70’s as they have been together a long time), and I’ve noticed many don’t want to read the book until the week before the discussion, as they may forget stuff that happened. I’m not quite that bad yet, but the few times I’ve attended when they discussed a book I loved but read several years ago, I find I can’t contribute much to the discussion as I don’t remember characters names or plot points, just an overview of what happened and whether I liked the book. Sometimes the books we read for fun are perfectly pleasant but forgettable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If my book club is doing a book I’ve read before, I need to reread it. There’s no way I can contribute to a discussion if it’s not fresh. I totally get reading it a week before!

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  6. I think It’s a combination of an “age thing” and reading so many books these days.. I knew instantly you were referring to the The Rat in Charlotte’s Web. But, I was in elementary school in the 1950’s and back then the book was newly published. I had a teacher who would read a chapter or two aloud each day and so I looked forward with anticipation to hearing every detail of the story. My mother read my siblings and I a chapter a night of Little Women, Robinson Crusoe, The Five Little Peppers etc. so I find that my early memories of childhood books is still pristine. But now, I’ll zip through novels in a flash and they all blend together. I’ll discuss with my sister and say, remember the Hedgehog book or the Mudman Kate Morton novel? She recalls the titles and authors. But she takes copious notes. I don’t. I’ll see a character clearly in my head but forget which story they were from. I think that’s because we read such large amounts. In our youth we cherished a few novels and those remain with us forever in vivid detail.

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    1. That’s a valid point. When you read a lot, it’s bound to get jumbled all together. I only take notes when it’s book club, and though I keep a reading log, it’s more apt to be what stood out from the book

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  7. I don’t remember many details from books, and don’t think it’s age, but just the way I am. However, I believe that even without the details, our thinking can be changed by a book if we internalize a certain message or way of looking at the world. I definitely take notes about the titles I read for the book club I facilitate at the library and only remember about a quote I liked if I write it and the page number down!

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  8. it’s interesting. for some reason I can remember the tiniest of details from some, and absolutely none from another. I’m not sure how and why my brain sorts it all out this way

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  9. My mother used to have multiple books going and if it was I book I had read also, I would try to discuss it and she remembered very little. I was one of the annoying people(depending on your point of view) that could read through material once and remember it. My mother said it was just the way I was wired, but I read every word, I know for a fact she skimmed. As I am getting older I still have a good memory for what I read but not as good for what I hear.

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  10. I love to joke and say my brain is like swiss cheese. Some things stick and some just slip right on out, but there is no rhyme or reason to it. I think I used to do a whole lot better at remembering what I read, but it was still not consistent. I also read a LOT. So far this year, I have read 105 books that were new to me and reread another 28 and that is probably a little on the low side in comparison to previous years. I will almost always remember specifics from the books I really loved, author names especially as I know I’ll want to go find other books by that author. The books that are “meh” don’t stick as well and the ones I truly dislike, there are certain pieces that will stick, I think usually the parts that made me dislike it. The most frustrating thing I tend to forget? How the book ended. Isn’t that weird?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I get that…because what should be the best part of the book has sadly become lousy. I’m usually dissatisfied with endings. I finished a book yesterday and the ending was so meh, that I realized I’d starting read the acknowledgement…

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      1. Ha! I actually read those most of the time. At times, those are better than the book itself. That or the dedication. Then I’m wondering why on earth and author isn’t writing their books in the same tone.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I don’t mind not being able to remember books. If it is one I really liked then I can re-read it again a few years later. Most recently I re-read “The Smoke Jumper”. I remembered the basic plot and the fact that I liked it, but I had forgotten all the details and surprising me, one big section.
    I mostly read for sheer enjoyment so I don’t stress over it.

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  12. I read through the comments first and that has me wondering about motivation to read. Some say they take notes as they read, which may or may not help them remember. Others read and move on, which doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll forget names/plot/etc.

    So do those taking notes read for a specific purpose: book club, to give intelligent reviews, to share plots with others, because they’re academics at heart, to remember-but what purpose is the memory for?

    And then there are those like me, who read to be entertained and may or may not remember aspects of what I read or who the author is. Why don’t I take notes? I don’t review books, I let family and friends read my books and make their own decisions, I have deeply internalized a POV that “predictability” is rampant…

    If aging is partly to blame for forgetting (and I believe it is btw) then are we putting pressure on ourselves to remember or should we just give ourselves permission to enjoy at the moment and move on ? Do we need to critically read novels for everyday life…

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    1. I take notes for book club more that I want to discuss a specific point…usually why did the author do this, or does this make sense for the character as we know them. If it’s a formal discussion I like to be prepared (shocking) I think enjoying in the moment is great, but it’s almost embarrassing that I can forget something so quickly after I read it. But sometimes I remember so much. I guess that’s the true measure of how good a book is…how it make me feel after I’ve read it

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      1. Ultimately I agree with that. If a book really hits me in a significant way then I tend to remember more, however I also talk about it more with others, which I don’t do if it’s just okay. I suspect, for me anyway, the talking about it helps to cement more in my head, so I suppose in some small, unique way I am “taking notes” by those actions. It has to be really, really good though! 🙂

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  13. Right now I am reading a book that won’t come out until January of 2020. I will not remember everything about it. I keep a notebook and start a new page for every book. I jot down the characters, setting and a short memory jogger. I also am keeping sticky notes in every room of my house so I can jot down things. There are way too many trips to the kitchen wandering around aimlessly wondering why I’m here! lol

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  14. I definitely can’t read more than one book at a time. I can’t always remember every book I read but if I see the names, I usually remember what they were about. I’ve kept a journal of the books I’ve read for the last few years since I started doing the PopSugar Reading Challenges. I’ve also thought about keeping notes if I read something that particularly touches me but I haven’t yet, mostly because I’m reading in bed at night before I sleep.

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  15. Interesting. I could probably write a whole post on this myself. My memory, as told to me by others, has always been strong, but I can tell you the names of many books I read in my teens and not be able to tell you much of anything about them – even the ones I considered pivotal when I was growing up. I have quite a few bookshelves of books I’ve read, but I might give you a blank stare if you asked me about them. Some I remember a general message from, others I might remember specifics from, maybe a few quotes. For others, I might tell you if you want to read a great book about utopian society, check out Aldous Huxley’s book Island. Don’t ask me to explain. And with 11 years of college behind me, I can say, unequivocally, I’ve forgotten much more than I know today.

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  16. I read fewer books than I should and I understand the exact reason why! Am I alone in having the infuriating problem of stopping mid story and thumbing back several pages to remind me of detail, character name, plot twist, whatever etc. Most people seem to be able to read a book straight through and I guess not worry about a fact lost here or there?

    OR LA you tell me! When you read a novel are you able to remember EVERYTHING that went on from page one to the ending?

    I really am interested to know.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It totally depends on the book. Sometimes there are just too many characters and they all sound similar…I almost need a guide of names with a brief description. I tend to remember plot details and such while reading (rarely names though!) but when I’m done I usually remember one over riding theme, but rarely the incidentals. If I’m reading for book club I do pay closer attention

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  17. I don’t think it’s primarily an age-thing…I’ve always been that way. I get very engrossed in whatever I’m reading, so it’s not like I’m passive and not ‘really’ reading those books. Nice to know others have a similar ‘malaise’!!HA!
    I do love reading – and am enthusiastic when it’s a good one, pass it on, talk about it, I just maybe not with details that are relevant to others…names of characters fade, but the FEELING is always there for me in my memorybank!
    🙂
    Oh and I have composition books filled with favorite quotes/passages/single lines from books being read. I just don’t remember names, dates, titles and such!

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  18. I often do not remember books (titles), authors names or heroes (names), but if the book was really exceptional (style of writing) – I at least remember the title. I don’t think it is something to do with the age. It should touch me or surprise me on some level…and I guess only 2-3% of books does that. I’m talking about commercial fiction (but sometimes I can forget classics too…)

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  19. The people who can pull a quote from the book are usually English teachers, instructors, writers or use it daily. Those who can remember details read studiously with analytical ability and those who read more than 29 books are voracious readers and will read everything including the back of the cereal box.

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  20. I read all of my books on my iPad mini, in the Kindle app. Recently hubby asked me what I was reading. I’d forgotten the title of the book, and the author. But whatever it was, I liked the book 🙂

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  21. I’m horrible remembering lyrics to songs I’ve heard a thousand times, so needless to say my recall on books ain’t great. I do have ‘moments’ I remember quite well from my favorite books, but like you, books that really didn’t float my boat . . I don’t tend to remember.

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  22. Do you remember the 21st night of September? Love was changing the minds of pretenders
    While chasing the clouds awayyyy That’s done it now, I shall be singing ans dancing all day.

    I have trouble remember titles, authors and in some cases even the story! I do remember stories that had an impacted on me, but not the authors. I still cry when I think about The Velveteen Rabbit, and I read that years ago and have never been able to read it again.

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  23. I adore reading – especially fiction (I love to escape into a story) but I rarely remember any details from books even the ones I really like. I think it’s primarily because at the end of the day the reason I read is for enjoyment at the time. There seem to be so many more important things that my mind needs to recall than characters and quotes from fiction. Perhaps my small brain only has the capacity to recall so much and it prioritises things that are more important like what is happening in my family calendar or what I need to get done for work or whose birthday is coming up? I do have one particular friend who is amazing at recalling facts about books she has read. Perhaps it’s just how different people’s minds work?

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  24. Good to know I’m not the only one who forgets these things!! I post on Facebook a weekly recap of my blog posts and I have to look to see what I wrote about!! How bad is that? For me, I think it’s about enjoying the moment and then moving on. No need to remember details about something that ultimately doesn’t matter. I’m like that with tennis too. Some can remember match details when I’ve already forgotten who won and lost.

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  25. I used to read A LOT and back then I could tell you all about every book. I will admit I didn’t always even know who wrote said books though. Now… I don’t read as often as I’d like and I do have trouble remembering much for very long. How sad! I used to say my books were my best friends and I could tell you all about my favorite characters but today? Not so much… sigh…

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  26. I laughed when you mentioned Templeton. Charlotte’s Web is one of the books I remember fairly well. I think my memory of what I’ve read recently is more of a challenge. I keep a list of what I read so I can refer back to it. I’m amazed when others can remember the obscure details while I struggle to remember the title.

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  27. When I was an English major, I was like your daughter: I made very sure I remembered all the important parts of the books I read. Now I only read for my own pleasure, so I’m not intentional about remembering anything I read for fun. But certain scenes, dialogue and messages do stick with me, and I’m okay with that. I figure there’s a reason I remember them!

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  28. Sometimes I’ll remember what I’ve read, but usually only if I’ve read a book a few times. There are several that I’ll reread just because I don’t want to think while I’m reading. Then there are a few that I’ll check out from the library and halfway through the first chapter, I’ll realize that I’ve read it before and knew I didn’t like it so I’ll take it back. Sometimes though, I’ll go ahead and finish it.

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  29. I don’t generally remember character names or any of the finer details unless it is a classic that I have read several times. I have been known to start a book only to discover by the second chapter that I have read it before, and if the story is good, I will read it again.

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  30. There are some books leave a lasting impression and I remember lines and details. The vast majority usually fall into a bigger pit of some detail. But that’s just me. For the most part, my enjoyment is momentary plus a few weeks, especially if I move on to another book quickly. But when I find one that lasts………:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been considering doing book reviews…not extensively but maybe a few times a month. I’ve been breaking down what goes into a review and since I wrote that post I’m thinking of adding a new train of thought. I think I’m going to finish a book, write a review, then sit on it. If in lingers in a good way I’m going to have a section for that. Someone recently mentioned “The Kite Runner” and even though I read it years ago, I remember things about it. I’m thinking that’s what makes it a great book….hpthe ones that linger

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      1. Absolutely. Books that linger or cause you to go back to them are usually special to you in some way. It doesn’t happen often for me but when it does….:)
        Shadow of the Wind was the last one. I kept going back and rereading lines. It was prose that read line poetry.
        What bothers me sometimes is when someone writes a book I love and I try to read another by that author and it falls flat.

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