books · discussions · shanti

Stories I remember

Hi Virtually Readers! I read a lot of books. This year, I’ve read well over 200–that’s an average of more than four a week! (though very inconsistent–I didn’t read much while I had school, and I have read a LOT since then). However, some of these books I barely remember. Others I could talk your ear off about, even though I read them in February. What makes a book memorable?

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When I did my post about Goodreads shelves a few months ago, one of the shelves was ‘forgettable’. Being forgettable, to me, seems to be the worst thing a book can be; it indicates that the book failed to make much of an impression on me. Predictably, when I look at the books on that shelf, I find that I don’t remember many of them (though it’s not a very big shelf, being relatively recent). Forgettable books are ones that I did not care about. They might have been well written, easy to read, quick to get through, and so on, but they didn’t make any impression on me.

Usually these are books I find unexceptional; three star ratings, perhaps. I didn’t especially love or hate them. I tend to remember the things I hate–it’s not a book, but I could rant about The Breakfast Club for days, and only avoid doing so out of concern for the people around me.

I read so many books that I simply don’t have space in my brain to remember everything about them. I’ve been writing reviews for books I’ve read in the last month this week, and it is alarming how much I have forgotten. Does this mean that reading was a waste of time? I hope not, though Shar has a theory that she remembers books much better than I do because she reads fewer books.

So what does make a book memorable? For one thing, uniqueness. I quite enjoy reading fairly ‘fluffy’ romances, but these often blend together, because their plots are very similar. So if I read a book with romance which completely reverses a trope or something, I’ll remember it. For instance, I listened to the entire audiobook of Inheritance by Christopher Paolini in September. In my review, however, I talked entirely about character and relationship development, because Paolini was doing much more innovative things with those (relative to many classic fantasy books) than he was with the bla bla battles defeat evil etc.

Another thing which will make me remember a book is if it surprises me. I knew that there was a big plot twist in The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, but Lauren James still surprised me with how she executed it. Whereas Trouble, which had interesting and well developed characters, completely failed to surprise me. Because many contemporaries have well written characters, and the plot was predictable, I probably won’t remember this book nearly as much.

When I talk about the book, I remember it better. So if Shar and I read the same book, like Take Three Girls, and we talk about specific things we liked about it (how awesome Addie was as a character, for instance), then I’m much more likely to remember it. Books like the Lunar Chronicles, where I know quite a few offline people who are into it, stick into my memory a lot more.

I know a lot about the brain because I took a single high school level psychology class. Basically, the more you interact with something, the better you’ll remember it. This has all sorts of applications to studying, but who cares about those? If you write fanfiction or make fanart, you’ll probably remember a book better (especially since those are indications that you like it a lot); if you do a twitter chat or a book club about it, you’ll remember it more; if you take notes on it, you’ll remember more of it; if you think about a book more, you’ll remember it more.

There are some books, of course, which are best forgotten. Ideally, though, I like to think that a little piece of whatever I read and whatever I take from that stays with me, long after the details of the book itself have floated away.

I’m going to end this post with a story. There’s a phrase from a book which has drifted around my head for years. I had no idea which book it came from; I did not remember it at all. A few months ago, I read the book again, and the only part I remembered was that one line. It was like coming home.

what is a book that is going to stay in your memory? and what makes you remember it? tell me in the comments!

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Stories I remember

  1. I guess I tend to remember books I read because I don’t read a WILD AMOUNT of books. Also, I’m quite a slow reader and I hate skimming. I guess the second book in the Shadow and Bone trilogy was quite forgettable to me. Kinda sad because I remember staying up at night just to finish it and also spending about 8 hours straight one time to read it… only to not remember much about it except Nikolai and Alina and Mal’s suckish relationship.

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  2. I feel that there is a lot of stuff out there that is derivative in movies, TV, music, and books, but why something stays with me is more about how it made me feel. There are lots of books I read, and I truly appreciated the entertainment they afforded me as I read them, but the 5-star-favorite books stay with me, and it is because they evoked such strong emotions from me.

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  3. Aw darn, I went to your Goodreads to see what was on your forgettable list and we’re not friends so if you deem me worthy I’ll have to look back later.

    I’m finding the more books I read, the more I forget! I try to pick books I’ve read for my MYOBB posts and I just did one for Legend by Marie Lu, which I read 2 months-ish ago, and eep. I had to go back and look at notes and stuff because I couldn’t remember what happened.

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  4. This is such a great discussion, Shanti. I don’t remember all the books I read, that’s impossible and I’m not even reading 100 books a year ahah. Some books stay with me somehow, but I think it’s most of it all with the feelings they brought me than with the general story overall. I know that there are books I read at a particular time and I’ll remember them a bit more, because they sort of echoed with me and my life or something and… I don’t know, there’s this feeling. Or maybe with a character, a relationship, particular quotes or moments in stories as well, stay. While some others just go, blend into all the stories we read. We can’t remember it all, ahah 🙂

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  5. I totally think it’s fine not to remember every single book we read in great detail! They still affect us and influence us, even if it’s just a smol thing. I think I heard someone say once that you don’t remember every meal you eat, but that doesn’t mean the meal wasn’t good for you! (I tell myself this ALL the time because I forget stuff so fast.😂) ANYWAY. I tend to remember books better if they have memorable characters. Or if I read them on audiobook.😂 I swear I will forget NOTHING if I listened to it instead of read it myself. That’s kind of strange?!

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