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?
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!