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For My Fellow Re-Readers

Modern Mrs. Darcy linked to an article that linked to another article all about the act of forgetting after reading.  Isn’t this the best of the Web?  You are reading this, and if you link to this post, then you are linking to a post that is linked to a post that is linked to a post that is, finally, linked to a post.

Can we just pause for a moment and comment on this tangled, interconnected structure?

Anyway, she linked to a post about why it’s okay to forget what you read because you don’t actually forget.  Or maybe you forget the details, but your brain retains what it wants to retain.  That information gets added to the personal lens that you use to read all future material.

It makes sense; why certain paragraphs immediately jump out at me, and how I mark up books, usually leaving notes in the margin like, “Oh!  Write a blog post about this.” So even if I don’t remember the details — and sometimes I don’t even on books I’ve read numerous times — I do sort of remember the details and use them to decide whether something else resonates with me in the future.

Moreover, the post contains a great quote: “Any book not worth rereading isn’t worth reading” (Nassim Taleb).  While I can point towards plenty of books that I’m glad I’ve read even through I don’t believe they’re worth re-reading, the quote made me smile because it is a good barometer; when you’re partway through a story and thinking, “I am definitely going to read this again.”

Are you okay with forgetting books, or does looking at the book spine and not remembering anything about the book fill you with dread?

By the way — despite this article, forgetting books still fills me with dread.

8 comments

1 torthuil { 09.06.17 at 8:05 am }

Good point. I agree my mind dies remember what’s important. The most annoying part about forgetting though is if I’m trying to explain something to somebody else: I need to remember details to give reasons why I think a specific way.

2 a { 09.06.17 at 8:25 am }

I have picked books from the library, gotten about 2-3 chapters in, and realize I’ve read them before. Usually, I just laugh. The good side of Goodreads is that now I have lists, but the bad side is that I don’t really browse the shelves any more.

3 Raven { 09.06.17 at 9:30 am }

This is why I keep the list on my blog – because if I don’t, I will totally get halfway through a book before I remember that I read it.

I do love the idea of gauging a book by whether or not I will read it again, but I have read hundreds that I wouldn’t intentionally re-read and yet I am still glad I read them.

It does bother me a bit, though, when I’m not sure if I read something. I feel like I should remember…but then again, I am a constant reader and it’s just not possible to remember them all.

4 Counting Pink Lines { 09.06.17 at 10:29 am }

I love re-reading! I kid you not, some of my favorites, I’ve read 50+ times (though as I age I do that less).

It’s actually nice sometimes to forget parts of the book – you reread and you get to marvel again at the story/development/prose. And sometimes it’s nice to remember so you pick up the details on the next round through.

5 Turia { 09.06.17 at 1:54 pm }

I read that post too and enjoyed it. I am a rereader at heart, but only of specific books that I tend to reread over and over again. It is rare for me to read a book twice- it is either multiple times or only once.

I liked the idea that even if you think you forget everything you’ve been changed just by the act of reading it. But I will say I do wonder what was the point when I look back at 2015, which was when I started keeping track, and realize I have absolutely no memory of certain books.

6 loribeth { 09.06.17 at 3:00 pm }

I’m generally OK with it. I am more annoyed than filled with dread that I can’t remember reading a certain book… I have a good memory, but not THAT good!! lol — I’ve read a lot of books in my life, lol!!

For example, I know I read a lot of books by D.E. Stevenson when I was a teenager, & I know I loved them, because I have been looking for them on & off over the years ever since then — but the only ones I am certain that I read are “The Baker’s Daughter” and “The Blue Sapphire” — because I know I had/have (somewhere, in the depths of my parents’ basement) paperback copies that I found at a used bookstore. I remember “The Baker’s Daughter” (it was one of my favourites) but I can’t for the life of me remember what “The Blue Sapphire” was about. I don’t worry about my memory going, though, because, as I said, I have read a lot of books, and the last time I read “The Blue Sapphire” or some of her other books was 35-40 years ago (!!). I just look forward to rediscovering them all over again — if I can ever find copies of the out-of-print ones…!

7 Sharon { 09.06.17 at 3:09 pm }

I don’t expect that every book I read will stay with me for the rest of my life, so the idea of forgetting a book I’ve read doesn’t really bother me. I have occasionally picked up a book by an author I like, only to discover that I have already read it. . . but this happens less often when I am good about keeping Goodreads updated. 🙂

8 Mali { 09.06.17 at 6:25 pm }

I love the interconnected aspects of the web. On Fb, I love to see that friends who live in different countries and are my friends through entirely different reasons (infertility friends, regular blogging friends, AFS friends last met in an airport in Bangkok in 1981, family, etc) will often post or comment about exactly the same things, or one’s comments on Brexit will mirror another comments about US or NZ or Turkish politics.

I used to re-read a lot, but don’t these days as there’s too much on offer. I have definitely got half-way through a book and thought “I think I’ve read this before.” But my issue is whether to finish a book. If I’m struggling, because I don’t like the characters or it’s not fitting my mood, should I continue or should I give up? I hate giving up.

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