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Old 02-03-2014   #1
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Topic Winner Reading and Memory

Lately, I've been thinking quite frequently about the way in which I read. I read voraciously, whenever I have a spare moment. I try to fully immerse myself in the work I am reading. However, my memory of the content that I have read is next to nil, sometimes even days within having finished reading a book. I will remember how I felt about the book, the atmospheres and impressions that it left upon my mind and emotions, but very rarely do I remember content. There have been times when I have re-read a book a few years after having initially read it, and it has almost been like reading it for the first time. At times I'll remember bits and pieces as I am re-reading, but often, it is almost as if I had never read the book at all. But if I enjoyed the book the first time, chances are I will like it just as much upon multiple readings, and often the sense of familiarity I feel will be based upon the memory of similar impressions. I don't know if I am making myself at all clear...

Anyhow,I am just curious how other people approach the act of reading, and how they retain information. I am constantly amazed by how much people can retain, from giving detailed plot summaries, to analysis, to actually quoting passages they have read!
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Old 02-03-2014   #2
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Re: Reading and Memory

It depends on what I'm reading. Whenever I read science or history books, I tend to read in a more study-oriented way and do a lot of highlighting and underlining because I have absolutely no ability to retain information beyond a few hours. I HAVE to go back and re-read a great deal if I have any hope of it sinking in.

When it comes to fiction, I read in a much more casual manner, usually in bed or curled up in a chair with tea or coffee. It's kind of a ritual, honestly. It's hard for me to get into that frame of mind without either of those things. But, I am usually left with the emotional impact of whatever I finished reading rather than plot details or even major plot points. Oh, I can't ever remember titles either. But to be honest often times I find them pointless anyway.

During depressive/anhedonic moments, I have learned to not even bother attempting to do any kind of reading whatsoever as I can't seem to receive any kind of emotional or intellectual response from anything I'm reading, and it will be forgotten the moment it is read. I haven't finished a book or story in quite some time. Frustrating.

Interesting topic.
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Old 02-03-2014   #3
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Re: Reading and Memory

For me, poetry is something which I find very easy to remember (I can spout Yeats until the cows come home). For fiction and non-fiction, much less so. Which is why I usually try to copy down passages and phrases of interest in a 'commonplace book' when I'm reading. I also find that this practice makes me more engaged with the text, rather than just superficially skimming through.

"The iniquity of oblivion blindly scatters her poppy seed and when wretchedness
falls upon us one summerís day like snow, all we wish for is to be forgotten." - WG Sebald
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Old 02-03-2014   #4
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Re: Reading and Memory

I never forcefully attempt to retain any information and simply enjoy the reading experiences as they arise. Unless there is a specific need, eg to write a review, article etc, I would not worry about it. However, I do mark and tag very special passages or quotes and revisit these over time.My problem is the opposite. There are books that my memory preserves far too rigidly that I wish to completely forget in order to have the same reading experience again. These are invariably the best books I have read.
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Old 02-03-2014   #5
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Re: Reading and Memory

In my teens - 20s (1980s - 90s), I was a voracious reader and I could focus on several texts at once. I retained most of what I had read. I also read anything. It helped that this was before the internet.

In my 30s, I slowed down. I took time to reread favorite passages. I bought fewer books and used the library more.

In my 40s, I'm a lot more selective about what I read. I only buy books from authors I know I will reread. I don't retain as much as I would like, but rereading helps and each time I do I retain more. I keep a notebook around and jot down random thoughts as they are inspired by what I've read.
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Old 02-04-2014   #6
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Re: Reading and Memory

It's mostly the same for me. I'll read something, think it's great (if it's great, that is...), then a couple weeks later realize I couldn't really quote anything or am having trouble recalling sequences of events or even wondering if X thing happened in Y book or in Z... so more often than not I find myself re-reading things I like.

Lately I've found that if I highlight or underscore A LOT it helps me remember better. But with some books, well, the thought of defacing them like that hurts a bit
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Old 02-04-2014   #7
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Re: Reading and Memory

nil

Last edited by symbolique; 2 Weeks Ago at 11:49 PM..
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Old 02-04-2014   #8
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Re: Reading and Memory

For me, the main difficulty is remembering the names of current day human beings with whom I associate. I've worked with people for years, and I honestly have no idea what their names are. When I hear them mentioned, I know who the person is, but that's about it. However, I tend to think of most of them like Ligotti characters: Dopey, Mr. Blowhard, Droopy Dog, Ms. Superficiality, The Mumbler, etc. And when I do that, I remember them! Usually I'm good with historical figures. If I forget someone like Belisarius, Stauffenberg, or Horace Walpole, that annoys me. I'm not too bad with recalling the general plot of a good novel. But short stories tend to blend together in my memory. So for example I have the general feel of Chekhov's short stories (which I read ten or so years ago), but I'd be very hard-pressed to give you names or much at all in the way of plot.

Nevertheless, it's the daily life stuff that is trying. I lose my keys and wallet nearly every ten minutes--very irritating. That said, if only I could forget everything about the last twenty years of my life, and just recall the first twenty!
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Old 02-05-2014   #9
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Re: Reading and Memory

Quote Originally Posted by Pan Michael View Post
...I have the general feel of Chekhov's short stories (which I read ten or so years ago), but I'd be very hard-pressed to give you names or much at all in the way of plot.
That's perfectly understandable, as happily, there's not much in the way of plot in Chekhov.
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Old 02-05-2014   #10
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Re: Reading and Memory

All books I read slip away from me ... Unless I do a public real-time review of them as a sort of dream-catcher.

MY WEBSITE: www.nemonymous.com
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