Discussion Post- When you can’t remember details to a book you recently read

I was thinking about how many books I really enjoy while I’m reading but then, not even a month down the road I can’t recall anything about the book! The characters names, setting, even big plot points slip right out of my mind. I feel like if I’m not actively reading the book I forget everything about it. Does this mean the book wasn’t that great if it is so easy to forget?

If you don’t get the relevance of this image you really need to watch Doctor Who.

I really don’t know the answer to my own question. Though, it seems like my favorite books really stick with me. I might forget some names but I do remember the feeling, atmosphere and the plot fairly clearly. There are some books that I still can bring up details that I read years ago. What does this mean? Really, I don’t suppose it is important because I read to enjoy myself but it really had me thinking about book’s longevity in my brain.

I recently was trying to remember a book that I liked (Midnight Thief) and I couldn’t remember barely anything about the details. Even talking with Kelly who was reading it currently I had issues remembering what she was talking about. It seems like this particular book slipped right out of my brain.

On the flip side, how about those books you really didn’t like but oddly enough you can remember so much about it! The last fantasy book I read that I didn’t love (looking at you The Queen of the Tearling) is still pretty clear in my mind. I’m so curious to see if the details fade away the longer it’s been. Perhaps, in retrospect I’ll like the book more since it stuck with me.

Your turn, do you question if a book is that great if you forget a lot of the details quickly after reading?

Comments

  1. says

    This is such a difficult one to define! I really liked All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin, for example, but by the time I started reading the second book in the trilogy, I couldn’t remember any of it. The same with the later books in the Mortal Instruments series (though that was mostly because I was beyond caring by books four and five, not to mention all the spin-offs and prequels published along the way). Being forgettable is obviously a bad quality in a book, but I try and focus on how much I enjoy it when I’m reading – otherwise I’d never be able to give positive ratings!

    • says

      Very good points…and I have forgotten so much about the Mortal Instruments too. I think when there are so many books in a series it becomes almost impossible to keep it all straight. I’m so curious about how the author keeps everything in their mind too. I’d forget small details I’m sure.

  2. says

    Yep this happens to me too. I started writing reviews to try and remember because I felt like I wasted a book by not remembering what I read 🙁 I don’t think forgetting has anything to do with the book itself. Our mind has to deal with the real world and the fictional worlds so it’s hard to remember it all? I think we forget just because we read so much!

    • says

      That is probably a really good point. I’ve always read a good amount but I did a lot of rereading so I think now it’s harder for me to remember details. there’s no way I can remember all the character names, for example.

  3. says

    I get serious book-amnesia about books I loved, too! Unless I’ve re-read it, the details definitely fade away after a while. It doesn’t change my opinion, because weirdly enough I can usually still remember the feeling of reading and loving it!

    That being said, books that *immediately* fade away after finishing – books that are seriously forgettable, where nothing important enough happened that was worth remembering – that definitely affects my opinion.

    • says

      “Book-amnesia” I LOVE that! haha That’s very true about being able to remember how it felt to read the book rather than all the details. I tend to recall that as well. I might not know why I loved it but I know I did.

      And yes, the immediate fades have to have something a bit meh about them to disappear so suddenly.

  4. says

    Hmm, I haven’t had this problem yet ever since I’ve been writing reviews. Writing down what I felt about the book really helps me remember, when beforehand I could barely remember the details too. Maybe it just depends on how much it bothered you or how you really, really liked it. I know I remember 5-star books and 2-star books over 3-star books.

    • says

      I’m envious Valerie! I wish I didn’t’ have this problem. I’d think that writing the review would keep it fresh in my mind but it really hasn’t made much of a difference. And so true about recalling 5 and 2 star books more than 3 star. Great point.

  5. says

    Very good question this one!! I guess that’s what marks the difference sometimes for me between 4 to 5 stars with a book, when I love it and enjoy it but I know it won’t be stuck in my mind in the same way (even if sometimes I will be having issues remembering the right spelling for a character’s name on occasion).
    As far as remembering more about books you didn’t like that the ones you liked… I guess to a point yes, if I get very irritated by something I tend to remember that more than a book that I liked but wasn’t spectacular…

    • says

      Yes, I’d agree! Most of my 5 star books stick with me. They’ve sort of left their mark on my brain. It’s a shame that it’s easy to remember the stuff we hated.

  6. says

    Kris, I was working on something recently that brought up this idea that when you’re really in the moment, versus trying to photograph, or catalog the moment for future reference, you’re less likely to remember the details. So not recalling the details can simply mean you were really engrossed in what you were reading at the time 🙂

    • says

      I love this point Terese! I’d not even contemplated this but now I’m going to think about it and see if I can catch myself forgetting something I was engrossed in. Thank you for sharing!

  7. says

    If I love something or hate a book, I do find I have a better time with remembering them. But I do have issues with book amnesia as well, and I know it can’t be helped since as book bloggers we read so many books a year. My problem’s probably worst with the books that fall in the 3.5-4.5 star range – those that were good but weren’t amazing enough to be 5 stars. I don’t think it means that I didn’t actually enjoy them as I thought I did, just means I have a terrible memory 😛

    • says

      I really didn’t even consider the number of books I’m reading having to do with my forgetfulness. I guess I really should have because, yes, after reading so many books in a similar genre they are bound to merge.

  8. says

    I’m forgetful by nature and usual am reading like 3 books at on r so it I factor this into my reviews it would be a sad sad day. I have to go by my feeling at the time and realized I can’t wait to long to write a review. I read city of heavenly fire about 2 -3 weeks ago and haven’t wrote a review cuz I forgot a lot of stuff and didn’t take notes yet it one of my fav series. I know I did like it at the time. The other issue I have is mixing story lines together from previous book when I start reading the next in a series. Every one is in high school and the dude has a Harley and they have weird marks across there skin and I’m like wait which book is this?! If you saw my house and the amount of post it’s I take to function it might shed some light on this but I’ve learned I have to take notes or wrote the review immediately or it slips away cuz just think of how many books we’ve read. They are dest
    Ned to get tangled In there somewhere even if we loved. Great discussions though Kristen 🙂

      • says

        haha, no problem! I’m right there with you. If I read a series all together I am merge ALL the details and can’t separate anything into the individual books. I take notes while or after I read so that helps but I’m always having to go back and verify names, etc. I also read about 3 books at a time so I wonder how much that impacts our memory. Thanks so much for your thoughts!

  9. says

    I don’t because I forget literally every book. I forget Harry Potter and Percy Jackson and TFIOS. I’ll remember the general idea, but not the specifics, yet I know I loved the book. I think it’s just that I read books like I’m experiencing them, and after they’re over, my time with them is over too until the next one.

    • says

      Great point! For Harry Potter they’ve all merged and I must admit I might confuse the book and the movie :-/ I’ve never read TFIOS or Percy Jackson! I know, horrible!

  10. says

    I completely relate, but I don’t usually read too much into it. I think most of us who read and review simply read SO much it would be impossible to remember every single book. Plus, I think if we did, so many similar books would overlap and we wouldn’t enjoy them as much. I always remember my favorites a bit better, but even those I tend to re-read to refresh myself before I read the next book if it’s a series. Like a few others said, I began reviewing in order to ‘remind’ myself why I enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy) books, especially in the case of books in a series. However, I now read more than I ever have, and if I’m honest, my forgetfulness goes far beyond books. 😉

    • says

      Quantity has to affect our memory. I think you are 100% right about the overlap and how it would interfere with our enjoyment. And YES, my forgetfulness expands to all areas of my life!

  11. says

    I totally have book memory loss. I remember the general idea of the book but the details I tend to forget. I usually have to write a review as soon as I am done with a book if I don’t write anything down. I really thought I was having memory issues lol. I am so glad I am not the only one. I also re-read my reviews a lot to remember stuff. If my review if really short it usually means I waited to long to write it and I didn’t write enough info down but if its long with lots of detail I did the review as soon as I was finished. That reminds me I have a review to write 🙂

    • says

      I’ve found myself rereading my reviews for series! it really does help to see what I thought about something. haha. And I write short reviews for those I can’t remember and didn’t take notes for too. Glad I’m not alone!!

  12. says

    HAH! I love this post Kristen. <3 Thank you for writing and sharing. And I agree SO MUCH. I forget way too much about the books that I enjoy 🙁 So unfair. I just can't remember much of them. But there are some books that I remember a lot about. Like the Graceling books, hih 😀 AND LOL. As you say. The Queen of the Tearling. DAMN THAT BOOK. I want it out of my head :p It was just not good. At least not to me, hih ;p Anyway. Awesome post. <3

    • says

      I wish I could remember more about the books I love. But like others have said, I’m happy that we remember the love we had while reading. haha! I feel that TQotT is going to be in my head for a long time to come.

  13. Nikki R says

    I don’t think I liked a book any less if I can’t remember things about it after I’ve read it. I have memory issues (which bothers me). Maybe it just means I had a lot of other things going on when I was reading it. Or it was a complex book (like The Nighy Circus).

  14. says

    I think the reason behind this is sometimes you tend to read books with the same theme or plot that’s why even if you loved a book to bits you tend to forgot all the things about it. In my case I usually read contemporary books that usually has the same plot. Sometimes I read paranormal and sci-fi books too and often times those are the only books that make me remember everything that it has. I read every contemporary book Abbi Glines has written last year, and this past few months she came out with new ones. Guess what? I had to read everything again from the start because I forgot who’s who and what happened to them before.

    Ella @ The Filipina Booknote

    • says

      I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi so I can totally see how being so in a genre could merge it all together. that’s a great point! I wish I could recall if I was reading another fantasy book at the same time as Midnight Thief. That might be the cause of complete memory loss of it.

  15. says

    I always have trouble remembering details about books I have read, whether I read it a year ago or even a week ago. My memory is horrible. I think it is partly because I read so much! I do however usually remember the big things and characters in all of my most favorite books, but I’m talking about books that blow me away completely like Throne of Glass. I just thank goodreads and my blog for triggering my memory.

    Great post!

    Kay @ It’s a Book Life

  16. says

    I have the same problem! And I’ve been wondering why too, when I obviously liked a book so much, that I forget the details. You would think that if you loved a book, you’d remember more, right? Clearly not in my case. And it’s also a problem when I’m writing reviews, so now I’ve taken to bookmarking (I read more on my kindle) the pages filled with important info I KNOW I’ll probably forget after I’ve finished it. It’s nice to be able to go back instead of fishing for the things I’ve forgotten. But does it mean I loved a book any less? Honestly, I’m not sure. Some of my favorite books don’t completely stick with me for long. Hmm, it’s certainly interesting to wonder about.

    Holly @ Part of that World

  17. says

    Ugh, it is the WORST!!!
    It’s one reason why, if I don’t pre-write a review, I may never review a book that comes out months later.

    Even some of my favorite books have me forgetting details. I always forget the names of the main characters in my favorite book and call them the sisters. I’ve read the Percy Jackson series a few times and when a friend was recently reading it and asking me about stuff, I was like, “No clue.” My memory is really bad. This is one reason I’m so big on re-reading!! And when I don’t have time, I just binge-read the series!

    Today, I’m reviewing a book that I read last WEEK and I’m already struggling to remember details for my ratings guide!

  18. says

    Well, it’s inevitable that we forget the details, especially if we read a lot. I did realize that I remember the books best that evoked strong emotions in me. This means I recall details of books I loved and rated 5 stars but I also remember books that I hated, or that I vehemently disagreed with and so rated 1 star. That’s because emotional investment of those proportions somehow help me remember details much better.

  19. says

    About 70% of the books I read, I more or less forget about. There was a point when I used to think that If I could not remember it, it meant it was not that good. Nowadays, I just think it is because I read a lot more than I used to. Even though I do forget so much, I do remember whether I liked the book or not. I also remember lines from a lot of books. Maybe my brain just likes to hold on to different things.

    I don’t think a book is bad because you forget the details. To be honest, I remember the feelings I had when I was reading a book more than the actual book it’s self.

    Thanks for sharing my dear, great discussion! 🙂 xx

    Alex @ The Shelf Diaries

  20. says

    I forget the details of a book very quickly but I never forget how much I enjoyed a book! I’ll definitely remember my feelings about it but why I felt that way – well that’s another story haha. I just have such a bad memory when it comes to books which is sorta why I started book blogging in the first place! I wanted to write reviews so I could capture my thoughts and feelings and stuff like that.

  21. says

    I truly thought that I was alone in this phenomena;) I devour books when I’m reading them, so I feel like sometimes I can’t retain the details as I should- unless I’ve read something a couple times. Thanks for sharing!

  22. says

    I have a pretty good memory when it comes to books, but when I absolutely LOVED a book I remember more specific details then when I feel indifferent. So from a ‘meh’ book I will still remember the big lines, but nothing too detailed and I will know that about a book I loved. When I hated it, I try to forget it bust most of the times things does stick with me.

  23. says

    Nah, I figure it’s par for the course considering how many books I read and listen to each year. That’s why when I know another installment is coming up for a series I loved, I always try to go back and re-listen to the previous books if they’re available on audio. I have a great memory, but there’s only so much room in there to file everything away, so some things get pushed out to make room for others. 🙁 I don’t think it has any bearing on how much I enjoyed — or didn’t enjoy — a book, though.

  24. says

    I know what you mean. Usually, I have pretty good recall of books I’ve read, especially if something jogs my memory first. But lately, maybe because I haven’t been taking breaks to really process the book before moving on to the next one, all the details aren’t sticking as well. Or maybe it’s that I don’t talk enough about the book as I’m reading it or right after? I don’t know, but you get the idea. You are not alone! 🙂

  25. says

    I forget details pretty quickly, even if I enjoyed the book, the majority of the time. That’s why it is so hard to catch up on reviews if I get behind. That doesn’t mean the book wasn’t good, but somehow it wasn’t memorable enough to me. After a while books start to blur together. It is sad.

Trackbacks

  1. […] I am pretty sure I found Kris’s blog, My Friends are Fiction, first on Twitter, but if I hadn’t I’m sure Regina would have pointed me in that direction eventually. I am envious of Kris’s naming abilities, because My Friends are Fiction says it perfectly. While Kris is known for her Lego art, more on that later, I really enjoy Kris’s discussions. Topics like Do You Mind The Wait Between Books, wherein she talks about the pressure authors face to publish quicker to satisfy reader impatience. She also poses philosophical reading questions like why we can’t remember the details of a book we just read. […]

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