How to remember everything you read

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Dutifully takes out sheet of paper. Writes copious notes and “mind-map” networks.

Opens “Winnie-the-Pooh”.

Starts erasing.


Sweet honey in the rock, just no.
XOXO, Funes


This is eerily reminiscent of the 1st/2nd grade reading homework my daughter was given.

She’d get some short book about say, ladybugs, and the accompanying worksheet had very similar steps. Of course, the first step just completely baffled by daughter: “Why am I being asked to write what I know about the book before I read it???”

I also remember that the assignment instructing to stop after the first “chapter” to do something similar, but because the book was short she’d plow through the rest of the book anyway.


Or - think about what you’re reading as you read it. Simpler and doesn’t waste time and paper making piles of notes.


I mark passages I want to remember in pencil and flag them with a little slip of paper as I’m reading a book. After I finish the book, I go back and copy all those quotes into my computer and now have an “electronic commonplace book” of my reading.

This lets me capture what interests me about a book and gives me a second visit while copying and even a third visit while proofreading. It’s been enormously helpful in my writing as I can search for those quotes and ideas I need in the history of my reading that I’ve kept.

PS: Why would anyone want to remember EVERYTHING they’ve read? It’s all too much. I want to remember what moved me and that’s about it.


Stricks me as uselss crap. I kind of enjoy forgetting about a book like, say, Agatha Christie, and being able to reread again is if new. Books that usually take longer to read like Tolstoy, David Foster Wallace or Cormac McCarthy also seem to be easier to retain. It took me a full year to get through Blood Meridian and 5 years for Infinite Jest. Nonetheless, I was always able to pick right back up where I left off with no problem.


Possibly useful for nonfiction books you have to read, don’t want to read, and know that you will not enjoy.
But ugh.

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Another technique is to read as little as possible so your have less to remember.


Forgetting fiction is one thing but I would certainly like to remember more of the nonfiction books I read (or listen to as is more often the case). I feel like that’s the whole point of even reading nonfiction: to learn new stuff but if I can’t remember most of it then it’s almost pointless.


Right after I develop the self discipline to stop scrolling thru boing boing comments, I will dedicate the time to select a book and read it in a focused way. Then I will try this the next time.


I can’t see doing this for anything not nonfiction.

I did the same on an analog approach, but I’ve switched my commonplace notebook into an index file for serious work. I just find it easier to shuffle and scan, easier even than building something like a wiki.

You are a Tenth Generation AI hologrammatic computer, possibly in charge of running operations on a mining vessel, and I claim my £5.

Strange, I wasn’t even considering non-fiction and I do read a fair amount of it. Would not have worked for Heidegger’s Being and Time tho I was using yellow marker on that one but gave up pretty quickly when I realized literally every thing I’d read so far was marked in yellow. ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ did that as a joke also, which cracked me up.


Heidegger? I wish I could get my time used back.
Although, his prose does groove:

That’s a great system…I always say I’m going to do that, since there have been many times that I recall something interesting but can’t locate it again. But inevitably I get lazy and just read the book.

I can’t imagine doing what the article says, unless you’re really trying to deep-learn a difficult topic.

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