How Do You Hold Onto What You Read?

by Rachel Baker on May 25, 2014

This is an interesting guest post over at Book Riot by Ashley Riordan.

The post looks at how we remember what we’ve read. Old Musty Books was originally started so I could remember the good books I’ve read. As time has gone on, the site morphed into something else – not just a way to remember the books, but also some of the articles about books and what-nots (still trying to define what a what-not is) and quotes that I wanted to remember because they “spoke” to me.

I am convinced that every book I love is going to be the one that changes my life. I burn through the pages, covering them with black ink, underlining every sentence. I cannot believe how specifically this book applies to my life or how it is rearranging my normal pattern of thought. I finish it in a hurry and convince all of my friends they have to read it right away. Then I put the book on a shelf and almost immediately forget about it.

Forget is a strong word. I remember that I loved the book and even continue to recommend it to other people, but what was specific about it and what nobody but those who read it could understand is quickly lost to me. Fiction has a way of taking over my life and coloring the way I see everything for a brief period of time, and later it is hard to even recall those experiences in any detail.

I recently read a collection of essays by Jonathan Franzen called How to Be Alone that gave me an entirely new way to think about what it means to be a reader. I was so full of ideas as I was reading and forming quick connections with other things I had both read and experienced. But when I sat down to write about the book weeks later, I could no longer remember what had been so profound about it and was at a loss to explain the experience I had reading it.

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