Why You Forget Books You Just Read

Have you ever started reading a book, only to realize a few chapters in that you’ve read it before? Do you struggle describing the last novel you read to your friends? Before you get alarmed, rest assured that this is a very common problem, especially for avid readers.

Reasons Behind the Forgetfulness

The editor of The New York Times Book Review, Pamela Paul, admits that even she struggles with reading retention. Only two days after finishing a book, Paul found herself unable to recall the information she just learned. Post-reading forgetfulness can happen to anyone, and it can be due to a number of reasons, such as:

  • Reading too fast. Research has shown that the “forgetting curve” drops the most in the first 24 hours after learning something, so quickly devouring a book in a day or two probably won’t help you retain the information.
  • Becoming distracted. It can be easy for your mind to wander while reading without even realizing it. Sometimes you may be looking at the page, but not really focusing.
  • Insufficient recall memory. Recall memory is becoming more unneeded in our world because we can simply look up anything online!

Ways to Fight Forgetfulness

Author Darius Foroux writes, “Only read books that teach you how to overcome your current challenges.” Even if you read fiction novels or only read for entertainment, you can still apply the book to your own life by finding relatable characters and being inspired by them! Once you choose your next novel, here’s some advice to fight forgetfulness:

  • Take your time. “Binge-watching” TV shows can be tempting, but studies show that those who only watch a show once or twice a week had better recall and they reported enjoying the show more than those who watched several episodes at once. The same applies to reading; give yourself time in between chapters to reflect on what you read.
  • Build association. Associate events from the book to your own life. For example, think about what the character is experiencing and recall a time when you went through something similar.
  • Write notes (yes, even if you read for fun). Writing notes helps boost your memory, but more importantly, you can easily look through all the information you learned over years of reading instead of letting the memories fade away. So go ahead, scribble in the margins, highlight your favorite quotes, and summarize your favorite chapters. Your future self will thank you!

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