Forgetting Books

If you forget what happened, did you really read it? Read about how to improve your book memory.

If you forgot what happened in a book after you’ve read it, does it count in having read it? I mean, if you can’t recall what the book is about, how are you any better than someone who has not read it?

It’s a frustrating curse that many voracious readers struggle with. Myself included! Though I have yet to completely forget a book, it is not uncommon. I believe that even if you forget about having read a said book, that it still counts as having been read. Books sometimes leave emotional marks on our memory and can still contribute to our overall experience and personality. Often times, the book isn’t completely lost from your memory either, as anyone who has ever picked up a book and realized that they are already familiar with it. I find I can often remember how a book made me feel, even if I can’t remember the plot.

Most of us skim books when we read and in order to retain more here are a few tips to start practicing with your next novel:

Slow down – this one is obvious. Practice active reading. In order to remember more, slow down your pace. The book isn’t a race to the finish. Think about the words you’re reading. I know, we all have reading goals but sometimes quality and retention is more important.

Write down and take notes – this isn’t meant to be a chore and take the fun out of reading so write down plots and characters that intrigue you. Or perhaps a question you have about a characters decision or plot line.

Research – look up words you don’t know in the dictionary or a piece of history or geography you don’t know anything about.

Tall about it – don’t like the book or a character? Rant to your friends. Better yet, if the book is good, recommend it and discuss pinnacle points. Don’t have bookish friends?  Try the Good reads community or Reddit.

Track your reading – this has been my own  biggest remembrance tool. You can use a spreadsheet or a site like Goodreads. Even better, write reviews or quick personal notes within a short time frame of finishing the book so you don’t lose those impressions. Lazy? Take a picture with your phone and write a caption.

Have you ever forgotten a book? Any tips I missed? Let me know your experiences.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro does have a way of delicately discussing intense matters and the twist, which is nearly science fiction, brings up all sorts of moral questions.

A delicate dystopian novel.

3/5 stars.
Hardcover, 288 pages.
Read from July 13 to 19, 2016.

This novel has been nominated for a few awards and is frequently on lists as one of the books that we should read before we die. Ishiguro has won other awards with some of his other works and is often praised for his simple style of writing on complicated scenarios and his ability to merge literary fiction with a dystopian setting. As of lover of anything to do with reading lists, I was anxious to add this book to pile.

Kathy, Ruth and Tommy are students at an exclusive and secluded boarding school in England called Hailsham but not everything is as it appears. The students are told that they are special but are never really told why, but whispers from the teachers and rumours from the students start to unfold the horrifying truth about the real reason these students are attending the school. Kathy recalls how the the three of them grew up in Hailsham and has mixed feelings of fondness as she comes to terms with the fate that the three of them, and all the other students at Hailsham share. As an adult, Ruth and Tommy enter Kathy’s life again and the three of them try to make up for the time that they are quickly losing.

It is difficult to summarize the plot without giving away the novel but Ishiguro slowly builds the plot through Kathy so that as a reader you are not sure what is truly going with these students until halfway through the novel. The twist is nearly that of science fiction and brings up all sorts of moral questions. Ishiguro does have a way of delicately discussing intense matters. However, I do feel that that was the major fault of this novel. This book is simple, too simple in my opinion, for the moral content it is discussing. I felt like I was reading a young adult novel, not an nominated piece of literary fiction.

I wanted more than what Ishiguro offered me. That isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the novel, but there were aspects of it that I found petty. For example, it wasn’t until the last half of the novel that I came to like the characters in the book. Ruth is not a good friend and I was constantly waiting for the day when Kathy would get some sense and end things with her and as a result I did not like Kathy until later in the novel. Tommy I always sympathized with however. My questions are why didn’t the students run away when they had a chance? Once they were older and knew what was coming, why didn’t they run for it? I can’t imagine that they all managed to accept their fates without question, especially once they had a taste for the real world. Were they too afraid of finding their doubles? Was it part of their re-wired genetics to never question their own purpose? I never got those answers but perhaps that is what makes this novel so haunting.

However, the setting of this book is beautifully done. The tiny details of the how the school functioned, the teachers who had moral issues with the information students were given about their special situation, Kathy dancing and singing with a pillow, and of course once they became carers were what I felt were the pinnacles in this book and were the foundation to the subtle and emotional contexts that the reader connects with. It was these aspects that sat with me long after I finished the novel. So needless to say, Ishiguro still accomplished his job with me as a reader.

This story asks moral questions in regards to medicine and cloning and the moral risks that come in regards to curing illnesses. How do we make moral decisions in medicine on our abilities to play with genetics and creation? How do we make the means worth the ends and does something/someone have to suffer as a result? The ultimate question being, just because we can, does it mean we should?  I imagine because of the questions that this book asks that it has become a timeless piece of fiction.

Overall, Ishiguro has made me curious and I am very interested in reading more by him. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys sci-fi plots without spaceships and for those looking for something outside the standard dystopian.

The University Library: The Glorified Internet Café

How will students in this generation know the reward of researching and find their own sources? How will they ever appreciate a library if all they know of one is rows and rows of computers and docking stations?

I have an extreme soft spot for libraries, as I’m sure many of you who are reading this do as well. They’ve always been a place of comfort, knowledge and escape for me. I even worked at the library of the University I was attending back when I was pursuing my degree in English. However, when I revisited this library  a few years after graduation I was shocked with what it’s become.

With the creation and emergence of e-books, the literary world has changed forever and most of it has been for the better. Authors can self-publish now and reach a vast audience with an e-book, where they may have struggled before.  Many of us no longer have to tote a massive book bag around to accommodate our reading habits and we can read a book at click of a mouse now. However, with all of this convenience, most of us would never give up the touch, feel and smell of the real thing or the experience of browsing a bookstore or a library.

When I went to revisit this University library I walked into a brand new building that is half the size of the previous library I was used to. I thought to myself that there is no way that this is a library now. I mean, in all seriousness, where are all the books?!  I was horrified to discover that in the last few years the University put 75% of their books into storage and had opened a ‘Digital Library’. I was literally flabbergasted. What is a library without books? The building that used to contain twelve glorious stories of books is now an office building and this massive University has turned their library into a fancy and expensive looking internet café.  Students can now get the content they need for their studies from the internet catalouge. I do admit the thought of being able to get some resources directly to my computer would have been helpful for some of my essays during my years as a student, however, nothing was more helpful than actually having the book in my hand.  I don’t know if I’m even capable of retaining information from content I’ve read from an internet journal without the ability to touch the page, place a sticky or a bookmark something for easy reference.

I am beyond sad with this transition. I understand the need to have resources available through the internet but to remove most of the books from a library is a step too far and not in the right direction. How will students know the reward of researching and find their own sources? How will they ever appreciate a library if all they know of one is rows and rows of computers and docking stations? Where is the beauty in that? I do believe that a great balance can be found between books and technology but the obliteration of the need for a physical book is beyond me. But maybe I am turning into an old lady at the ripe age of thirty.

Has a library close to you undergone a similar change?

*Photo: University of Calgary Digital Library