Welcome to today’s edition of Time to Ponder Books. Lately, I’ve been thinking about memory and reading. I’ve often confessed to struggling to retain any information unless a book’s characters attach themselves to me emotionally. Novels like The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton, Cruddy by Lynda Barry, and Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell (which I am currently re-reading aloud to my husband) have memorable characters whose thoughts and actions stick out in my head (though I may for get a character’s name).
Series are easier to remember because the first book is the lesson and the following are more like quizzes to cram for the final, series like Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, The Brigid series by Sheila Lamb, or Pigs Don’t Fly by Mary Brown. Then again, you have to commit yourself to a whole series, which not everyone wants to do. Currently, I’m co-hosting a read along of
fifteen sixteen books out of a series of 35 novels, all by Mercedes Lackey, all set in the Valdemar and surrounding kingdoms. Do you enjoy series? I tend to because I get obsessive.
But what about those single books, fiction and non, that I read and forget right away? I’m trying something new to push my memory: I’m reading multiple books at the same time.
As I mentioned in my Sunday Lowdown #11 post, I am currently reading five novels. Each day, I give myself reading homework, and I have to tell you, it keeps my anxiety down. My whole life I have despised Sundays because they are oftentimes unstructured days of rest (whether you’re doing it for a Christian reason or not). Not knowing what to do with a whole day of my life scares me. Then thinking about how many Sundays there are on the calendar each year (the answer is 53); that’s almost 8 weeks of not know what to do with my life per year. You may be thinking, “Quit mathing, duh” but this is how anxiety works.
Having “homework” gives me purpose. I have something I have to do each day, and if I get behind, I have to make it up when I can. I know you are all going to leave comments about how you don’t like forcing reading or feeling like reading is a chore. You likely have a nice, fairly organized life and feel like you have purpose every day. Perhaps enjoying a book when you want to is your purpose on Sunday. That’s not how my brain works.
But, there has been an interesting side effect that I did not predict: reading so many books at the same time has increased my retention of all the books. Again, the names are gone, but I can tell you the basic plot of Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky, which I read in January, along with four other books. I’ll ramble off facts from Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick, read in February. The fat college girl and her baseball-playing boyfriend — Natalie and Thierry, I just remembered! — from This Much Space by K.K. Hendin are easy to dredge up, and so are those wonderfully emotional moments between them.
During 2019, I’ve also read seven books by Mercedes Lackey, and I could spend hours telling you all about the system of magic, Gifts, bond animals, Taledras, who’s dating or lifebonded to whom, which battles were fought, characteristics of the people in each kingdom, and how Vanyel changed the course of Valdemar history. Typically, I review a book and forget it; if you took a week or more to comment on my review, I would have to re-read my own review to remember the book!
So. If you have anxiety and love reading, you may want to try giving yourself mini goals to keep your mental health in a good place. And you may even get more long term out of your reading experience.