How to Stop Forgetting What You Read

stop forgetting what you read

Many of us struggle to remember what we read.

We read a popular book but fail to recall its content.

Sometimes, it can be kind of embarrassing.

We tell our friend we‘ve read this amazing book. But, once we‘re asked to explain what that book is about and why you like it that much, we can‘t give a satisfying answer.

We just forgot what we read.

And, when we don‘t remember vital details, reading can feel like wasting time. The book loses its true value.


What‘s the cause for forgetting what we read?

Well, usually, we read passively. To kill time.

Instead of reading to extract information and gain understanding, we use the book as a sedative. Hence, we fail to make rich impressions on our memory.

Although, sometimes we just want to relax and send our minds on a trip, if we wish to develop our minds and get more out of a book than the casual reader, we‘ve got to put in some extra work.

Caveat: Before we continue, let me remark that reading for comprehension and retention is slow. A lot slower. Okay, but is it worth it? Just let me give you a quote:

When we speak of someone as “well-read,” we should have this ideal in mind. Too often, we use that phrase to mean the quantity rather than the quality of reading. A person who has read widely but not well deserves to be pitied rather than praised. As Thomas Hobbes said, “If I read as many books as most men do, I would be as dull-witted as they are.” Mortimer J. Adler

Now, let‘s get to the practical „how-to“ part.


How to stop forgetting what you read:

1. Improving comprehension of what you read:

  • Full attention. Read each sentence as if it were dissolved after your first reading. If you don‘t get the meaning the first time, go back and reread it.
  • Full comprehension. After each chapter or paragraph, ask yourself, „What is the writer talking about?“
    Want to make sure you really understood the author? Test yourself comprehension paraphrasing what you‘ve read. Insights you miss in a single sentence may be of major importance later on.
  • Accumulate & Translate. Use a dictionary for words you don‘t understand and write these words, including their translation, on a piece of paper. Before and ideally after each reading session, you want to go over your growing vocabulary list.
  • Visualize. Try visualizing crucial scenes. Strive to establish a clear mental picture of concepts, scenes and characters. If you can envision it, you understand it.
If you never ask yourself any questions about the meaning of a passage, you cannot expect the book to give you any insights you do not already possess.Mortimer J. Adler

Already, you‘ll find, the process of reading with the intention to truly grasp what the author is saying, boost your comprehension and retention.

Anyway, we can bring it to the next level. Follow the steps below for books that are really important to you:


2. Remembering more of what you read.

  • Review, at the end of each chapter, the main ideas, scenes, happenings you‘ve gotten out of it.
  • Then, after each reading session review all you‘ve read so far. Do this after each and every session, adding new content to your reviews.

Gradually you‘ll digest and master the whole book, make it your own. You‘ll quickly recognize, your reading retention will go through the roof.

Again, this way, you‘ll read a lot slower. Yet, your gain will outweigh the extra time you‘ve got to invest by far.

Follow these steps and you‘ll easily remember the story/contents of a book and gain much pleasure in „re-reading“ the whole book in your mind.

To get started, I recommend you pick a thin book so that it won‘t feel overwhelmed right at the start.

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