Recalling and Not Recalling Novels We’ve Read

Those of us who love novels have read hundreds or thousands of them during our lifetimes. Why do we vividly remember the content of some of those books while the vast majority become a sort of blur?

(Brief interlude: See the end of this post for a link to a great podcast on what makes a novel a classic novel. Hosted by Rebecca Budd, with guests Shehanne Moore and me!)

Of course, part of the reason we strongly recall the content of a relatively small percentage of books is that there’s only so much room in our brains. But there are other remembrance or forgetfulness factors to contemplate.

Obviously, novels that are our personal favorites have the potential to stick around in our brains. For me, those books include Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, among others. But if we like a novel without it being one of our very favorites, the book’s details can fade as recently read titles fill our minds — and as months, years, or decades pass. Yes, when it comes to remembering, it helps to have read something not very long ago.

The best novels ever written, even if not among our personal top 10, can also be memorable — as are, say, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (subject of a terrific current “readalong” led by blogger Liz Humphreys of Scotland along with blogger Elisabeth van der Meer of Finland and the aforementioned podcaster/blogger Rebecca Budd of Canada); Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man; and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. Yet I read each of those three masterpieces long enough ago to have forgotten much of their content. 

It almost goes without saying that rereading a novel keeps it fresh in our memory banks. My reading the three above-named classics just once apiece surely has helped lead to not having clear recollections of their stories and characters. In contrast, I’ve returned to Jane Eyre and The Grapes of Wrath several times.

I’ve also reread and re-reread The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But that’s not the only reason why I remember the content of those J.R.R. Tolkien works so well; it’s also because those four books are quite original. That kind of fantasy fiction wasn’t a big thing when Tolkien’s pioneering creations were published, though they’ve certainly been much-imitated since.

Among the other factors helping us recall the details of certain novels are adaptations into movies (the Harry Potter films, anyone?); the presence of especially indelible protagonists (think Atticus and Scout Finch of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird); masterful prose (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is an obvious example); unusual levels of violence (as in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian); etc.

The mention of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter saga reminds me that various series enter into this discussion, too. When a series has quite a few books, each novel might blend with another in our memories. 

I’ve found this to be the case with Lee Child’s 20-plus Jack Reacher novels (now co-written with Andrew Child). Every time I read a new Reacher installment — as I did last week with 2021’s Better Off Dead — I’m absolutely enthralled. Each novel is so page-turning that I read it in a day or two. But, looking back, I can barely remember what each book was about. Did that one feature such and such a crime? Or was that in a different adventure of the roaming Reacher? Heck, where WAS the setting of a particular Child novel?

Maybe the confusion is partly because the Reacher novels all have some similarities. Maybe it’s also because the books are not super-deep, though far from frivolous. But I sure enjoy the reading experience before things go down the memory hole.

Of course, Wikipedia and other online sources are quite valuable in fishing fiction facts out of that memory hole. I use them often. 🙂

To conclude, maybe it’s not super important to recall many details of lots of novels. Even if those details are mostly forgotten on the top of our minds, the best books are still part of us — having enriched us and shaped our consciousness in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. 

Any thoughts on this topic?

Re that aforementioned podcast, brilliant host Rebecca Budd brought together three distant places — her home city of Vancouver, Canada; Dundee, Scotland; and Montclair, New Jersey — when she spoke with brilliant novelist/blogger Shehanne Moore and myself about what makes a novel a classic novel. (As you know, Rebecca and Shehanne are frequent commenters here, as are the aforementioned Liz Humphreys and Elisabeth van der Meer.) Thanks, also, to Rebecca’s husband Don for his production expertise in making the tri-country connection happen. You can click on this link to listen:

My literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the 2003-started/award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com every Thursday. The latest piece — about contradictory words and actions by my town’s mayor and League of Women Voters — is here.

160 thoughts on “Recalling and Not Recalling Novels We’ve Read

  1. I’ll try not to drown you in the same book over and over again (though I’m sure you’ll be the last person to complain if I do) but I distinctly remember where I was the first time I finished Jane Eyre. I’m a sucker for what I call ‘accidental romances’ and one of the best things about them is not knowing if they’ll end up together. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it as much, if not more, with my re-read.

    I feel like it’s been ages since I mentioned Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. I’ve read those books so many times that I feel like I know every word of them. A big plus to having physical books is the fact that I can dip into any of those seven novels and just read certain favourite passages and pages. A bit harder to do on my e-reader!

    Dave, something that I love about this blog is how personal you allow us to be. I could say I’m on page 165 of Jane Eyre and just leave it there, but I love remembering where I was the first time around. I remember it was cold and rainy and there was no possibility of walking so I had to spend the afternoon on the couch reading!

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    • Thank you, Susan, for your comment and the kind words about the blog! It’s very nice to hear about yours and others’ personal elements relating to literature. 🙂 Loved your riff on the first line of “Jane Eyre” in your last line. 🙂

      Yes, there are advantages to both first reads and rereads. Not knowing what’s going to happen in a novel can be thrilling and suspenseful (how WILL “Jane Eyre” end?) but rereads definitely offer comfort, not-noticed-before nuances and foreshadowing, etc.

      Glad “The Dark Tower” series continues to give you pleasure!

      Like

  2. Hi Dave. I often recall passages and characters, but can’t place them to a specific title. Usually I don’t care, but occasionally I’ll sleuth out the source just to ease my fading mind. And sometimes that leads to an enjoyable second visit.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, James!

      Nice observation about recalling passages and characters but not necessarily recalling the exact title they’re in. That’s happened to me, too. Heck, sometimes a specific passage and a specific character can be a lot more memorable than the book as a whole. 🙂 (Though that’s not the only reason for the partial rather than full remembrance.)

      And, as you say, it can be satisfying to match the passage and/or character with the novel or other literary work.

      Like

  3. I love the idea of re-reading but there are so many more books I want to get to. My blog is for anyone who loves writing &/or books. If you think it might help you or be fun for my followers to meet you, I’d love if you’d do guest blog post for my site. If you’re so inclined, here’s a link to general guidelines: https://wp.me/p6OZAy-1eQ GUESTING

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  4. dave as I have read so many of Lee child`s books, they are all different from one another. But now when I look at the titles I don`t know which one that I have read or have missed

    Jack Reacher
    1. Killing Floor (1997).2. Die Trying (1998), 15. Worth Dying For (2010)13. Gone Tomorrow (2009) and latest 26. Better off Dead (2021)

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  5. I have also noticed that ‘Series Blending’ effect with the Cat Who series…..It seems like I enjoyed all the books, but I only remember the ending of one, because it was especially interesting. (In fact,the ending being interesting is probably the only thing I remember about the ending!)

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  6. After hearing the podcast on classics I found that many plays, such as those by Shakespeare, Ibsen, or Chekov, short stories, novellas, poems, and even many non-fiction and philosophical works can be considered classics.

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  7. I remember novels such as, ‘ Jane Eyre’, ‘Sons and lovers’ ‘ Gone with the Wind’ ‘Hard Times’, also plays such as ‘ Dr. Faustus’, ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ ‘ Merchant of Venice’ “ Waiting for Godot’ also many short stories… I guess it’s the content and length.
    I couldn’t enjoy ‘100 years of solitude’ by Marquez due to repetitive names and length. I’ve similar issues with Russian writers some times.
    Now I prefer short-stories over lengthy novels… one I can’t finish, second I can’t remember.

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    • Thank you, Tanya!

      You remember many all-time-great novels and plays. 🙂

      Similar-sounding character names (along with various nicknames) and long length can indeed make remembering a novel more challenging.

      And I’m glad you brought up short stories — some can be incredibly memorable, and their briefer length than novels can help with that. A lot packed into a little space.

      Some of the short stories I remember most include many of Poe’s along with Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” Herman Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener,” Leo Tolstoy’s “Master and Man,” O. Henry’s “The Last Leaf,” Guy de Maupassant’s “The Necklace,” Graham Greene’s “Proof Positive,” John Cheever’s “The Swimmer,” Ambrose Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek,” Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost,” etc.

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      • I remember, ” A Little Boy” by Dostoevsky, ” Pendulum” and ” Last Leaf” by O.Henry, Tolstoy’s, “God Watches but Waits”, Guy de Maupassant’s “Le Horla”,
        ” Necklace”, Tagore’s ” The Home Coming” Oscar Wilde’s ” The Last Leaf”
        Poe’s ” The Tell Tale Heart” …may be more 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Rosaliene! Eloquently stated, and I agree that a great novel can do what you say! I guess we remember some novels almost on a subconscious level — after those books sort of change our consciousnesses.

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  8. The piles before me are probably larger than the piles of books behind me. I always intended to be well-read, but also, to read whatever I wished to read next– I followed no plan. As I enter my 70’s, I realize I might have read widely, but cannot escape the feeling I have merely skittered across the surface of a great many books, in my appetite to get on to the next one, without attempting to plumb the depths for very long.

    And I don’t remember a great deal of what most people like to consider: plots, scenes, even characters. What spurred me to read to the finish of a novel was the authorial voice, and what remains in me, if not the memory of that voice, is the recollection of its power to charm and keep my attention as the pages passed.

    I would probably feel more grounded, and well-versed, in my reading life had I read and re-read a few very good books, rather than read many but once. I have the same feeling about music– I have listened to quite a lot of it, but too little often enough to know it thoroughly.

    But it seems to be my nature to go next where my interests take me, which are more constant over time than not, more constant than my best intentions. There are books hereabouts I bought 20 years ago that are books I still want to read, and would be, if I were seeing them today for the first time.

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    • Thank you, jhNY! All very well said!

      I think that whatever reading regimen/approach a person has is the right one for them. I realize you have some partial dissatisfaction about your regimen/approach, but you’re still a hell of a dedicated and eclectic reader. Plus letting things happen sort of spontaneously sounds good to me!

      And a great point that “voice” can be a big part of what we remember about a novel. A memorable authorial voice is a thing to behold.

      Yes, rereading more novels has its benefits in terms of getting a deeper understanding of a book and remembering it better, but it does cut down on reading novels for the first time — a trade-off I certainly don’t want to make at this point.

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      • That trade-off is one I often think I ought to make, but never do, and don’t feel like doing…

        But thinking about what I wrote– which probably should happen more thoroughly before I send things in to the site– I realized that a majority of my favorites in recent years are authors I have encountered post-translation, so the voice I like is an approximation of the original speaker, hopefully a very good one, but not, say, Lampedusa as he wrote in Italian. Stendahl, Joseph Roth, Bruno Shulz, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky all came into my circle of favorites through translation!

        Even one of my latest enjoyments– Arthur Golding– is a 16th century English translator of Ovid who wrote, of course, in Latin. My latest infatuation, poetry division is Li He, a Chinese poet who wrote more than 1000 years ago, but again, in English, as I know no Chinese.

        I am just now slowly going through “Eugene Onegin” by reading Falen’s and Hofstadter’s and Nabokov’s translations, while also following along the verses with Nabokov’s copious and entertaining notes on them. (The native Russian’s “literal” translation is the ugliest, and Hofstadter’s the most sensual– but I suspect that Falen’s is the best-realized.)

        In these same recent years, the writers of English with whom I have spent most enjoyable time are essayists: Hazlitt and De Quncey. And of course, several detective fiction makers. But even among the detective fictioneers, Camilleri, wrote in Italian first.

        I’m wondering, given that my grandfather and grandmother spoke and wrote in several languages, as did my father, so that my home was filled with foreign languages (and often foreigners), if there’s something retained in the structure of the original language– German or Russian, for example– that comes through in translation, and if I find it comforting to get my English through that filter, as it reminds me of home.

        Or it could be, that I am more eager to know things from elsewhere in the world, if for no better reason than the change in perspective and general concerns that comes from voices from far away in time and place. I have certainly gathered a few books of Roman painting over the years, as much for their entire lack of Christian iconography as from their intrinsic beauty.

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        • Well, if you don’t feel like doing the trade-off, your psyche is telling you something that you’re wisely listening to!

          Reading a number of authors who have been translated into English sounds good to me! You’re getting a wide reading experience and a wide cultural experience. And I can see how your family history would have something to do with that.

          Glad you’re reading “Eugene Onegin,” and going about it so comprehensively and conscientiously! As I mentioned before, I was really bowled over by that Pushkin novel in poetry.

          Like

  9. I feel that the greatest novels that I ever read may or may not be the most memorable or the ones I most enjoy reading. I would consider the greatest novels I read to be “War And Peace” and “Anna Karenina” followed closely by “Crime And Punishment”. Those novels have a psychological and emotional complexity that I find in few other novels. However “War And Peace” has an epic sprawl that makes it hard to remember the details and “Crime And Punishment” has all those complex characters’ names.

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      • I found that when I finished reading Henry James’ “The Portrait Of A Lady” I thought it was the greatest non-Russian novel that I have ever read mainly due to the complex and highly realistic portrayal of the title character. This is probably the best portrayal of a female character by a male author that I have ever encountered. However, I don’t remember much about this novel after I read it.

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        • I also loved “The Portrait of a Lady” — my favorite Henry James novel — when I read it maybe five (?) years ago. I remember some of it, and don’t remember the rest. There are indeed cases where one can love a great classic novel and still not remember a good chunk of it (without a reread). The human brain works in interesting ways. 🙂

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  10. I must say, Dave, having now read all the comments, that this post has certainly resulted in a fabulous conversation. I don’t see Rebecca yet and I shall be back to see what she has to say about this topic. Rebecca seems to have book quotes coming out of her ears and I am very impressed.

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  11. HI Dave, I think this “Maybe the confusion is partly because the Reacher novels all have some similarities. Maybe it’s also because the books are not super-deep,” nails it. We tend to remember things that provoked deep thought or affected us on a deeply personal level. I do believe I have an unusual memory as I can remember work I performed or transaction I worked on from years and years ago. I can also remember a fair amount of detail from many books I’ve read over my lifetime. In particular, I remember many of the children’s books I loved and could find selected paragraphs contained in those books. I can do the same for many classic books like Wuthering Heights (read once), Jane Eyre (twice), Tess of the D’Urbervilles (twice), The Scarlett Letter (once), A Journal of the Plague Year (twice), Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities (all once), and Dracula (once). I can also remember the plots of all of King’s early books some of which I read at a young age. The books I don’t remember are Agatha Christie’s books (except for And Then There Were None and Murder on the Orient Express), the Hardy Boys, The Three Investigators, and others in a similar vein. Strangely enough, I can remember most of the Famous Five books which I just loved. It is fascinating how the brain and memory works when it comes to information.

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  12. Your sentence, Dave, that books are still a part of us, even if we do not remember them well, really calmed me down !
    As I am traveling these days in my mind to places, I wanted to go to because of a book I had read, I would like to mention “The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal” which made me look and find the Ephrussi bank in Odessa and this combination was, for me, absolutely special.
    I thank you very much for having so much understanding for people’s weeknesses:)

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  13. I recall impressions and scenes. It doesn’t matter if the author was brilliant, the subject matter dense or an interesting Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew. To me some of the very best condensations of the novel belong to Barbara Park. She manages to tell big stories in little space. The genesis of all story, from the most verbose to understatement, is the same. Beyond that it’s a matter of style. And that’s what we remember more often than not. The telling more than the tale.

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    • Thank you, Phil!

      Excellent points, well stated. A novel indeed doesn’t have to be a literary classic to contain memorable scenes and leave memorable impressions. Many children’s books and young-adult novels are certainly in that category — with our recall helped by those works being among the first books we ever read, or books we read to our kids. Among them Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones books!

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    • HI Phil, I do believe you are correct about this. It is the telling and the way of the telling that invokes the emotion or thought process that enables us to remember. I must admit that other than The Hardy Boys book The Clue of the Screeching Owl, and The Three Investigators Dead Man’s Riddle, I don’t remember any of these stories although I read them all. The first scared the living daylights out of me [I’ve no idea why] and the second and these rhyming verses using cockney slang which I found fascinating.

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  14. Hi Dave, firstly thanks so much for the generous highlighting of our #WarAndPeace2022 readalong, which is really appreciated. And second, this is another fascinating topic. I find my memory with books can be rather fallible. In some cases, I have fond memories of a particular title and when I go back to re-read it I wonder what on earth I was thinking!! In other cases, I can be reading a book which feels familiar, only to realise that I had read it before and completely forgotten. And then of course there are beloved books which just feel part of one’s DNA. Gaskell’s North and South is one such for me, as is Miss Garnet’s Angel by Sally Vickers and The Love of Stones by Tobias Hill. Probably my most beloved book of all is non-fiction: The Snow Geese by William Fiennes. But then, yes, Dr Zhivago, that’s got to have a place somewhere….. And there are probably many more that I’ll be horrified not to have mentioned – there goes that fallible memory again haha.

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    • You’re very welcome, Liz! Having a year-long “War and Peace” read-along is a stroke of genius. 🙂

      And thank you for the wide-ranging comment! Yes, remembering or not remembering novels has all kinds of variations — including fallibility. I’ve been there, too. And I like your use of the acronym DNA to describe how some books become a part of us. So true!

      I am VERY interested in reading “North and South” if my local library has it.

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    • Thank you, Dave, for your support and encouragement of life-affirming conversations and for creating a space that offers belonging and great discussion venue. You had me thinking all day yesterday and into today. What do we remember? Why do we remember? At what age do we remember best. I remember full sentences from books that I read in my childhood and teens, beginning with One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, which is why reading at a young age is essential. Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and Narnia along with The Count of Monte Christo, Animal Farm, Tess, Mutiny on the Bounty and Of Human Bondage come to mind for my teen years.

      As you know, I love quotes and have them always close by. That is how I remember – taking words that have touched me deeply. They have come from both non-fiction and fiction. These are some of the thoughts that remind me to live with courage and hope, accepting risk and defeat, embracing the joy and excitement of being alive and fully awake to possibilities.

      From Janice Eyre: “Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

      From Circe by Madeline Miller: “He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”

      From Deafening by Frances Itani: “Some grief is so big, it has to be held in.”

      From Sun Tzu, The Art of War: “Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life.

      P.S. You and Shehanne are awesome!

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      • Thank you, Rebecca, for the eloquent and heartfelt comment — and for the kind words about Shehanne and I!

        Wow — four memorable quotes in one posting. What a treat. 🙂

        I agree that remembering details of novels can involve remembering specific sentences — and not always the scintillating first or last lines of certain novels. “A Tale of Two Cities” has an amazing opening and closing, and the concluding sentence in “The Great Gatsby” is one for the ages. (“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”)

        Also, the opening lines of “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” are absolute classics.

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        • Hi Rebecca, thank you for sharing these wonderful quotes. I also remember scenes and quotes from books. Last week, Michael was writing a speech about how people use dehumanisation tactics to justify cruelty and inhuman behaviour towards other. I said to him he should use the quote from Carrie about people finding justifications for pulling the wings off flies. He challenged me to find it in the paperback and I did: “People don’t get better, they just get smarter. When you get smarter you don’t stop pulling the wings off flies, you just think of better reasons for doing it.”
          ― Stephen King, Carrie. I’ve always remembered this quote. Stephen King does not think highly of people.

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  15. Great post, Dave! Your Reacher observations struck a chord. I had the same rapid-read experience with Better Off Dead, but it was my first Reacher book so I thought it might just have been that it was a new experience for me. But thinking on it now, I do the same with the books in M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin series. And similar to your Reacher experience, the specifics of each book get jumbled in my mind.

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    • Thank you, Donna!

      I envy you reading a Reacher novel for the first time. 🙂 While the series is not great literature, it and Jack himself are REALLY compelling creations. While the Reacher books do blur together (I’ve read 23 of them), I do remember many of the details from one — “61 Hours.” Perhaps because it was the first one I read (though not the first in the series) and because of all the snow in it. 🙂

      I LOVE the name Agatha Raisin!

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  16. Since I am American by choice, I might name some books from Europa and I hope that’s alright, because it didn’t state they all have to be books written by English writing and speaking authors correct?
    Alexandre Dumas The Count of Monte Christo
    Elie Wiesel “Night”
    George Orwell 1984
    Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quijote
    Johanh Wolfgang Goethe “Faust”
    Herman Melville: Moby Dick
    Earnest Hemingway “For whom the bell tolls”
    Harper Lee “To Kill a Mockingbird”
    Homer “Ilias”
    Karl May “Winnetou”

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    • Thank you, nonsmokingladybug! Any author from anywhere (writing in any language) is welcome to be mentioned — and you mentioned many great ones!

      “Moby-Dick” was one of those novels I liked better reading a second time when quite a few years older. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” is my favorite Hemingway work. And visiting the Chateau d’If off Marseilles back in 2007 spurred me to reread “The Count of Monte Cristo.” Nothing like seeing a setting of a novel firsthand to help us remember the book. 🙂

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  17. A friend recently read Asimov’s Foundation for the first time, so I reread it many (many!) years after reading it the first time, so we could talk it over together. I wasn’t sure it’d be needed, since I was relatively certain I still remembered it; not just the main plot, but the unexpected twists and details. It turns out that most of it was an enjoyable rediscovery of the book, as if I was reading it (almost) for the first time. Yes, some of it was mixing main plot points from future books into the first installment, but much of it, to my surprise, was a journey into a new (old) book. Funnily, that made the rereading even more pleasurable, since I didn’t expect it to be this way.

    Maybe it’s a good thing that we can RE-discover for “the first time” books that we thought we knew?

    Off to listen to the podcast!

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    • Thank you, Endless Weekend!

      I’ve also had that feeling you described so well — rereading a novel, and almost feeling like it’s a first-time read. I guess our minds can’t retain everything. Also, sometimes we have “false” memories, remembering some things in novels in a partly inaccurate way until a reread sets us straight.

      Asimov, of course, was quite an author. I’ve really like the novels and stories of his I’ve read.

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  18. I just finished re-reading Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, and wrote a blog post about that. Other memorable books (at random): Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Mervyn Peake’s first two Gormenghast books, most of Mary Renault’s ancient Greece books.
    If I love a book, I will re-read it, and therefore remember a lot about it for a long time. But I was looking through “My Books” on Goodreads a while ago, and kept thinking about some of them “I must have read this, I can’t remember a thing about it.”

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you, Audrey!

      I read your post about “The Lord of the Rings” — so many terrific points in it. I love that trilogy, as it seems you do for the most part, but agree that it has some flaws. Including the scarcity of prominent women characters, and what could be thinly veiled racism in the depiction of the Orcs and such.

      As for your second paragraph — too true. I also keep a list of novels I’ve read, and looking at some of their titles evokes no memories or scant memories of what the books were about.

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  19. Hi, this is such an interesting topic and something I think about a lot. I’ve re-read many books because I know I loved them when I first read them, but had forgotten a good deal of the details. I don’t like when that happens with some of the classics I’ve read. But as for thrillers and mysteries and light fiction, I think of them as somewhat disposable and don’t worry when I’ve forgotten the details.

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  20. The podcast is wonderful!
    I’ve read all but 1 of Shey’s books. I adore drawing her female protagonists. Shey’s heroines possibly are: strong willed, hard headed, lie, cheat, steal, connive, duplicitous and able to hide a corpse in the cellar. Not the usual fare of romance novels.
    However, they wear gowns.

    I’ve read 1 of your “Montclairvoyant” articles, and intend to read more.

    Pietro Crespi, the Mariposa Belle sinking in 4 – 6 feet of water, Prince Escalus’ last words in R&J, Blue Roses (Pleurosis), the opening image of Main Street, Bertha Mason and other snippets remain from books I read many years ago. Although Bertha Mason is hardly a snippet in terms of the plot, she is what I remember most.

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  21. Reflecting on your post, I think my experience with remembering details of the novels I’ve read is akin to the following May Angelou quote. What I remember most about the books I’ve read is how they made me feel.

    “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

    Liked by 10 people

  22. Ha Dave..I was going to write about Lee Child`s books then I saw that you have already read ” Better off Dead”, I`ll ask later what you thought of this chatty Jack.
    Different from the previous Reacher books.

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    • Thank you, bebe!

      I liked “Better Off Dead” a lot. Andrew Child seems to be doing an excellent job co-writing, and, while Reacher is somewhat chattier, he remains very Reacher-like. 🙂 One step ahead of everyone with his intellect, and still quite handy with his fists. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

        • Great observation, bebe! As you know, in the recent novels there have been some references to Reacher getting older. But I don’t remember such a reference in “Better Off Dead.”

          I didn’t realize the new Reacher book hasn’t been selling as well as many of the previous ones. A shame. I certainly think the current one is as good as many of the previous ones.

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          • It is only in the mindset of readers as they know the author was not Lee Child, oh we don`t care, another one will come out in October.

            Did you get to read the new Grisham`s ” Judges List ??
            Was a best seller for many weeks.
            But I read on a wrong time during Rittenhouse trial.

            Liked by 2 people

            • That might be a reason, bebe, although Lee Child’s name is bigger than Andrew Child’s name on the “Better Off Dead” cover and I assume Lee is still helping with the books rather than Andrew going solo yet.

              I have not read the Grisham book you mentioned.

              Liked by 2 people

  23. Totally recognize this. And, yes, it is true that I can wholeheartedly keep endorsing novels or short fiction that I hardly remember any details of except that they threw me and, as you put it, that are still a part of me, and always will be. Among them are John Cheever’s collected short stories, everything written by Alice Munro, Hunger by Knut Hamsun (“of course”, you will say to yourself), although that’s a novel I’ve read so many times that there’s quite a bit more than just the outline that I could reproduce, Crime and Punishment (one of your favorites too), Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, On The Road by Jack Kerouac, The Virgin Suicides (a modern classic by Jeffrey Eugenides in the best tradition of the great American novel), The Revenge for Love and Tarr by Percy Wyndham Lewis, The Waves and To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (which I read in a French translation, published in the Bibliothèque de la Pléiade), The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley, La Place de l’étoile and Villa Triste by Patrick Modiano… To name just some. They are not just a part of me. These and other works of fiction, and the art that I love, are who I am.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thank you, Dingenom Potter! Eloquently said!

      Very true that, even if we can’t remember a lot of details of many literary works, they are still a deep part of us and we can still recommend them because we know we loved them when we read them. You named MANY great works, and your mention of Cheever reminds me that his “The Swimmer” is one of the very best short stories I’ve ever read.

      I’ve only read one Alice Munro story collection, but it was low-key impressive! And, re Eugenides, I loved his ambitious novel “Middlesex.”

      Liked by 4 people

      • Yes, Dave, The Swimmer is one of Cheever’s best! And what a great characterization of Munro’s short fiction as low-key impressive (unobtrusively impressive is how I once put it myself).

        You bet Eugenides’ Middlesex is on my reading list.

        Liked by 3 people

  24. For some reason, some of the novels that I recall most include “Anna Karenina”, “A Tale Of Two Cities”, “Great Expectations”, “A Christmas Carol”(a novella), and “Jane Eyre”. I liked “Crime And Punishment” as much as some of these others but after reading it, I could only recall two characters’ names, Raskolnikov and Sonia. Dostoevsky used more complex Russian names than even Tolstoy.

    Liked by 5 people

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