On Not Remembering Books I’ve Read

My favorite part of volunteering at the library book sale is making recommendations to shoppers.


At my shift on Bag Day during the last sale, I saw a woman looking at a copy of Little Bee by Chris Cleave, which I loved, so I approached and said “That one’s really good, you should get it.”

Because books are so cheap on Bag Day, most folks take my recommendations without much discussion.  This lady was different. “Oh is it?” she asked, turning to face me, “What’s it about?”

I opened my mouth to answer then snapped it closed.

“Ummm..a couple go on a trip? And find a girl on a beach… I think?”

It’s an odd phenomena, common to those of us who read a ton. I call it Booknesia. 


Book covers are what stick with me. They remind me of the feeling I had while reading the book, which is where my recommendations typically come from.  It’s extremely rare that I can’t recall if I’ve read a certain book. I’ll know if I read it or not, and if I liked it or not. What I can’t tell you is the characters names, or a timeline of the plot, or how it ends…

Sure, those seem like important things to know when recommending a book. And you’re probably wondering how I can know I liked or hated a book if I can’t remember it totally. Those are fair questions and I guess the answer comes back to my feelings about the book.

If I’ve read a book more than once, I can usually recall it much more so than those I’ve only read once. Same goes for if a book has been significant in my life, although most of those I’ve read more than once.

Booknesia can definitely be frustrating. I’ve tried to attend book club meetings to discuss a novel I read a few years ago, thinking I could pull it off and failed miserably.

So in recent years I’ve employed a couple of measures that are definitely helping me to remember what I read. Goodreads has been a huge help because I track what I read and can look up a book for a summary. I also keep a handwritten Book Journal where I list what I’ve reading write a short review.


While I’m reading, I keep page tabs nearby. Whether it’s fiction or non, I’ll tab a page containing a phrase or concept I want to remember. Then when I’m finished, I go back through and write all the tabbed sections in my journal.



What about you? Do you experience Booknesia?

If not, why do you think that’s the case?

If you experience it too, does it bother you? How do you deal with it?

My book journal



  1. Doree Weller

    February 22, 2018 at 5:41 pm

    I’m usually pretty good at remembering all that: plots, summary, even character names, even if I only read the book once. Sometimes it takes me a moment to find the right filing cabinet in my brain, but it’s usually there.

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