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Memory Training Question – Reading and Remembering Fiction
by On July 17, 2008

David DenisI recently recieved this question via email from a memory training graduate. She wanted to learn more about applying the memory techniques when reading fiction. Her question and my reply are below. Enjoy!
Dear Dave,

I took the memory training course in Minneapolis, Minnesota recently and I have just finished my first listening of your CD “Making the Most Out of Big Ideas.” I really enjoyed it, especially the parts about reading. I am already a voracious reader, but am a very busy person and am so excited to get more out of my reading with your tips and the skills I learned in the memory course.

I recently got Steven Covey’s “7 Habits” on CD from the library and listened to it in my car as a review of the book which I have read before. I used my car files to help me retain those fabulous ideas. I use the library a lot, so writing in the margins of a book isn’t an option. I don’t always have pen and paper with me, but now I can use my files to help me remember things. It’s very exciting!

I was wondering if there was somewhere on your website or in your materials or classes that addressed reading even more, especially fiction. How do you get more out of fiction besides enjoying it? I currently keep a journal of my favorite passages. Occasionally I write down my reactions and feelings. Maybe there is something even more effective I can do, or maybe I should try to increase my journaling.

Thanks so much!

Dear Sue –

Thanks for your kind words about the CD. I’m really glad that you enjoyed it.

I completely understand about library books. They do tend to frown when you scribble in their books — even though I tend to think of it as “adding value.” 😉 I also don’t always have a pen with me, but I find that when I do, it really helps me to engage with the book and be more active. Many times I simply circle key words and note important passages. That alone helps me to get more out of it.

Your question about fiction is a very interesting one. The primary purpose of non-fiction is to impart information or ideas. The author is setting out a thesis and then supporting it with facts, figures, stories, studies, etc. Fiction is a different animal. What you learn from fiction is not learned via a point by point structure but through the path of the story and the experience of the characters. Therefore, it often doesn’t lend itself well to lists.

What we learn from fiction often has much more to do with what goes on inside and between people, and it’s not so much that we understand it intellectually — fiction helps us to feel it as well. Valuable stuff.

So your journaling exercises are probably one of the best ways to get more from reading fiction. Journal as much or as little as you like. The key is to do whatever helps you to get the most from the book. Re-reading your journal entries periodically would be very helpful to help you to relive your experience with the books you have read.

I have a good friend who takes it one step further. He memorizes favorite passages of literature. He memorizes sections from novels, poems, scripture, songs and so on. He started small, but he has been doing this for 10 years now. He is amazed at what he has accomplished — I don’t think he ever realized how much he could store in his mind in ten years.

He also has told me how much having this great treasure trove of great positive ideas has been a help to him in some difficult times. And the discipline itself has been helpful.

I have done some memorization as well. It’s good to start slow and give yourself lots of time. Since I drive a lot for my business, I try to use car time to review and add new items. I have not worked at it very hard, but I have found what I have done to be fun and rewarding.

Thanks again. I hope these comments are helpful. Feel free to write back with any other questions you might have.

Be Free!

David Denis

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