What Ally Forgot: A Different Kind Of Book Review

• Introduction •

A few weeks ago Akilah at The Englishist wrote a post titled, Top Ten Books I Have No Recollection of Reading.”  Her point, which is excellent, is that we all read lots of books, but not all the books stick with us.

We forget about some books entirely– and only remember odd tidbits in other ones.

Inspired by Akilah I decided to figure out what books I’ve read, enjoyed enough to keep a copy around here, but now can’t tell you much of anything about the characters, the plot, the setting.

• My Top Five Books That I Have [Almost] No Recollection Of Reading •

1.  And Only To Deceive by Tasha Alexander  

I know that I read this book when it was cold outside because I remember looking at the cover and thinking how much warmer I’d be if I had on that red dress.  As for the story, couldn’t tell you a thing about it, but that dress…

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 2.  Dangled Carat by Hilary Grossman

Someone on Twitter suggested this book so I got a copy of it and read it.  My impression is that I thought the story was cute.  The only specific I remember is that there was something about grilling steaks [?] in it.  Must have been hungry when I read it.  

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3.  Then Again by Diane Keaton

I’ve enjoyed Diane Keaton’s work as an actress, so I bought this book hoping to learn about what makes her tick.  Apparently that didn’t happen because all I can tell you is that Diane’s mother was seriously ill.  There might have been more insight, but I’ll be darned if I know what it was.

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4.  The Buddha Walks Into A Bar: A Guide To Life by Lodro Rinzler

I bought this book at Anthropologie thinking that I could use some self-improvement, and with a title like this one, I’d find the meaning of life within the pages of this book.  No idea what this book was about, but the cover is cute.  So there’s that.

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5.  Four Souls by Louise Erdich

A few friends recommended this book to me.  There was a character with a French first name, and I remember thinking that there was a lot of history going on in this story.  Guess I forgot all the facts, just like I used to do immediately after taking any history test.

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• Some Fun Bookish Things To Do •

Want to laugh about books you don’t want to read? Go to Awful Library Books.

Want to learn about books you will want to read? Go to What Should I Read Next with Anne Bogel.

Want to read like an incoming freshman at Harvard? Go to Malia Obama’s Essential College Reading List.

Want to get a book reading list customized for you? Go to whichbook.

Want to keep up with books that aren’t popular? Go to The Neglected Books Page.

• Question of the Day •

What are you reading now?

Is it something that you think you’ll always remember reading?  Or is it a filler book, good in the moment, but destined to be on your very own Books I Have No Recollection of Reading List?

Published by

Ally Bean

Observant. Creative. Humorous. Adaptable. Happy enough. Looking for the crumb of truth in the cookie of life.

49 thoughts on “What Ally Forgot: A Different Kind Of Book Review”

  1. I got a kick out of this post, Ally. I’m certain I’ve forgotten the contents of more books than I care to remember . . . but you’ll never know because I don’t keep books around UNLESS I know that I want to read them again.

    Hence . . . no evidence to implicate me of brain sieve syndrome!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. nancy, good point. Without the evidence sitting on your shelves [or in your Kindle] it would be almost impossible to know what books didn’t make a lasting impact. I think it’s the existential nature of this book list idea that charmed me into thinking about what I’ve forgotten. 😉

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  2. So many books read and also so many I don’t remember a thing about… I wonder if it is/was because I tend to read the same genre a lot and they all just begin to be one big “the same” book. Which is exactly why I am branching out lately. I love the links, thanks – and will check them later for inspiration.
    Oh, my latest book – Mothering Sunday: I remember it now because I just finished it, and may remember it as the ‘ode to Downton Abbey’ or ‘sex and death on a sunny English Sunday.’

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    1. Deb, I think it’s fun to think about how little impression some books make on you. I know what you mean about reading too many books that are so similar that they all blend into one big muddle. Good idea to branch out into different genres.

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  3. I love this post.

    I did a big Purge a few years ago in my personal library and donated several boxes of books–all hardbacks–to our local library for its yearly sale. All of the clunkers left that way.

    You might recall that around the same time, I discovered that I was having difficulty reading books, period, after being an avid reader forever. I just could not concentrate. This summer, however, I am thrilled to report that I am finally able to read again, and am hard at it. I’m starting with re-reading my Old Standbys, the books I know and love and get lost in easily.

    I did order one book I had always wanted to read, “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides. But, holy crap, it is not keeping my interest at all. I find it rambling and pointless and tedious. And now I wonder what review I read that made me so hot to read it way back when it was first published. Ugh. I may never finish it.

    Oh–just finished re-reading “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.” Gorgeous, beautifully written book: it is a perfect blend of reader’s writing and writer’s writing. And now, I think I’ll re-read “The Great Gatsby” for the first time without an eye toward teaching it. What a luxury.

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    1. nance, like you I’ve given away well over half the books in this house. But the ones I’ve kept are ones that I thought that I might re-read, or give to a friend, because I liked the book. So to go back and look on the shelves at books I do not remember reading is either a sign of Alzheimer’s or a realization that not all books stick with me, even if I liked them when I read them. I’m happy to learn that you’re back to reading again. Maybe your time off was what you needed to rid yourself of your English Teacher Mentality so that you could morph into a Reading For Fun Person. 🙂

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  4. I just finished The Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I liked it a lot. I will most likely remember it because the story revolved around the Japanese internment during WW2. I could see parallels to today. My biggest problem is that I buy books I’ve already read because I forgot I read them (until page 10 when I start saying….this sounds familiar.) I do that with specific prolific authors. I never seem to remember titles these days and I’m lucky if I can piece the story together after reading the cover jacket. One problem with e-readers is that the book isn’t lying around for days where you continually see the title (and it get’s reinforced in your head).

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    1. Kate, I do the same thing. I forget the title and all the covers look so similar, thus I re-buy what I read. I’ve stopped using my Kindle, one of the reasons being exactly what you said. I want to see a book lying around, reinforcing what it looks like AND reminding me to get reading. I’ve got The Corner of Bitter and Sweet in a stack of books destined to be read. Sometime.

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  5. I’m another one who tends to retain only a small amount of any book I read. I prefer to think it’s because I read at night before I go to bed so my tired brain is functioning on low power mode. I’m sticking with that defense.

    I just finished a book by Michael Booth about Hans Christian Anderson called Just As Well I’m Leaving. He (Anderson) was one seriously messed up dude and Booth has a wonderfully light and comic writing style. I enjoyed the read and think I’ll actually remember a lot of this book … although a test in a year from now might reveal a different truth 😉

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    1. joanne, I wonder if you’ve nailed why I forget many of the good books that I read. Reading at night to slow down doesn’t lend itself to longterm memory. Still I kept these books around so I must have thought they were good ones. Will get back with you in July 2017 to administer your test about Just As Well I’m Leaving… 😉

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  6. My favorite is to start reading a book and around midway through, realize that I have read it before. Yep. Midway. Most of the actual books on my shelves are old friends that I’ve read multiple times, but there are a handful that I’ve kept because I really liked them but I can’t tell you more than the title. The Thirteenth Tale is one of those. A friend gave it to me and later asked me to explain certain parts and I couldn’t remember enough to even start an explanation. It sits there waiting for me to re-read it. I think there was a ghost.

    Lovely list of book lists! I am bookmarking this to explore someday. Chances are I will forget why.

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    1. Zaz, I understand your plight. I think that we all read books more for escape than edification, so forgetting is part of the deal. No doubt a ghost is to blame for you not remembering The Thirteenth Tale. It’s only logical to think so. Hope you make it back to explore the bookish things to do, you’ll like what you find.

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    1. Akilah, I give you all the credit for encouraging me to search for/think about these books. Such a fun idea to explore. Judging from the cover of that book, beside steaks, there must have been a diamond ring, too. Don’t you suppose? 0.o

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  7. Oh my goodness, there are so many! In fact, we were just discussing this with other readers on Friday! So, so many books I’d tell you I enjoyed reading, but couldn’t tell you about the plot. It is indeed an interesting phenomenon, books that stick.
    I should be reading my Jeeves book, but I’ve been reading Room, because Sassy doesn’t want to read it alone.

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    1. joey, at first the idea of not remembering books seemed like it might be senile dementia, but I’ve decided that this is just how reading for fun works. Love P.G. Wodehouse. I have one of his quotes in my sidebar as my inspirational theme for this blog. 🙂

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  8. I stopped reading the “brain candy” action series books that I read on the planes (Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn, etc.) because I cannot tell the plots apart, and thus, know which ones I have read or not. I may be looking forward toward my grandmother’s experiences where she only kept three books and read them over and over again because she admitted she could never remember what she read.

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    1. Zen-Den, I never could tell one of your books from another! Too much sameness. I think your grandmother’s approach to reading in her later years was/is a good one. Go with what works, eh?

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  9. I once got about 75% of the way through a book of about 800 pages before realizing I had already read it. At that point, I just finished it because it seemed like a waste to stop.

    As for what I’m reading now, the jury is still out, because both books are just at the beginning. They’re both looking promising, though!

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    1. Sarah, I can see why you kept on reading. The conversations here make me wonder if I’ve re-read a book not noticing at any point that I’ve read it before. Kind of worrisome to think about that possibility.

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  10. Sometimes books stay with me but all I can say is just cool character, neat plot, or great writing. I rely on my reviews on Goodreads. Whenever someone asks what I thought of a book, I say let me see what I said. I am terrible at recalling details about books months or years after I finish them.

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    1. Kourtney, I’m the same way. I often remember a few details, especially if I related to a character or situation in the book, but lots of time I couldn’t tell you the plot twists, only that I liked reading the story. I read for pleasure, more than for literary criticism, I guess.

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    1. Allie P, it’s a jolt to the ego to realize that your brain might not be retaining as much info as you think that it is. When I looked at these 5 books on my shelves, realized that I didn’t remember them, I had one of those “OMG I’M OLD” moments. Most disconcerting. :-/

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  11. I only read what we had to in school, and I’m surprised at how many non-classics we read that I have little recollection of… especially since the non-classics were often easier to read and understand than the classics (Shakespeare at 8 AM is just wrong)….

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    1. evilsquirrel13, I’ve always considered books to be my BFFs, so to realize that I didn’t remember some of them seemed sad to me. I agree about Shakespeare. A nice class after lunch makes sense, but he requires much too much concentration for 8 in the morning. Oy vey.

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  12. I used to gobble-read books in the summer – all those light ones who cares if you remember. But it became difficult when the publishers realized they could “re-introduce” a book to the market with a new cover. I remember covers, not always the insides! (all a bunch of similar squiggles and lines if completely analytical about it. My story and I’m sticking to it.)

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    1. philmouse, I’ve been caught in that book cover trap, too. It’s sneaky. I remember many books that I’ve read, but others were affairs in the moment. Not long-lasting relationships.

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    1. Stephanie, I thought I was the only one who bought and started reading a book I’d already read! Seems I’m not alone. I imagine looking over your Goodreads list is kind of trippy. I know I was surprised when I looked on our bookshelves and saw some of the titles there. Where did these books come from, I wondered?

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  13. I can’t recollect what I’m reading 😀 (not really, I’d be very worried if that was the case). Ally, your post made me laugh out loud – brilliant! I just hope my book won’t make it into this list one day. 🙂

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    1. Gulara, that is an excellent goal for any author: don’t end up on a Books I Have No Recollection of Reading List. If that doesn’t motivate you to do your best, nothing will! 🙂

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  14. Ha ha! I’m reading Anthony Doerr: About Grace. Recently read his ‘All the Light we cannot See’. He’s a new author for me and I am much gratified. I sometimes re-read books that I know I’ve enjoyed even if it is years and years later.

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    1. Susan, I’ve heard many good things about Doerr, but haven’t read anything yet. I do the same thing as you do, often re-reading something just for the heck of it. That’s why I making this list entertained me so. If I still had these five books on my shelves, then I thought they must be good ones… but if I don’t remember them, what does that say about me?!

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  15. The books I remember most are often books I didn’t like or even hated. (or were thought-provoking/disturbing) I’m reading a cute detective stories with the guy and his dog. They are entertaining and fun! Perfect for summer.

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    1. Nancy, that’s a good one! I haven’t done that, but I do keep a list of inspirational quotes. Sometimes I’ll review it and wonder how it was that I thought a particular quote inspired me. *duh*

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