top of page
  • Writer's picturesunny tran


All we know is that our memory is limited. Our brain receives a ton of information every second. And the act of forgetting a piece of data you read is natural. Also, it's a part of the memory process. However, I want to keep the lessons I learned from books as much as possible. Therefore, I research some methods and try to apply it to my reading process. Some methods work for me, others don't. I write this post to share my opinions, and experience.

First, we need to understand how memory works, which helps us to keep the knowledge from further loss in long-term memory.

There are three main stages in the memory process. When you read or learn new lessons, the sensory memory starts receiving data, transfers it to short-term and continues to relocate in long-term memory. The amount of time in long-term memory depends on a person and the kind of knowledge they absorb.

The first stage is very important. In this stage, the information has to be impressive enough to come into sensory memory. This information could be the sense of vision, smell, taste, touch, sound. Let me tell you my experience. Last year, I met a high school girl in the coffee shop, but she left the first strongest impression on me. Do you know why? This is because she was smoking. To me, the image of the girl smoking is very bad. But, at that moment, she was very beautiful, she really enjoyed the cigarette. The way she sat on the chair, her long hair, and the expression were matching perfectly.

This is a general example about sensory memory. The image I mentioned is not necessary to me. The appearance of her is not related to my life. The sensory memory allows us to store the most impressive data instead of the most important data. That is why, you can't remember what you read if the information is not impressive enough to you.

In the next stage, the data is able to “survive" in the sensory memory for enough time, it transfers to short-term memory. Our memory continues working to relocate the data in the long-term memory by rehearsal. The more you rehearse, the faster the data moves to long-term memory. However, the act of forgetting is a part of this step. In fact, if you don't use the knowledge frequently, it gradually disappears in your head. Take the high school girl as an example. I always talk about her with my friends when coming to the coffee shop. Some friends don't care much about it, others give me feedback about it and we have a topic for gossip. Until today, I don't remember what exactly I did that day, but the high school girl with cigarette sticks on my mind.

In the final stage, you understand the way the event or data is located in the long-term memory. It is noted that “long" doesn't mean “permanent". The process of forgetting always happens. Let me tell you my experience. I will make sure that you encounter the same problems as me. As a Facebook user, I used to enter a password to sign in this platform everyday for a decade. This was due to the lack of a personal computer or smartphone to save my login details. I thought I could never forget my password, having repeated it countless times over four or five years. And it happened after one month I had my own mobile.

Due to comprehending the memory process, I apply it to my reading journey in order to retain as much knowledge as possible.

1. Close reading

According to Wikipedia, in literary criticism, close reading is the careful, sustained interpretation of a brief passage of a text. A close reading emphasizes the single and the particular over the general, via close attention to individual words, the syntax, the order in which the sentences unfold ideas, as well as formal structures.

There are three main steps of the close reading method. (I will mention the specific ways of this method in the next post.)

  • Determine what the text says

  • Determine how the text says

  • Determine what the text means

As I mentioned, the sensory memory allows us to store the most impressive data instead of the most important data. The author tries their best to impress us to keep us stay with their work. Therefore, when I determine what the text says, how the text says, what the text means, I will realize the most impressive point is hidden. The more I apply this method, the more aha moment I experience during my reading journey.

2. Take notes

“A short pencil is better than a long memory.” While reading, you sometimes agree or disagree with one point of view. I used to skip it and think I will go back to it when finishing a book. But, I don't. I remember the feeling when I read it the first time and can't locate it in the book. So,

I always jot down the author's opinions, sentences in books when ideas pop up in my mind. This is because they impress me. The impression creates a space in sensory memory, and I have to make use of this time to keep it longer in the short-term memory.

Taking notes may seem like a time-consuming task, but it's an investment in our reading experience. Not only does it help us retain information more effectively, but it also allows us to connect with the book on a deeper level.

As I looked back at my notes from the past year, I was surprised to find three notebooks filled with thoughts, countless documents on Google Docs, and a great deal of notes on my phone.

There are many methods to take notes. Some people use traditional ways such as pens and paper, others use apps. You can use whatever as your preference. No one can read your notes or thoughts, don't be afraid to share it with paper.

3. Write a review

After I read a book and have a lot of notes that I jot down, it's time to transfer all data from short-term memory to long-term memory. Writing a review of a book is very different from taking notes. Taking notes helps you to look at details, and writing a review allows you to see the big picture.

Writing a review takes me about an hour. I have to collect all the notes, reread some sentences and paragraphs and think critically about context, characters, and opinions of the author. This action requires my brain to recall and arrange events and knowledge in books, then link them together. By doing it, the information continues rehearsal, making it easier to move to long-term memory.

4. Discussion with others

As I mentioned, the memory process works continuously to store necessary things and discard unnecessary things. If you don't find a way to prevent data loss in long term memory, it gradually moves back to short term or appears in your memory. In my opinion, discussion helps us protect the knowledge in the long term memory from data loss.

Everyone has their own point of view due to differences between regions, culture, and background family. Although we view the same books, we have contrasting ideas after closing the book. I like this book, but you don't and vice versa. It happens every single day.

Listening to others' views, and sharing our opinions that allow us to comprehend a book more effectively. I come up with ideas and learn about the other side of the issue I am discussing with others.

Reading community in the world has become bigger and bigger. If people around you don't like reading, you can join many groups or forums on social media to talk about your favorite books. Avid readers are willing to share their ideas about books on these platforms and you can leave your comment or feedback on it.

Trust me, the more you discuss, the more you learn and the more you retain. All book worms are nice and kind, no one gives negative feedback to your thoughts about what to share.

Summary, to remember what you read, you should become an active reader by utilizing combine various techniques. By closing reading, you can comprehend the messenger of the author hidden in complex context, impressing on your sensory memory. Besides, taking notes and writing reviews allows your knowledge to transfer from short-term memory to long-term memory more easily and faster. Additionally discussion your viewpoint helps the knowledge to stick in long-term memory for a longer period of time.

46 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page