Hello there, I had the same question a few years back. How to remember the book, be it related to the subject, technical, or some self-help books.

I read at least 1 book a month, I know that is nothing compared to people who read 4 or more books a month. But the question is still the same, how to remember it?

Over the period I realized, there are some books which I remember and there are few books which I don’t at all. I didn’t know at that time why was this happening to me, what is making me remember those books.

When I analysed, I realized what was happening, why I am able to remember one book while not the other one. And the answer is simple.

Books which I read to solve my immediate problems are the books I was able to remember. Here are few instances:

There was a period during lockdown when I was going through emotional turmoil, I was not able to handle my emotions in the right way. I was getting hyper, agitated, and the smallest of things were frustrating me. During this period I came across the book “The Chimp Paradox” which is a book on mind management and emotion management. As soon as I started reading, I was able to associate with it, able to apply the principles in my day to day life. I was not reading to complete it, I was enjoying it, was feeling connected to the book. And I still remember most of it and parts which I don’t remember in conscious mind come back to me, where there is a related problem in front of me where I can apply the learnings from the book.

Another book which I remember is How to Make friends and Influence people. I am a developer by heart and project manager by designation. Here is an honest confession, when I was given or rather when I asked for Project Manager designation, I was really not ready for it. I asked because everone ask for it. But soon as I started operating as project manager, I realized the challenges of that position and the biggest challenge was not the work but people.

I am introvert most of the time, and this position required me to talk to people, listen to their worries, their challenges, influence them, and influence decisions in the right direction. And these people were not just people with the same designation or people whom I was supposed to manage but also people with the higher designation. At this time, I came across this book. Again, I was applying each and every lesson I was reading in this book to my day to day interaction. In fact, I realized how can I apply my learnings not only to my professional life but also to my day-to-day life.

And that was the reason I still remember it.

Should you re-read the book?

Well re-reading the book, just for purpose of remembering, you can always do that. But I will not suggest it, given the first time you read it, you read it with a purpose in your head. Trust your brain, you remember the book in your subconscious mind.

The day you will find a situation or problem where you can apply the learnings of that book, you will find ideas from that book popping in your head. And at that time if you want to re-read part or whole of the book, just to re-iterate the idea of the book, that makes sense to me.

Still, if I have to re-read the book, I have another suggestion. Instead of reading the same book again, read a different book around the same topic. I know you will feel it is a better idea to read the same book again, as your brain is saying that way you will remember it longer. But in reality, the brain doesn’t work like that. Your brain will remember information longer if you give the brain the same information but in a different format, with different stories, different images, different colors, different mood.

Do these principles apply to technical books?

Yes. The principle is simple, application of lessons learned. If you can apply the lessons learned, you will remember the book.

Why don’t I remember my school or college subjects and books I read?

Unfortunately, we are and we were always told to read and remember books in our college and schools. Education system although now is changing but we all have to work together to evolve it accept the things which work for it, and discard the things which don’t.

I wish for a day, instead of education being pushed to us, our education system will ask us to find the problems we want to solve. And once we will understand the problem, we will find the right books, the right solutions, or maybe create our own solutions to these problems.

And there is no one to blame for this, because if you blame you will pass your problem to someone else to solve. If you understand it is your problem, then you will find ways to find solutions.

Bullet Points:

  • Read the book which is solving your current problem.
  • Ask yourself questions which you expect to find answers for, before reading the book.
  • Feel free to leave the book in-between if you are not finding it interesting.
  • Feel free to leave the book if you have solved the current crisis or problem at hand.
  • Instead of re-reading, pick a different book on the same topic.
  • Never force yourself to read the book, given you have a choice 🙂
  • Find the problem first which you want to solve before you find the book.

Rakesh Kalra

Hello, I am Rakesh Kalra. I have more than 15 years of experience working on IT projects, where I have worked on varied complexity of projects and at different levels of roles. I have tried starting my own startups, 3 of those though none of it were successful but gained so much knowledge about business, customers, and the digital world. I love to travel, spend time with my family, and read self-development books.


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