Book Review – Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting

Author: Lisa Genova –
Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Do you forget why you walked into a room?

Do you forget names?

Do you forget where you put your glasses?

Yes! Yes! Yes! Does it freak you out? It does me.

I am concerned that forgetting these little things means I am losing my memory.

I get worried that this is happening because I am getting old(er)? [Shut up Ross!].

Does it mean I am destined to get dementia?

Do I need to start taking ginkgo biloba?

It turns out that it is partly due to age but there are so many other factors at play with memory.

“If we want to remember something, above all ease, we need to notice what is going on. Noticing requires two things: perception (seeing, hearing, feeling) and attention.”

How often do we not pay attention?

How many times have you driven to a destination and not remembered anything about the trip?

Don’t recall stopping at any traffic lights.

Meeting a person and forgetting their name seconds afterwards.

It is because we are not paying proper attention.

We recall significant events in our life because our brains capture details we find “interesting, meaningful, new, surprising, emotional, and consequential.”

We won’t remember all the trips to work, unless something unusual happens.

We won’t remember all our meals, unless it was a special occasion and different than the usual beans on toast, “the truth is, much of our lives are habitual, routine, and inconsequential.”

Isn’t that a sad thought?

Wait, what was I talking about?

Oh, yeah, right, it turns out our memories are not reliable (which is pretty scary for witness testimony that could put someone away for years).

Studies have shown how episodic memories erode over time and even change completely, “your memory for what happened might be right, completely wrong, or somewhere in between.”

So, best not to argue with your spouse as you are probably both wrong.

On the flip side there are those of us (although very few) that remember everything.

Every event in their lives.

Genova lists a few people that have this ability and, although it may seem like a blessing, there are many things we want to forget.

Hurtful times.

Traumatic events.

Thoughts and images that pop into our heads at unexpected times that makes us miserable to relive them.

“It is through the erosion of memory that time heals all wounds.”

The author takes a very complicated subject, the brain, writes about it in a language that yours truly can even understand.

There are things that people can do to improve their memory and it isn’t taking gingko bilboa or doing crossword puzzles.

Things like reducing stress, getting enough sleep, being healthier overall.

Kim Reardon
The Reluctant Book Critic

Age is a factor in getting Alzehimer’s disease, but the author has a chapter dedicated to things we can do to give our brains a fighting chance.

Lisa Genova is a neuroscientist and also wrote the book Still Alice, a story about a Harvard professor that gets early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Yes, there was a movie but read the book instead, it was great.

There was something else really interesting about it … sorry, I forget.