How do you remember what happened in previous books?

19/01/2019 Discussions, Reading 34

How do you remember what happened in previous books?

Recently, I was at my local library, having a browse for some books (since I’ve recently moved, my local library is huge, which is amazing!). It’s not as if I don’t already have enough books at home and on my Kindle to read, but still…the library means free books! You can’t argue with that!

Anyway, my eye was caught by the book Windwitch by Susan Dennard, and I was so excited! I read and loved Truthwitch about a year ago, and had been keeping my eye out for Windwitch at the library, or popping up for sale on Amazon. And suddenly there it was! Just waiting for me! I excitedly took it home, ready to read it, when it suddenly occurred to me…as much as I had loved Truthwitch, I had forgotten literally everything that had happened in it.

I looked up a recap online and began to read through it, and whilst some of it rang a bell, a lot of it just confused me more. I mean, who was this character again? How did the magic system work? What was the implication of all these crazy events? Laid out like that, in bullet point format, it made little sense to me, even though I had read the book, and really enjoyed it.

I ploughed on with reading Windwitch anyway, and I did enjoy it. After a while I began to reacquaint myself with the world and characters, although I don’t think I managed to fully reimmerse myself in it. This meant I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I maybe could have done, if I’d read it straight after Truthwitch.

And that seems like such a shame, because it wasn’t the book’s fault. It was the fault of my appalling memory! Although when you read a lot of books, how are you supposed to remember all the details of everything? This happens to me all the time, and it’s so annoying! My own reviews don’t even help jog my memory, because I try and avoid spoilers for people who haven’t read the book, so it only tells me my feelings about the book (which is generally the only thing I’ll actually remember anyway!).

It even puts me off starting books I know I’ll enjoy, because I’m sure my inability to remember exactly what happened in the previous book will ruin it for me. For example, I’ve been procrastinating reading Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones since it came out last year, even though I absolutely adored Wintersong. Why? Because I can’t fully remember what happened in Wintersong!

So I’m curious to know: is this a big problem for other people? What do you do to combat it? Do you find reading online summaries helpful?

34 Responses to “How do you remember what happened in previous books?”

  1. Aj @ Read All The Things!

    YES! This is a problem for me. It’s actually one of the reasons why I avoid series. I usually wait for all of the books to be released and then binge-read them, or I reread the older books before reading the new one. I tried reading online summaries, but they didn’t have enough detail to un-confuse me.

    • Laura

      That’s exactly how I feel about online summaries! They never have quite enough detail for me to remember the story fully.
      And that does sound like a better idea to wait for the entire series to come out before you read it! 🙂

  2. Angela

    Yeah, it’s a problem for me, too! Sometimes I will go read other reviews, but a lot of times I just plow ahead and hope that I at least remember major things that happened!

  3. Penny

    This problem is really hit and miss with me. Some books stick with me for life, while other books, usually ones that I end up rating 3 stars or below, fade out of my memory within a few months.

    I have found that since I started my blog and consistently write reviews for each book I read, that my memory for plots and characters have improved significantly. I also take a lot of notes when I read (usually for aspects of the book that I want to write about), and those notes help me remember things as well.

    • Laura

      I get what you mean, I definitely find this is more of a problem with mediocre books, because they don’t stick in my memory as well (although my memory is so bad it happens with books I really liked as well!).
      I’m glad you’ve found reviewing helps you remember books better. I’m not great at actually getting round to reviewing a lot of the books I read, so maybe it would help me if I was more consistent? I’ve also never been a note taker, but that seems like a good idea! Especially because I’ve generally forgotten a lot of things about the book when it gets to time for me to review! 🙂

  4. Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books

    I have to say, when I read the title of your blog post, I was already saying to myself “I don’t.” 😂 I often forget what happens in books and especially when it comes to series, because I tend to start reading a series, then wait about a gazillion years to get to the second book and, just… I’m just mad at myself afterwards 😂 I feel like hearing so much about some books and reviewing them helps me a little bit and I feel like I have a better bookish memory than before, but still… it’s a struggle. I always try to read some reviews for the books and the synopsis again and… pray to remember the important details 😂
    Loved this post <3

    • Laura

      I’m the same, in that a lot of the time I end up waiting ages to read the second book, and then I just end up annoyed with myself, because I knew I would forget! 🙂 It definitely helps me to remember stuff when I see other people talking about books I’ve read, or when I read other people’s reviews, but I still end up just hoping I’ll remember important stuff as I go along as well. I’m glad this isn’t just me! 🙂

  5. Pamela

    I have totally abandonned series before because of this. It isn’t only about forgetting about what happened, but the bigger problem is losing that connection, that anticipation of reading the next book.

    It’s so tricky. Because there are some books that I’m right there up for rereading the previous one in order to continue. For others, it’s been bye-bye, like the Red Queen books. I just read the first one.

    In the end, I just rationalize that if it affects me to the point where I can’t continue the series, then I probably wasn’t that invested in the book to begin with. If the interest comes up some time later, then it’ll be welcome! This happened to me with a series recently, the Study series by Maria V.Snyder. I still had 3 books left to read so now I’m rereading the entire thing again, after like five years XD

    • Laura

      I totally agree with you about losing that connection! I’ve definitely abandonned series before too, because of this.
      I don’t personally reread very often, so I’ve never actually done that, where I’ve gone back and reread the first book, but that’s a good idea. I was the same with the Red Queen books though…I did actually like the first one, but was so disappointed in the second one. I don’t think I’m bothered enough about reading the next book to take the time to try and remember what happened in the first two!
      I hope you’re enjoying your reread of the Study series anyway! I’m sure I have the first in the series on my Kindle, but haven’t read it yet! 🙂

  6. Suzanne @ The Bookish Libra

    Yes, this is definitely a problem for me as well. If I reviewed the prior book in a series, I usually go back and read my review to jog my memory. If that doesn’t work, I’m hesitant to continue. I know some people actually re-read the prior book but I just never seem to have time to do that.

    • Laura

      I’ve never done that either, where I’ve reread the previous book. It seems like a good idea, but as you say, it’s time consuming!

  7. Jillian Lopez

    This is very relatable because I also don’t remember 80% of what happens in the first book and it’s very sad because I end up not enjoying the sequels so much. I halt reading sequels for some time until I know I have a long break from college because I know I wouldn’t enjoy reading if I don’t refresh my memories hahaha. Great post 🙂

    • Laura

      It really is sad when you end up not enjoying a book as much because you can’t remember the details of the first book. It definitely sounds like a good idea though to wait until you have plenty of time to refresh your memory! 🙂

  8. Tomi @ A Bookworm’s Guide to Life

    This is such a big problem for me! I still haven’t read The Fates Divide since I can’t remember anything from Carve the Mark. I usually try to reread some of the first book just to jog my memory. Anyway, great post as always Laura!

    • Laura

      That’s such a good idea! I know a couple of people have said they reread the prior book, but that’s quite time consuming, so just rereading some of the first book is a good compromise 🙂

  9. Becky @ A Fool's Ingenuity

    I know exactly what you mean, I often forget everything which has happened in a series and when I come to read the next one a year later there are literally no memories. It’s why I sometimes like to wait for a series to be released to get finishing so I can binge read the whole thing. You could always use it as an excuse for rereading a book or two.

    • Laura

      Waiting for an entire series to be released is probably a good idea. Then you can binge them all, and enjoy them to their full potential (without forgetting everything!). Rereading is definitely another good option. I’ve never really done that (I hardly ever reread), but it would be a good excuse to do a bit of rereading! 🙂

  10. Terri @ Alexia's Books and Such

    Yay for a fellow library lover! Totally know what you mean about libraries being hard to resist. The only bad thing is that all of my holds seem to come in at the same time!

    I have a terrible memory too so sorry I can’t give you any helpful hints. Sometimes the plot will pop back into my head as I’m reading the sequel, but I’ve also been known to reread a book and not realize it until I’m almost finished!

    Binging on a series would avoid that problem, but I don’t have the patience to wait until the series is complete.

    • Laura

      That has definitely happened to me as well, where I’ve got to nearly the end before some vital piece of information has come back to me! It’s so annoying!
      Binging is definitely a good way to avoid that, but I’m definitely the same in that I’m too impatient to wait to read a book I like the sound of until all the books are out.

  11. Tanya Patrice

    I forget after a while too – writing about them and Goodreads help. But I don’t worry too much about it anymore. If I forget … I’ll just re-read, especially if I can check my old review or rating and see that I enjoyed it 🙂

    • Laura

      Rereading is probably a good idea! Especially I you can see from your review or rating that you really enjoyed it. I’m so terrible at getting round to rereading though!

    • Laura

      Waiting and binge reading is probably the best idea! I’m so impatient though if I like the sound of a book! 🙂

  12. Chana @ Paper Procrastinators

    So usually I have a very good memory for obscure details within books and am good with continuing series in that way. But I’ve recently found out that instead of forgetting details of a book, I forget that I’ve read it at all? I think the reason for this is that I have a terrible memory when it comes to the titles of books, so people will recommend a book by title and then I’ll start reading it and realize, oh wait, I think I read this already 😂

    • Laura

      Wow, really? The title is usually about the only thing I definitely can remember!
      I imagine that’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s good that you don’t forget the details of books you’ve read, but I bet it’s annoying when you start a book and realise that you’ve already read it! 🙂

  13. Gayathri

    Oh this is exactly how ended up writing reviews. I started writing done characters and locations with gist of the plot when I was really young, which later improved to long ass reviews.

    I still do a gist on my reviews!

    • Laura

      Reviews are a good way to refresh you memory. Although I always feel like I’m a bit too vague in mine for them to be very helpful! 🙂

  14. Liliana

    It *is* a problem for me! I usually go back and read the first book in the series if it’s been a while, which I don’t mind doing if I remember loving the book. Sometimes I just go right on ahead and read the sequel hoping things will come back to me. Mostly things work out, sometimes, they don’t. One author I really love because she always does a fantastic job at recapping things that happen in previous books in the series is Jennifer Estep! She is one of my favorite authors! I just finished re-reading Kiss of Frost, which is the second book in the Mythos Academy series, without having read the first book (Touch of Frost) in years, and I had no problem doing so! (This choice on my part was weird, I know. But I am a big-time mood reader and I was in the mood for a book that took place at a ski resort, which Kiss of Frost does! Lol)

    • Laura

      I’ve never read anything by Jennifer Estep, but that sounds really helpful to have the previous book recapped! I wish more authors did that, as I’m definitely a mood reader too, so I don’t always feel like reading the next book for quite a while.

  15. Helia @ Rose Quartz Reads

    This is a problem for me too! If it’s been a year or more since I read the first book then there’s very little chance I’ll remember anything. My favourite way to read a series is to binge read it, but otherwise I haven’t found a solution for my forgetfulness yet!

    • Laura

      Sometimes binge reading is the only option! I should really do that more, and start reading more series where all the books are already released.

  16. Zoie @ Whisked Away By Words

    This post is so relatable! I will say that I would have related more to this post before I started blogging — after blogging, because I spend so much more time thinking about books and reviewing them, I feel like I understand both the content of the stories I read and my feelings towards them. Even if I have reviewed a book and still don’t remember the story in the future, my idea is that if you don’t remember it, the story probably wasn’t that significant or important to remember anyways. 😊

    At the same time, a book that was easily forgettable when I first read it might change my life after a reread, so I think it’s still worth rereading books again to see how much we’ve changed. Great post, Laura!

    • Laura

      I think I’m probably slightly better at remembering books since starting blogging too, but I’m still terrible at remembering books in general! And I definitely agree with you that thing things you don’t remember probably weren’t that important anyway 🙂
      And I think that’s true as well that a book that was forgettable the first time you read it might have a completely different impact the second time round. So rereading is definitely a good thing to do, and I really wish I did it more often!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.