Books and Memory

BooksRecently a friend told me about a book she read. I don’t remember the title, but really, it could be any book. She loved it, and I said jokingly that I would add it to my pile. This “pile” used to be a physical stack (or often multiple stacks) beside my bed, but as my time for reading has diminished and the list of books I want to read has grown, the “pile” moved to my bookshelves. And when even that system began to tax the constraints of space and memory, I moved my ever-growing list online.

At first I simply kept a digital list. But then I discovered GoodReads. Slowly my “pile”—which by now might be more accurately described as a towering stack, or even more accurately, an unclimbable mountain—has begun to find its way there. The list is by no means exhaustive, either in terms of what I long to read or certainly in terms of what I’ve read in the past. But it’s a start.

GoodReads gives me a place to capture the titles my friends recommend, which is why I’m annoyed I didn’t write down the title my friend mentioned. Because let’s be honest, my memory is not what it once was. If I don’t record information the second I hear it, it vanishes beneath a torrent of other, more pressing—or simply more recent—information.

I wonder if this failure of memory is due more to age or our ever-growing reliance on tech gadgets. Because I’m fairly certain I could remember my friend Marilyn’s phone number if I absolutely had to. My memory isn’t failing, and it’s not like I didn’t have scads of phone numbers memorized when I was younger. But now that I have a cell phone, my ability to retain a single phone number, even one I use regularly, seems to have vanished. I know it’s a mere click or two away, so why bother?

If Marilyn had an email address would I remember that instead? Probably not, because now people text. It’s faster. Of course, a phone call can be fast too, and yet Marilyn is one of the few people I talk to on the phone—probably because she doesn’t text or email!

Like me, Marilyn reads old-fashioned paper books. We co-produce Storied Nights: An Evening of Spoken Word, so we spend a lot of time together reading various books and selecting material. Both of us refuse to switch to an eReader. Why? We like the smell and feel of traditional books. At least that’s what we say. Perhaps it’s nostalgia.

It’s not that I’m adverse to technology. I keep digital files of the material we use for Storied Nights plus make good use of an app called Trello to store and organize future programming ideas and material. Without it, I’m not sure how we could keep everything from devolving into total chaos. As it is, I have stacks of books scattered around the house, just like in the past….

And let’s not forget GoodReads, which helps me track and store my reading list—when I remember to use it. It all boils down to memory. I clearly need a system to help me remember my system….

Until next time,
Cynthia Patton

About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
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