If you read a book, and you don’t remember much, is that time wasted?

When someone asks me about books that I read several years back, I often remember very little from them. Does that mean I should read less, or differently? Even for fiction, where learning facts is not the goal, if I can’t come up with a choice quote, or really understand how/if it affected me, maybe that’s a bad thing. After all, life is short.

First, it is definitely possible to read better. Robert Heaton lays out a system, which I would like to use but don’t.

                  <p>To try and get more reps in, I think that books should be read in two phases:</p>
  1. Read and annotate the book in a way that makes it easy to scan and digest once you have finished
  2. Once you have finished the book, make a “writeup”. This involves summarizing the book, doing further research and making flashcards (using Anki)

@RobJHeaton https://robertheaton.com/2018/06/25/how-to-read/</footer> </blockquote>

This is good, and I would certainly get more out of books if I did this.

But I want to propose an alternate theory of reading: reading as eating.

You don’t remember every meal you’ve ever eaten: you remember the special ones, the ones that you enjoyed with friends, or at a particular moment in your life. Why do you eat? And why bother eating well if you don’t memorize what you’ve eaten?

First, because life should be full of eating enjoyment. It’s a major source of pleasure and we should take pleasure seriously and joylessly.

But we also eat for health. You don’t do a pushup and then attribute that energy to the veggie burger you ate three days ago. Rather, a healthy body is composed out of a lifetime of good eating, and a healthy mind is composed from a lifetime of good reading and thinking.