Recently I read an article by Hope Reese in the New York Times about a new book on memory—“The Complete Guide to Memory: the Science of Strengthening Your Mind,” by Dr. Richard Restak, a neurologist and clinical professor of medicine.
Since my mind could always use some strengthening, I decided to read it.
In the article, Dr. Restak said that decline in memory is not inevitable. (Always good news.) In his book he offered tips for developing and maintaining a healthy memory.
Dr. Restak described stumbling blocks that can lead to lost memories. However, he found that those who worked to pay better attention, or who played memory games or found ways to test their memories could improve their working memory.
Another tip he listed to improve memory was to read more novels. According to the doctor, many of us give up on fiction when we begin to have memory difficulties. As a result, we switch to reading non-fiction. But fiction is important and valuable, because fiction requires active engagement with text. “You have to remember what the character did on Page 3 by the time you get to Page 11,” he said.
I read his observation about reading novels with considerable glee. So much advice about maintaining memory centers on activities such as crossword puzzles and games, yet here was a scientist, a neurologist and memory expert, championing the value of reading novels to improve memory and avoid decline. It warmed my heart to read that, and I silently rejoiced.
“We are what we can remember,” Dr. Restak went on to say. If we are what we can remember, does this mean that I am made up of a composite of the many books I have read and remember, with characters like Madame Bovary, Hans Castorp, Scarlet O”Hara, Leopold Bloom, Holden Caulfield, Frodo (not to mention Gregor Samsa and Lad, a Dog).? Am I, then, the person I’ve become through reading novels? Am I romantic, tragic, Southern, noble, hysterical, mythical, etc., and also a helpless squirming bug? Ah, yes, I remember them all. Maybe they help me to maintain my memory, but this could become very confusing. Nevermind, I’ll think about that tomorrow.
The point is that this is even more proof that fiction has an important place in our lives. It can improve us in so many ways, and I am grateful to have it.
Thanks for stopping by.
The book: “The Complete Guide to Memory: The Science of Strengthening your Mind.” By Dr. Richard Restak, a neurologist and clinical professor at Georgetown Washington Hospital University Sch of Medicine And Health