How to remember a dense book 1000 pages long?

How do we remember a dense book 1000 pages long? This is not a trivial question and it is asked quite often. Obviously, we need a good strategy. As always, everyone can make his own strategy. Quite often I change my strategy based on the content. Let us discuss one possible strategy, and you can try to modify it in your spare time for various books.

Reading and memorization process

Before reading the book, memorize the title and the author. Than scan through the pages of the book. Spend 2-3 minutes simply paging. When we preread the book, we create a top-level understanding of the book. We can also research about the book a bit, so that we are prepared to read the text.

Then we reread the table of context, generating the content structure representation in our head. It is important to select one form of memorization (mindmap or mental palace) and stick to it.

Once we start reading the book, we stop after each chapter to analyze the specific content and create linking between this specific content and the book structure. Try to have Pomodoro breaks immediately afterward.

After finishing several chapters, we review what we just read in our mind reinforcing the memory structures. Quite often we use dual coding: we code the same information in a different way, so we can easier retrieve it later.

It makes sense to review the whole book in our heads at least 3 times: immediately after reading, a day and a week after reading.

The resultant memory structures appear in 3 levels: top-level metadata, content structure and specific chapters. Below are some very specific tips for each level of the process.

Top level tactics

At the top level we remember the general metadata of the book, including:

  1. Book name (and publication date)
  2. Author (and his biography)
  3. Main characters (and person-action-object for each)
  4. Plot overview (as short animation?)
  5. A list of cool quotes we want to reuse in our life
  6. The emotional response we had while reading the book
  7. A list of ideas how we use and can use the book in our life

Since there are relatively few top-level items and they are poorly connected, we typically use very strong markers with weak linking if any. Often we use dual coding of the visualization and subvocalization.

Content structure tactics

We can remember the whole content structure within one memorization system. If the structure is not very complex, we may choose to use mental palace, rooms for book parts and compartments for chapters. Otherwise, mindmap is probably preferable.

Quite often we want to structure each chapter into subsections or groups of paragraphs. Each chapter has an anchor marker with representation both within the chapter content and the document structure. We may also want to generate some specific top-level markers and associations using the same marker object. One of the ways to encode association is via details of the specific markers, including colors, texture, and prints on the objects we visualize.We use dual coding for selected information in a form of a small and very memorizable memory structure, quite often, an animation will do. We may encode specific associations so we can later recall specific chapters and ideas. One of the ways to encode this information is via details of the specific markers, including colors, texture, and prints on the objects we visualize. 

Specific content tactics

Each specific chapter can be remembered any way you want. It may be tricky to connect chapter content to the generic book structure. There are no serious limitations to the types of objects we connect, and mental palace can connect to mindmap or to animation.

This means that the most important markers of each chapter get duplicate representations based on the rules of the specific memorization method. Animations tend to move, mental palace objects tend to be tangible, mindmaps are populated with objects that are stylized and simplified like icons. Having a strong visualization that corresponds to the rules of multiple memorizations may be tricky. If the object changes too much between different levels of memorization, we may loose it from retention.

If we want long-term retention, we need to use dual coding on each level of memorization. After we end up reading each chapter we may want to visualize the key events into a different memorization system than the system we used when reading the chapter. It is best to reuse (the third time) the initial marker we use to mark the chapter. We may also want to reinforce the main document structure, reviewing it link every time we add a chapter to it.


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