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On Impact And Remembrance

A photograph of books that have impacted me for various reasons: John Green's The Fault In Our Stars; F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby; Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française; Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca; Eowyn Ivey's The Snow Child; Susan Cain's Quiet

If I don’t remember a book’s impact on me any more, surely it didn’t deserve the (high) rating I gave it. I’m paraphrasing a comment Alice made here a while back – the sentiment has stayed with me. I like the thought and think it worthy of some consideration. It makes me wonder: does a book have to have a lasting impact? What about the various ‘sorts’ of impacts?

I’m of the opinion that it depends on the type of book, the point of the book. Chick-lit, for example, is often about the here and now, your enjoyment of the book as you read it. It’s predictable; that’s okay. It may not have a lasting impact so to speak; that’s okay. However enjoyment itself can be a lasting impact – it can make us want to read more by the author and to read more in the same genre; and even if we weren’t reading for studious purposes we may find something we want to research.

And the point of some books can be the ride, the fun of it. It’s that that we take away from some books, our recommendation. I’ve Taylor Stevens’ The Doll in mind. There are social issues in it but it’s the pacing you take away with you, the ride, the adrenaline. It’s rather like a thriller film.

This is the crunch of it – yes, I can remember a fair amount about Stevens’ novel but then I read it only last year. I expect it won’t be as clear in the future. What will remain will be the experience and that’ll be strong enough for me to carry on saying it’s a 5-star read.

Ambiguous endings – that is, endings that are ambiguous for good reason – almost always have a lasting impact; you mull over the contents trying to work them out. One could speculate some are created for that very purpose. You’re going to remember that ending, the sentiment. It’ll likely outlive your memory of the rest of the book. I’d say some ambiguous endings, particularly those that don’t work or make ‘writing sense’, have been written to provoke a better reaction and impact than the book may otherwise have had.

It may be more the feeling or the lesson that you remember and again, that could be the point. Having recently finished The Awakening I can say I’m likely to remember the point more than the specifics of the story. I remember the thoughts of The Secrets Of The Jin-Shei – pressure, a society where the women are the leaders – but other than a couple of scenes I don’t remember the written content. Northern Lights: the sentiment, and the way Pullman includes souls – and I’ve read it twice. On Gold Mountain: the feeling of a good book, an interesting family.

I think it does come down to impact, the type of impact. Stating that there can be various types and that some are more important or more crucial than others is, I think, key.

What do you think?


Tracy Terry

June 24, 2015, 4:03 pm

Another insightful post that has got me thinking, thank you.

vicki (skiourophile)

June 25, 2015, 1:43 pm

I think horror sticks with me in particular, especially if it is physical torture. I was never able to finish American Psycho, for instance, but the bit I read still retains the power to make me feel very uneasy 20 years later.

Jenny @ Reading the End

June 25, 2015, 6:54 pm

Hm, a lot to think about. I agree with you up front — that if I can’t remember the impact a book had on me, it doesn’t deserve its gif rating. But I have also found, having a book blog, that if I go back and glance at an old glowing review for a book I now don’t remember tremendously well, I’m then more likely to reread it. And most often, my initial impression was the right one, and the book was quite good and worth rereading. (One of many reasons I’m well glad I keep a book blog.)


June 25, 2015, 7:18 pm

An interesting topic. I can understand what you mean about a book having a lasting impact. I can especially think of books I read at the right time or a learnt something from that have definitely had a lasting impact. As a regular re-reader though the lasting impact of most great books for me is the joy they will bring and the different experiences of them I will have through out my life.


June 28, 2015, 7:50 pm

This is a really good point! Definitely depends on the type of impact. Ones that really make me think, ponder, feel are the sort of impact that just last. But, then there are books like Eleanor and Park, which had a massive emotional impact, but now I barely remember what happened.

Literary Feline

July 1, 2015, 4:15 pm

Such a thought provoking post! I do think the books that impact me the greatest are the ones that stay with me longer. Most of my all time favorite books are books like that. And by impact I mean evoke strong emotions in me–this may be because of the subject matter, empathy for the characters, or even a connection I make between my own life and the book. I am an emotional reader more than I am an intellectual one (although there is some of both in me, to be sure). I admit to not always remembering specific details of books after time has passed, but I see that more as a reflection of how much I read–maybe if I read less I would remember more? Or it could be age. My memory isn’t what it used to be. Regardless, what is most important to me is how a book made me feel–so, of course, that is what I will remember most. (This is also why I would never make a good critic, and why I think objectivity in reviews is overrated.)

I was thinking the other day I should consider rating (if only privately) a book twice–once when I first finish it and then again after I have written my review. I wonder how much, if any, difference there would be. Sometimes I close a book and feel love for the book, but when I really start to let it sink in and begin writing about it, I am less enamored by it. So, I know that occasionally my rating might vary. I don’t know. Just an idea I am toying with.


July 21, 2015, 10:40 am

Tracy: You’re welcome :)

Vicki: That’s got quite the power, then!

Jenny: Yes to that; glowing review can equal re-read. I’m glad for that, too, and keeping all my old reviews.

Jessica: Yes, timing can be everything, if it blends with something you’re going through or similar, you’re likely to remember it more band it may have had a direct impact on your life in some way. I like that thought, the joy they bring on a regular basis.

Alice: Yes, here too! Loved E&P and can remember it enough, but not nearly so much as others. Emotional impact doesn’t always last.

Literary Feline: I like that most of your favourites are those that had an impact. I’m a bit weird in that way – lots of mine aren’t those that had an impact, I remember the enjoyment on its own, but am constantly thinking it’s silly to call those favourites and not those that stayed with me. You’ve given me food for thought! I think remembering more if you read less is possible, but then reading less would mean you had other priorities you put first so in a way you’d be right not to remember it. Also I think the passage of time would have an affect just the same way it does when we read a lot; it’d just be swifter.

I think your rating idea is a good one. I’ve considered similar myself – rating once read and reviewed (because I review very soon afterwards) and then a rating after a couple of months. It’s certainly an interesting idea and valuable I think, in terms of recommendations and longevity.



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