Monday, October 4, 2010

The Forgetful Majority

I missed this essay when it first appeared in the September 19, 2010 issue of 'The New York Times Book Review'; but there were several Letters to the Editor about it in the October 3rd issue and that prompted me to look it up online. With the exception of fellow-blogger Charlotte who, I believe, remembers every book she has ever read, I urge everyone else to read "The Plot Escapes Me" by James Collins.

It speaks to me - and about me - more than anything I can remember reading. But that is the irony and the point of the essay. I remember very little of what I have read over the years or even last month. Does that make it a waste of time? Collins has some very interesting answers.

Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics, has a commentary on the article on his blog. He frames the question a little differently as you might expect: what is the opportunity cost of reading?

Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that book group discussions and writing down your thoughts about what you read (for example, in a blog!) should enhance retention. I can't really say that they do...but I'm not ready to give up on either.

You can read the Letters to the Editor about the essay here.

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