The best books on memory

5 authors have picked their favorite books about memory and why they recommend each book.

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The Quantum Thief

By Hannu Rajaniemi,

Book cover of The Quantum Thief

It is a truism that Science Fiction dates itself. SF stories that were written only a few years previous often fail to foresee technological innovations ̶ cell phones, GPS, gene-splicing ̶ that seem obvious and inevitable to hindsight-blessed present-day readers. Those disconcerted by such, let us call them “backwards anachronisms,” should find Quantum Thief a welcome relief for decades to come, because the novel is set so far in the future that hi-tech things like, say, cell phones seem quaint curios out of far-distant days of yore. Long-distance communications in Quantum Thief are effected by something more like telepathy (although the word is never used).

“Quantum” is the operative term in this novel, make no mistake.

Be forewarned: Quantum Thief is chock-full of coined terminology. But have no fear. You have a choice. Either use the online glossary - or you can just read for the story and absorb the…


Who am I?

First off, I have a PhD in English from Lehigh University. I’m particularly interested in seeking out literary science (and speculative) fiction, SF that has style, that is well-written, well-plotted, SF that avoids the flat characters and cliched writing to which the genre can be all too prone. Some readers find genre fiction in general off-putting, associating it with poor style. Literary genre fiction thus gets sequestered beside its less-felicitous brethren and sistren. Which is too bad. Because plenty of stylistically-adept SF exists. One just needs someone to sift through the detritus for one, prize out the pearls, and display them in fine settings for one’s perusal.


I wrote...

Sex Quests: Two Tales of Futures Possible

By Theodore Irvin Silar,

Book cover of Sex Quests: Two Tales of Futures Possible

What is my book about?

Gene Raid: Post-global-warming Canada: ecologist, hunter, and inventor leave home, Erlandsland, to seek wives to replenish Erlandsland’s in-bred gene pool. Duped by fishermen living in monumental ruins on the ice-free Arctic Ocean, spurned by caribou-hunting tribeswomen they’ve helped defeat an enemy, enslaved by a regimented society, they finally meet the wild horse-women of their dreams. Escape will require ingenuity, daring.

Natural Woman: A world of Curlicue buildings, Fireworks buildings, 3D-printed houses, genetically-manipulated hippogriffs, plastic surgery that remakes the human body, a young woman rejects it all, trying to find herself a place—when suddenly she sights the most perfectly natural man she’s ever seen. Finagling her way up the social ladder after him, she learns about herself, about society, about life.

On the Shadows of the Ideas

By Giordano Bruno, John Michael Greer (translator),

Book cover of On the Shadows of the Ideas: Comprising an art of investigating, discovering, judging, ordering, and applying, set forth for the purpose of inner writing, and not for vulgar operations of memory

Giordano Bruno was a great memory master who refined a meditation technique he learned from Ramon Llull. The technique involves using a "memory wheel." Different parts of the wheel contain problems, and an inner wheel contains solutions. Bruno gives many tips on how to use memory techniques so that you can meditate using the memory wheels.

Although very challenging, John Michael Greer's translation is clear and the illustrations help make your use of the memory techniques easy. The book also offers fantastic ideas for developing the best possible mindset for pursuing your meditation and learning goals over the long term.


Who am I?

Memory techniques saved my life, but I still struggled with depression. When I learned how to combine memory techniques with meditation, I was finally able to experience peace with many aspects of the disease, particularly the unwanted thoughts it placed in my mind. Much good research demonstrates just how powerful memory and meditation are for people who are suffering. Combined, the two practices create even more beneficial outcomes.


I wrote...

The Victorious Mind: How to Master Memory, Meditation and Mental Well-Being

By Anthony Metivier,

Book cover of The Victorious Mind: How to Master Memory, Meditation and Mental Well-Being

What is my book about?

Do you worry about being forgetful? Does your scattered brain drive you nuts? Are you drowning in negative thoughts? Renowned retention expert Dr. Anthony Metivier was trapped for years by his crippling bipolar disorder. Now, the YouTube star, personal mentor to USA Memory Championship winners, and bestselling author is here to share how you can uniquely combine several key techniques to transform your life.

The Victorious Mind: How to Master Memory, Meditation and Mental Well-Being is a highly practical manual to the best methods for restoring your focus. By blending scientifically proven practices and detailed step-by-step instruction, you’ll design your own combination of winning strategies. As you follow Dr. Metivier’s straightforward path to cerebral and spiritual freedom, you’ll soon be discovering refreshingly new tranquility, in less than five hours of practice.

Fire and Hemlock

By Diana Wynne Jones,

Book cover of Fire and Hemlock

Diana Wynne Jones was a wonderful woman who always responded to my questions in a tidy hand, delighting a little boy who had made himself an author pen-pal. When a twelve-year-old Brian begged for a copy of her Fire and Hemlockmy library suffered a flood and its copy, lost—the best she could procure for the out-of-print book was a solitary copy she possessed… in Japanese. Our correspondence lasted several letters, topics ranging the gamut from life in England, the University of Oxford, and writing in general. It’s a retelling of the Scottish ballad, “Tam Lin,” and stars a strong female protagonist and an elegant take on magical realism. 


Who am I?

“Reality is malleable,” my mentor told me. As a boy I had always wished it so: I grew up in a pine forest with naught but deer with which to convene; friendship came in the form of books. I was—and still am to this dayan introvert by nature, so there was nothing more desirable than escaping some jibes and jabs from older siblings, or more serious issues like my parents’ drinking problems and my own struggle with depression. That’s when I found practical magic.


I wrote...

Librarian

By Brian Fence,

Book cover of Librarian

What is my book about?

Lenna Faircloth was content enough to be junior librarian at one of the grandest libraries on the Continent, so long as at the end of the day she can enjoy a glass of wine and some decent shut-eye. Reticent and unconcerned with trivial matters, Lenna is startled the day her childhood friend, Gilbert, appears at her door, asking her to help smuggle stolen goods across national borders. Librarian is the first part of a young woman's journey set in an alternate, sparsely-populated world. When unfortunate circumstances leave a bizarre, out-of-place artifact of immense power in the sole custody of Lenna, she is forced to question her own wants, the source of her withdrawal from others, and the curious nature of the Continent's magic.

Memories of War

By Laurence Marshall Carucci, Suzanne Falgout, Lin Poyer

Book cover of Memories of War: Micronesians in the Pacific War

In this follow-up to Typhoon Of War, we focus on Micronesians’ memories of World War II—the stories they tell, the songs they sing, and their recollections of those years of trauma and excitement. The book includes many personal stories and describes how Islanders think about the way years, and how they pass on those memories to the next generation. The book reveals much about how Islanders lived through bombing, forced labor, family separation, displacement, invasion, and other stresses of war. The poignant and evocative stories and songs showcase Micronesian cultural themes and verbal artistry.


Who are we?

We are three anthropologists who have focused decades of research on the cultures and histories of the beautiful part of the world known as Micronesia. We wrote this book when we realized that the many volumes of history on War in the Pacific focused on the combatants, and told us little of the experiences of the Islanders across whose lands, seas, and airspace the war was fought. Kwajalein, Enewetak, Pohnpei, Chuuk, Peleliu, Saipan, Guam, Tinian—these were not just battlegrounds, but also precious homelands. Our goal was to combine documentary history with interviews of more than 300 elders to tell the story of the war in Micronesia as it was experienced by Islanders who lived through it.


We wrote...

The Typhoon of War: Micronesian Experiences of the Pacific War

By Suzanne Falgout, Laurence Marshall Carucci, Lin Poyer

Book cover of The Typhoon of War: Micronesian Experiences of the Pacific War

What is our book about?

World War II was a watershed event for the people of the former Japanese colonies of Micronesia. The Japanese military build-up, the conflict itself, and the American occupation and control of the conquered islands brought rapid and dramatic changes to Micronesian life. Whether they spent the war in caves and bomb shelters, in sweet potato fields under armed Japanese guard, or in their own homes, Micronesians who survived those years recognize that their peoples underwent a major historical transformation. Like a typhoon, the war swept away a former life.

Moonwalking with Einstein

By Joshua Foer,

Book cover of Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

The author immersed himself in the world of memory experts and describes how he went from (metaphorical) memory rags to memory riches – eventually winning a prestigious memory contest. This book takes the mystery out of how to learn vast bodies of information; Foer describes learning devices that anyone can use to put their memory on steroids.


Who am I?

Stephen M. Kosslyn has been immersed in the world of learning for decades. He is the founder of Active Learning Sciences, Inc., and is Chief Academic Officer of Foundry College. Kosslyn's research has focused on the nature of visual cognition, visual communication, and the science of learning; he has published 14 books and over 350 papers on these topics. He has received numerous honors, including the National Academy of Sciences Initiatives in Research Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, three honorary Doctorates, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


I wrote...

Active Learning Online: Five Principles that Make Online Courses Come Alive

By Stephen M. Kosslyn,

Book cover of Active Learning Online: Five Principles that Make Online Courses Come Alive

What is my book about?

Inspired by the surge of online courses during the COVID 19 pandemic, researcher and educational innovator Stephen M. Kosslyn offers a treasure trove of active learning principles and activities to bring online courses alive. Whether your course is synchronous (e.g., live with Zoom) or asynchronous (e.g., using video content on Canvas), Active Learning Online will inject your new or existing course with all the benefits of active learning: your course will be more interesting and effective, student engagement will increase, learning outcomes will be reached, and general teaching and learning experiences will be enriched.

At the heart of this book are five key principles from the science of learning that will help to ensure that the taught materials stick in students’ minds: (1) deep processing, (2) chunking, (3) building associations, (4) dual coding, and (5) deliberate practice. Based on these learning principles,
Active Learning Online provides a wealth of specific active learning exercises that you can implement in your classes immediately. 

It Didn't Start With You

By Mark Wolynn,

Book cover of It Didn't Start With You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle

Looks further back than the previous book and how the trauma of previous generations can be passed down the line. The first half is full of examples of how even unknown incidents are reflected in the problems of Wolynn’s patients today. The second half is about how to use these insights to heal. I use it a lot with my clients and they are full of praise for the book. It is particularly helpful to understand how your grandparents impacted your parents. I used this book to throw light onto how the First World War and my Great Uncle’s death on the Somme still affects my family one hundred years later.


Who am I?

I am a marital therapist with thirty-five years of experience helping couples fall back in love and deal with the fall out from infidelity. I trained with RELATE – the UK’s largest couple counselling charity – and have a private practice in Berlin and lead a team of therapists based in the UK. I have heard over a thousand couples argue – more often than not – about their children. So I am always looking for books that will give a wider perspective and practical advice on how to be a parent without exhausting your marriage and forgetting to still be lovers.


I wrote...

I Love You, But I'm Not in Love with You: Seven Steps to Putting the Passion Back Into Your Relationship

By Andrew G. Marshall,

Book cover of I Love You, But I'm Not in Love with You: Seven Steps to Putting the Passion Back Into Your Relationship

What is my book about?

Translated into over twenty languages this self-help classic has sold over 100,000 copies. Why do people fall out of love? The answer will surprise you. Of course, if you neglect or hurt someone there will be a drip, drip effect but the number one cause is avoiding arguments. We think we're helping our relationship by not making a fuss, but by switching off our annoyance and anger we eventually end up switching off all our feelings.

Parents are particularly likely to avoid issues – in order not to upset their children – but that means nothing really gets REALLY sorted or one partner thinks everything is fine and the other is sinking into despair.

The Rag and Bone Shop

By Veronica O'Keane,

Book cover of The Rag and Bone Shop: How We Make Memories and Memories Make Us

Veronica is a professor of psychiatry with a special interest in psychosis such as schizophrenia and especially those that are seen in women after childbirth. These states of altered consciousness and the memories they produce give us insights into the nature of mental illness and the making of memories. The book develops as a series of case studies that are gently described in relation to the different brain regions that are involved in the experiences with a simple-to-understand diagram. Bringing together her clinical insights with beautiful perspectives from prose and poetry as well as from philosophers especially Henri Bergson, she makes a compelling case for memories being the core of what we as humans are.

Who am I?

I have been a doctor, psychiatrist, and brain researcher for nearly 50 years. I have treated thousands of patients, written over a thousand scientific articles, and given a similar number of lectures to medical and neuroscience students and to the general public. I have held many leadership positions in this field for academic groups both in UK and Europe and in 2009 I set up the charity Drug Science, to tell the truth about drugs and addiction.


I wrote...

Nutt Uncut

By David J. Nutt,

Book cover of Nutt Uncut

What is my book about?

Most people know David Nutt as the sacked drug czar. But my real life I am an academic psychiatrist and researcher who uses neuroimaging to study the brain so I can help understand how it goes wrong in mental and neurological illnesses, and so helps the search for new treatments. This book takes the reader on my journey from enquiring schoolboy, through my medical training into research and then becoming the government chief advisor on drugs.

This path has often taken me into controversial areas such as the safety of treatments for mental illness and the role of animals in medical research. I have been the subject of bomb attacks from anti-vivs and reputational assaults from anti-psychiatry groups. But my belief in science as the foundation of decision making has allowed me to overcome these and continue to do innovative brain research and pioneer new clinical treatments especially those using “illegal” drugs such as psychedelics and MDMA.

Six Months Later

By Natalie D. Richards,

Book cover of Six Months Later

Again, the amnesia thing! Imagine waking up in class and realizing six months have lapsed—and you have no idea what happened. Six Months Later reminds me of the high-school version of The Bourne series—suspects are everywhere, people know too much but say too little…you don’t know who to trust but something is majorly off and you have to figure it out—despite not being able to remember…

I think adult readers often write off (pun intended) Young Adult fiction as being juvenile, but some of the best thrillers I’ve read have had high-school/college-age characters. I adore reading books where characters are not merely analytical—they are deeply emotionally intelligent.


Who am I?

I love studying the ins/outs of humanity and our interactions, but especially, EI (emotional intelligence). A lot of emphasis is put on being “smart” and analytical (think IQ), but EI is largely ignored. Relationships thrive (and die) on EI! In the novels I write, I explore the emotional side of relationships and how, if we pay attention to this other side of intelligence, beautiful interactions happen. Typically, I don’t find riveting EI in books—and so when I do, I gobble the book up once, then twice, and possibly a third time, then tell everyone I know to GO READ THAT BOOK!


I wrote...

Fallout

By Ashley Nikole,

Book cover of Fallout

What is my book about?

Four months of torture in an undisclosed location. Four months of silence. Four months of praying she won’t lose her mind and give away secrets she’s fought so hard to keep.

Avery Kent escapes with her life, but she is pursued deep into the heart of the British Columbia wilderness by the men who almost took her life—and shattered her mind. After wandering for two days in the mountains, she stumbles upon a cabin—but little does she know that the man inside is not the sheltering protector he claims to be.

Before I Go to Sleep

By S.J. Watson,

Book cover of Before I Go to Sleep

This book is now a film, but the book is much better! Imagine waking up every day without any memories. Imagine not knowing who your husband is. Imagine your husband having to explain you had an accident two decades earlier and you can’t form new memories. Well, this is that book… The problems start when the narrator begins to reconstruct her past bit by bit, though she keeps getting curtailed by her memory loss, which is both riveting and frustrating for the reader! As she gets closer to the truth, she realises her memories might not be the only things she can’t trust. It’s such a thrilling read and hard not to speed read this in one go!


Who am I?

I have always been fascinated by the idea of memory. What sticks in your mind, what is lost, what can be manipulated, how you see things in different ways to others, and how sometimes you can’t trust even your own memories. I studied psychology at A-level and that sparked an interest in me, especially in terms of repression and learned behaviours. I studied creative writing to MA level at university, where I wrote my first thriller, which also focuses on memory. I’m always searching for reads that make me look at human nature differently, or break me out of routine and can offer a surprise. Surprises keep things interesting! 


I wrote...

VOLTA

By Nikki Dudley,

Book cover of VOLTA

What is my book about?

When Briony Campbell confesses to killing her boyfriend, a straightforward crime soon turns into a baffling mystery. Haunted by demons from his past, lawyer SJ Robin is assigned to the case. But as confusion - and the body count - rises, he's forced to question who is guilty and who is innocent. Can he see justice served and hold on to the woman he loves?

A psychological thriller where no one is what they seem.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

By V.E. Schwab,

Book cover of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

I doubt this book needs much introduction, but oh my is this an outstanding read, perfect for cold, dark autumn evenings. This is a slow, introspective, gloriously self-indulgent book that explores the evergreen theme of the meaning of life and love through a refreshing story that is equal parts historical, romance, dark fantasy, and contemporary novel. If you're looking for a plot-driven, action orientated story, this might not be for you, but if you like your books like a Friday night curled up on the couch under a knitted blanket with a rich hot chocolate—spiked with something harder—a storm raging outside, and maybe a cat purring on your feet, then you will love this book.


Who am I?

While I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a fan of horror, I have recently found myself drawn to darker books—especially at this time of the year with Halloween just around the corner. As a bisexual non-binary person, I love finding books with diverse LGBT+ rep in them, so these are just a few of the spookier LGBT+ books I think would make for great autumnal reading. Plus, my own book—My Name is Magic—features all kinds of mythological werebeasties and a race to save the day before the traditional Finnish Kekri festival, an equivalent of Halloween, although it involves less candy and more fire.


I wrote...

My Name Is Magic

By Xan van Rooyen,

Book cover of My Name Is Magic

What is my book about?

Despite coming from a long line of powerful Finnish mages, and their name literally meaning magic, Taika can’t perform the simplest of spells. Life at Myrskyjärvi International School for the Magically Gifted goes from bad to worse when Taika sees a liekkiö and recognizes the spirit's voice begging for help as that of their former BFF/major crush whose recent absence from class hadn’t gone unnoticed. When more students go missing, Taika leads a race against time to save friends old and new before a powerful group of chaos mages can destroy everything Taika holds dear.

For fans of witchcraft and wizardry looking for an inclusive story, My Name Is Magic is a story about finding strength from within and potential where you least expect it.

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