Is a good book always memorable?

Since starting my time off work, I’ve relished the prospect of having more time to read. A couple of weeks ago, I studied my bookshelf, savouring the possibilities. The shelves were creaking under the weight of books I hadn’t read – books I bought from Amazon when I got distracted browsing the internet, gifts from friends, slightly tattered books from charity shops and a whole collection of books with the sticker “3 for 2” on their front covers.
I spent half an hour happily browsing through the shelves, envisaging myself by the swimming pool with book in hand. Eventually I selected one. The blurb sounded enticing and I wanted to start it straight away.
But by the time I go to around the fifth chapter I was starting to get a bit of déjà vu. The plot seemed a bit….familiar. But I decided that maybe I’d just watched a programme with a similar plot on TV. I put the feeling aside and read on.
By the time I was about a third in and more familiar with the characters I knew I had read it before. I was confused. The book was well-written and interesting – I was enjoying it. So why didn’t I remember it?
I racked my brains to remember the ending but couldn’t. I felt frustrated. Now I knew I’d read it before it all seemed a bit pointless. What was the point of reading it again, only to forget it again? I started to think of all the other books I wanted to read and found I couldn’t concentrate on the book any more. It was using up time, and my time was valuable.
So I put it to one side and started a new book – Dead Game, by Claire Kinton, one of the books selected for the Brit Writers publishing programme.
The old book is sitting on my bedside table and it looks at me reproachfully whenever I pick up Dead Game. I feel guilty. I enjoyed the old book, but just not enough. It wasn’t memorable.
It got me thinking. Should books be stay with you long after you read them? What makes a book memorable?

6 thoughts on “Is a good book always memorable?

  1. As well as a gripping plot, which has you desperate to find out how it all ends – and desperate for it not to end(!), strong characters are all-important (IMHO). If the character lives on your head and you find yourself embellishing the plot, or even creating new little plot threads for them, that has to make a book memorable. 🙂

  2. I think if the page-turning vibe isn’t there, you’ll never remember it. It’s rare I put a book down, so I can understand how they must not have clicked for you! At least Claire’s book should keep you entertained 🙂

  3. When I was younger I seemed to find it easy to recall most of the books I had read and if I scanned the first page would remember the story. Not so any more I’m afraid. I suspect it’s not only the fault of age but also the fact that by now I’ve read so many of them. Even some of my favourites from student days are now hazy.

    Thinking about more recent reads, i have to agree with Georgina. A page-turner is essential but there is also something about the writing style and the complexity of the story as well. If it intrigues me, I am more likely to remember it.

  4. I can remember a lot of books I read when a teenager, but that was before all the creative writing classes that sport the same kind of blueprint for writing a book.

  5. I think novels are about characters primarily and plot second. So I guess we need to either love or loathe the characters. One of them anyway. I’ve read books with a great plot, but with weak characters and/or lifeless dialogue and then I think if only you’d gone the extra mile and I would have been hooked.