I Forgot I Read This Book Completely — And It Made Me Rethink Everything I Know About Reading
It happened to me for the first time this year: I forgot a book I read. I don't mean that I forgot what happens in it, or that I forgot about reading it until I suddenly remembered to recommend it to someone. I completely forgot the entire experience of reading one of last year's most acclaimed novels, and now I'm not sure what to do with the books I don't remember reading.
In November of last year, I was deep in the finals for my first semester of grad school and unable to find any time to read for fun. I started checking out audiobooks from my local library's Overdrive service to listen to during my 90-minute commute. I limited my search to audiobooks less than nine hours — the length of my total weekly commute — long, and made lists of all the titles I wanted to listen to, but that were already checked out to someone else. When I saw Zinzi Clemmons' Andrew Carnegie Medal nominee, What We Lose, become available, I seized upon it.
Unfortunately, I don't remember reading — listening to an audiobook counts as reading, kids — What We Lose. I'm sure it was a wonderful novel; I gave it four stars on Goodreads. But up until last week, I thought it was still on my TBR.
What We Lose tells the story of Thandi, the daughter of two mixed-race parents, who feels caught between races and origins. Her mother grew up in apartheid-era South Africa, but Thandi isn't South African, nor does she feel fully American. When her mother dies of cancer, Thandi must carry on, adrift, looking for somewhere or someone to call home.
After a week of intense thought, trying to recall reading What We Lose, I have been able to dredge up a few vague recollections about it, including the memory of lingering in the car to listen to it longer. And although my amnesia regarding What We Lose can probably be chalked up to my busy grad school schedule, it still baffles me to think that I lost every memory I had of this book.
What We Lose cannot be the only novel I've lost in this way, so what am I to do with the books I don't remember reading? Re-reading them seems like a logical course of action, particularly if I liked them well enough to give them a good review the first time around. But I also wonder if this isn't just one of those things you have to learn to let go of in life. Maybe life is too short to re-read books, even good ones.