Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Total Memory Makeover: Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future

Posted by nliakos on May 1, 2015

by Marilu Henner with Lorin Henner (Gallery Books 2012; ISBN 978-1-4516-5121-8)

I don’t usually blog about books that I haven’t finished, but I thought I’d leave myself a reminder (!) that I started reading this one. I first heard about Marilu Henner on NPR. She’s one of only twelve people in the world who are recognized to have something called Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory, or HSAM. In practice, this means that Henner remembers everything that’s happened to her since she was twelve, and a lot that happened before that: and not only what happened, but how she felt, what she wore, what the weather was like, etc. I can’t even imagine having enough time to remember stuff like that! I am on the other end of the autiographical memory spectrum. I think I would call mine HDAM, or Highly Deficient Autobiographical Memory. Whole swathes of my life are missing from my conscious memory. In general, if I don’t have a picture, I can’t remember. My best friend is always reminding me of stuff we did in college. I can barely remember which classes I took in college, let alone what else happened. So I was intrigued by someone who remembers literally everything she has experienced.

However, this isn’t really a book about Henner’s unusual memory, although she does mention it. Instead, it’s a kind of self-help book (I should have realized that from the title!). Henner, a life coach, teaches people how to be healthier, live better, and (yes) remember their lives better, and this book is her suggestions as to how to improve one’s autobiographical memory. This is all well and good, but it’s not really the book I was after when I picked it off the shelf, and I find myself skipping through the many “exercises” (e.g., Think about someone or something in your life you are about to confront. What would make you a more effective participant in that situation? Being calm? Fired up? More loving? Now, what sense-memory object would help you get into that state of being? . . .). So I’ve decided to return the book to the library tomorrow, and possibly resume it later with an eye toward actually doing the exercises and improving the memory.

In the meantime, I’ve already started Collapse by Jared Diamond.

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