Demystifying Absentmindedness with Lisa Genova’s Remember
This Week on the Book Dreams Podcast
Do you lose your keys, your wallet, your glasses… in your own home? Do you forget the names of people you met two minutes ago? How often do you start a sentence with what’s that word I’m thinking of? Yeah, us too.
This is the second in a series of “mini episodes” where Book Dreams co-host Eve or Julie picks a book on a topic she needs help with, and then they come together to assess whether the book actually helped. In this episode, Eve seeks explanations for why “my memory sucks, and it gets worse as I get older.” She turns to Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting, by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, author of the New York Times bestselling novel Still Alice (the basis for the 2014 award-winning film of the same name starring Julianne Moore). The book demystifies absentmindedness by breaking down the three types of memory and explains why “memory failures are normal outcomes of our brain’s design.” Tune in to find out whether Eve is able to remember what she read.
From the episode:
Julie: Were there tips in the book that were helpful?
Eve: Oh gosh, so many tips. But let me start with the sentence that I highlighted and want to tape to my refrigerator, which is the following: “These garden variety memory failures are normal outcomes of our brain’s design.”
All the different things we’re talking about—the walking into a room, can’t remember the word, don’t remember stories that we thought were important but can no longer retrieve—what she says is, “Your default brain activity is not attentive.” Our brains are not wired to pay attention to every little thing. Our inattentive brain, it’s zoned out, it’s daydreaming, it’s on autopilot. And if we want to remember something, the most important thing to begin with is to be aware and pay attention.
The act of paying attention is critical. It’s not the whole bucket. It’s not the whole kit and caboodle. It’s not like, oh, if you pay attention, you’ll remember, but it’s the first step. And if you skip that first step, you will not remember.
Lisa Genova is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Still Alice, Left Neglected, Love Anthony, Inside the O’Briens, and Every Note Played. Still Alice was adapted into an Oscar-winning film starring Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, and Kristen Stewart. Lisa graduated valedictorian from Bates College with a degree in biopsychology and holds a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard University. She travels worldwide speaking about the neurological diseases she writes about and has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, Today, PBS NewsHour, CNN, and NPR.
Book Dreams is a podcast for everyone who loves books and misses English class. Co-hosted by Julie Sternberg and Eve Yohalem, Book Dreams releases new episodes every Thursday. Each episode explores book-related topics you can’t stop thinking about—whether you know it yet or not.