Discussion

What Makes a Book Forgettable?

I read between 100 and 150 books a year. I’ve been reviewing for three years now (not all of them on this blog), which means I’ve read and reviewed around 400 books in three years.

I can’t, of course, remember all of them.


Sometimes I Forget

…and I want to understand why. There are some books I remember vividly that I read in 2016, and books I’ve read this year I’m already starting to forget. Which means it’s not just about how much time has passed since I read them.

So I decided to put together a list of books I don’t remember much of. I’ll try to understand what they have in common.


The Most Forgettable Books, According to Acqua

I’m choosing three for each year.

2016

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
Rating: 2 stars
Pages: 496
I remember nothing about what happened here. I mean, there were a white violinist and a black pirate falling in love, and there was time travel, but it’s not like I have any idea of the details. I don’t remember a scene from this. It was just bland.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Rating: 2 stars
Pages: 242
Excerpts from my goodreads review: “I have never read a book I have forgotten as quickly and thoroughly as this one”; “the only thing I remember is a plot twist I didn’t even like”.

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Rating: 2 stars
Pages: 464
I read this because everyone kept telling me Morgan Matson is awesome. I just find white American straight romances deeply uninteresting, and this was no exception.

2017

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
Rating: 2 stars
Pages: 471
I think this had a plot somewhere, but all I remember was the subpar worldbuilding and writing. It’s still technically my favorite Cashore book.

The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig
Rating: 1 star
Pages: 456
Something definitely happened in this book, but all I remember was the never-ending boredom. I’m glad I gave Heidi Heilig another chance, but this just wasn’t good. (I also remember that I started actively hating one of the characters in this, and that’s why I rated it one star, but do I remember who that was? No)

The Daughters of the Waning Moon by Leena Likitalo
Rating: 3 stars
Pages: 222
I actually remember some parts of this! It had a great atmosphere and technology, but I don’t know anything about the plot or the characters. I also found this somewhat boring.

2018

Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey
Rating: 2 stars
Pages: 192
I started thinking this was forgettable while I was reading it, because the pacing was so bad everything felt rushed. Rushed -> No emotional impact -> Don’t care -> Don’t care enough to remember.

The Future Is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente
Rating: 3 stars
Pages: 368
There’s only one story I hadn’t already read I remember from this collection, and it is the first one. All the others (with the exception of The Lily and the Horn, which is one of my favorite stories, but I already knew it) are a blur of overdone writing and ambitious but messy plotlines.

Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells
Rating: 4 stars
Pages: 158
Why was this forgettable? Because it’s exactly the same story as All Systems Red and Artificial Condition, and I may love the main character, but I also like originality.


What do these book have in common?
  1. I didn’t love them. [Expected] There are some books I loved I don’t remember much of – mostly, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – but none of them I really found forgettable.
  2. I didn’t hate them. [Kind of Expected, but not as much as #1] If I hate a book, I tend to have vivid memories of it, or at least of its remarkably ugly parts. I can’t even recall a scene from some of these.
  3. I didn’t care about them, and they’re almost all either 2 or 3 stars. [Expected] I didn’t have any strong feelings about any of these.
  4. They’re either over 450 pages or under 250. [Unexpected] I didn’t see this coming. There’s only one exception, the short story collection. I think I know why this happened: I’m unlikely to reach for a 500+ page book if I’m not sure I’m going to like it, and if I don’t like it, I’m probably going to DNF/hate it because of its length. 450 is the perfect range for boredom that doesn’t get me to DNF or hate a book, I tend to skim-read instead. And short books often have pacing problems, which means I end up not caring, like I explained with Taste of Marrow.
  5. I had no sense of setting. [Expected] We Were Liars and The Five Daughters of the Moon are the two main exceptions, but not having any idea of how the setting looks like often ruins a book for me.

Also: I remember nothing about the characters. Weak characters lacking in development won’t necessarily make me hate a book, but I can see why they make it forgettable. Some of these books are sequels, and while I do remember and like the main characters in those cases (or I wouldn’t have read the sequel), I found their development underwhelming in the books I listed, and sometimes I don’t even remember what they did in these sequels.

It’s also correlated to length, because short books do not often allow compelling character arcs and in long books the development can feel watered down.


Are there any books you remember specifically because you forgot everything about them?

2 thoughts on “What Makes a Book Forgettable?

  1. This is such an interesting post! I feel really bad about it, but I found The Girl in the Tower pretty forgettable, especially compared with The Bear and the Nightingale. I think that happens a lot for me with sequels, cause they’re by default not as original as a standalone. I also tend to forget books that are too plot driven or have really bland endings

    Liked by 1 person

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