Nick Pateras | Book Reviews
I have always been a reader. When I was a child I used to read at breakfast, in the car, in the bath, everywhere. I loved having a book with me in which to dive at any spare moment. Nowadays my tendency is to veer more naturally towards the news by phone or laptop, but a good book retains its status in my mind as the truer companion.
About three years ago a novel I enjoyed as a teenager came up in conversation, and I realized I could barely recall the protagonist's name or even the key plot points. My input was limited to no more than a frivolous, "That book was good. I remember loving it." I came away embarrassed and frustrated that on reflection, I struggled to opine on what specifically I liked about many books I'd read, or even many experiences I'd lived.
What is the point of experiencing something if you can't remember and discuss it?
Since then, I've adopted the habit of taking extensive notes whenever I read or travel, capturing my real-time thoughts as I navigate a book or explore a new country. To cement these musings after the fact, I've found it rewarding to express my reflections more coherently in the form of short book reviews or travel accounts. I've since learned that Michel de Montaigne operated similarly, writing critical judgments in the back of his books, "to compensate a little for the treachery and weakness of my memory."
Humbling as it is to concede one's recollection depends on external triggers and despite envy of professional literary critics whose writing I could not hope to replicate, I nonetheless consider the exercise quite therapeutic. It is primarily for me, after all.