“The Universe is made up of stories. Not atoms” – Muriel Rukeyser
I picked this book up at an airport shop after a birthday trip to Canada, which I would now describe as one of the best trips of my life. Already then I was afraid of the memories fading away or of losing them completely, so spotting this book on a shelf was like a sign specifically sent for that situation. Having finally gotten to reading it 4 months later, it ended up being something different from what I expected it to be. It didn’t happen to be a guide book on how to hold on to memories or keep them from evading you (which was what I was hoping for) but rather like a little story around the universe of making memories. Nevertheless I enjoyed reading it on a cosy weekend in at home & it gave me a feeling of what I’d expect “hygge” to be (even though I haven’t read that book myself yet :D).
It’s designed in a format of a typical coffee table book & you can get through it fairly quickly within a day. The reading experience will be a pleasurable one for your eyes, since the layout of the book is really charming. I don’t see any point in getting an ebook or an audio book version of it, so definitely get the physical copy if you’re curious about reading it. You’ll be spoiled by beautiful photos, carefully selected to emphasise the main points made within the text, as well as by sweet little illustrations or by ideally picked out fonts, making the reading experience an absolutely enjoyable one.
Meik manages to incorporate personal memories & experiences that help you find parallels in your own life. He captures your attention & successfully provides you with some new knowledge, supported by scientific studies around the topic of memory making. The writing is kept light enough with a sense of humour throughout the story-telling, for example comparing Winnie the Pooh & Proust as prophets (p. 164) or portraying Daniel Kahneman as the Beyoncé of behavioural economics (p. 165). There are even specific techniques used for you to be able to retain certain information better, such as using highly visual cues for processes: Imagine the hippocampus in your brain as a hippo, acting as an art director for re-enacting your memories (p. 102).
The only negative parts I would name, which made me give a rating of 4 out of 5 stars, was that the book felt a bit repetitive at times. The same suggestions such as: “travel more, travel to new places & do things for the 1st time in your life” kept on coming up. I was also a bit thrown off by the mood research of how happy people felt depending on the day of the week & the link to the weekend. What about all the countries where the weekend doesn’t fall on a Saturday & Sunday but on another day instead? The focus was clearly Euro-centric & not reflective enough on other parts of the world.
All in all I spent a couple of wonderful hours in the company of this book, finding out:
– Why Andy Warhol used to change up his perfume every 3 months;
– Why my preference of not caring about football whatsoever is a positive decision for my mood;
– Why I have instinctively been making my meals more enjoyable by “saving the best for last”;
– Why my decision of going for shorter but more frequent vacations so far has been a great one;
– Why I enjoy photography, especially during vacations, as much as the author.
On top of that, I generally felt inspired to take actions towards a more active memory-reliving process. Starting a list of “first times”, actively bringing back & remembering happy moments, as well as introducing an end of the year tradition to the family to pick out the 100 photo highlights of the year together.
If those topics speak to you, I’d definitely suggest this book 🙂 I myself am now really curious to read Meik’s Little Book of Lykke.