The First Thing to Go

by Angie Engles

Total Memory Makeover by Marilu Henner is not, as the New York Journal of Books writes, “going to teach you how to memorize the order of the cards in a deck, or long sequences of pi. It is not a book about improving one’s memorization skills, however helpful that might or might not be. Instead, this is a book about reclaiming what, in many cases, has been lost—the individual’s ability to recall the details of his or her own life.”

Henner writes of the secrets and benefits of having a great autobiographical memory and how having one that is reliable has helped her in countless situations. Readers will discover how to make their memory work best for them, from having the right attitude about life and developing a healthy mindset about the past, to building a “track” of sorts that allows easier access to memories, both old and more recent.

Having appeared on 60 Minutes and been interviewed by Huffington Post, the former Taxi star says: “And it [memory] was not just about touching down on a fleeting image or a feeling from the past, but rather going deeper and deeper into memories and specific moments, exploring my past thoughts through the lens of the present.” She is one of only a handful of people in the entire world who can pretty much remember everything that has ever happened to her. That sounds both amazing and kind of frightening, too.

I’m pleasantly surprised to find that there is not just a lot of personal experience woven into Marilu Henner’s book, but helpful factual tidbits about different kinds of memory, how to improve it and how even though we think we’ve forgotten the seemingly little things that have happened, they still shape our lives and are always somehow with us, often holding us back because we cannot let go of the things that have hurt us. Henner is here to tell us that even bad memories can be used to jump start our lives again with inspiration and motivation.

Marilu Henner promises she will leave her readers with tricks to retrieve long-forgotten memories and how to turn bad experiences into life lessons. Oddly enough, I’m reading a fiction book, The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman, right now that just happens to deal with memory, and one of my favorite quotes from it is: “If you can manage not to hate yourself, then it won’t hurt to remember almost anything: your childhood, your parents, what you’ve done or what’s been done to you.”

Angie Engles has been with the Howard County Library System for 17 years, 14 of which were at the Savage Branch. She currently works at the Central Branch primarily in the Fiction and Audio-visual departments. Her interests include music, books, and old movies.