Installing a Book in my mind


I have completed construction on the first 3 areas of my memory palace, and now have 60 loci to use as storage for remembering lists and cards etc. I still want to add 2 more rooms, that would yield a total of 100 loci, but for now I want to become comfortable with the journey up to 60 spots. the nice thing is that each area is a block of 20 loci, so I can practice using them separately or as a whole.

With the first part of the palace completed I decided to shift my focus to memorising the first of the books that I felt I want to keep in my memory palace. So I started with 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. My first goal was to use the statue in my memory palace (a permanent feature) and build the structure. For this I quickly scanned the book to get the main sections and chapters in each section. This gave me the first 3 levels of the structure that I will need to remember the book. Now I’m busy reading the book very attentively, noting important points that I want to remember. Once I finish each chapter I will load the important points into the main structure. For my first two books will follow this procedure, as both of them contain certain points that I find valuable, the prose is of very little importance to me in these two cases, so only the main points need to be memorised.

I should learn a lot while installing these two books, and hope to expand on it, as my main goal for training my memory is not to become a memory champion, but rather to have specific quotes and main points in books. Names, telephone numbers and other everyday info is also important to me.


The idea of memorizing a book interest me as well. Is it possible to memorize the entire book, word for word? As if it were a quote ( I guess in essence it would be )


Memorising an entire book should just be an extension of memorising the headings of chapters, and main ideas of each paragraph. To my mind it is simply a matter of granulation. The level of detail you need to remember is all that increases when you want to remember more information. Yes this is a overly simple thought, but lets explore it.

In any language there exists a finite number of expressions for each and every idea that we might encounter. As such you do not need to memorise the book word for word. All we need to do is get to a sufficient level of detail. This level will differ from person to person, and the more you begin to get a feel for language, or for an author’s voice you will find that you will become able to express yourself using the same idiosyncrasies as that of the author you are quoting.

As in all expert processes this skill is something that you have to build, and practice until you reach a master level of expertise. So my strategy is to first master memorising the gist of a book (using books I do not feel the need to remember word for word) up to a point where I no longer have to labour to form the structures and connections I need, and once I reach the appropriate level of skill I will increase the level of detail I memorise, and practice that using other books, until a naturalisation occurs. This process serves 2 purposes, firstly my skill at memorising increases, but at the same time my body of knowledge grows. I will, once I reach a paragraph level, begin to include certain verbatim quotes in my memory structure, and increase these until I will be able to read an entire book from memory, also starting with a small book, say 200 pages and work my way to larger and larger volumes of data.

(The Nightingale) #4

It may be possible, but, in my opinion, not worth it. Let’s look at the reasons one may wish to memorize a book word-for-word:

For an exam/academia
For pleasure
For a competition

Think about the first one. No one EVER needs to know a book verbatim for an exam. Most textbooks teach your facts and conceptual ideas. You need the key thoughts, facts and concepts, but nothing more. The only things you might need verbatim for an exam are:

Excerpts of text (From Shakespeare etc.)

But definitely not a whole book! And usually your excerpts are provided for you anyway.

Now I suppose some people might want to learn a book word-for-word for pleasure. I suppose you could memorize a book word-for-word and then read it to yourself in your head if you were travelling or something. But that would ruin the whole experience of reading for me. It’s about the pages and the physicality of a real book for me. That’s why I don’t think I will ever get into this Kindle craze that everyone has at the moment. The Kindle is great for travel, but at home, I’d rather have the real book!

The final reason (competition) seems the only valid reason to learn an entire book verbatim. I don’t know much about memory competitions, but would reciting a book, word-for-word, from beginning to end ever be used in a memory competition? I honestly don’t know.

I think it’s probably possible to learn a book word-for-word. But I imagine it would take a long time to do so if you wanted 100% retention. Whether it’s worth it to you is the biggest question. Personally, it wouldn’t be for me, but it might be for you. Maybe try one chapter and see how it goes?


I can suggest: The Bible, the Torah, other religious books. Long poems like the Divine Comedy, Illiad, Odyssey, etc. These are worth keeping in your mind. Me, I keep them handy.


When I reached a sufficient level of skill I’m gonna tackle The Bible, very daunting


This idea of memorizing entire works has long been an obsession of mine. I memorized about half of an 8000 line poem (Paradise Lost is 14,000 lines), the entirety of Hamlet (3880 lines approx), and numerous other texts. My whole purpose of joining this forum has been to see if these projects of mine could have been accomplished more simply and less painfully.

I did my memorization through an intense process of simple repetition. I recited 50+ pages of the text to myself each day on a rotating basis as the amount of material I memorized became too great to review in a single day (I was spending 6+ hours a day with review, counting a long commute, showers, etc.). My point in detailing this is to show that if all we are talking about is consistent effort and repetition, it’s simply a matter of patience and discipline.

What I want to know, though, is whether these mnemonic techniques actually promise significant improvements in fixing and retaining verbal content. I can see better results in retaining facts and numbers, but language is quite a different story. Although it is true that the number of linguistic structures is finite, Chomsky and others have shown that the possibilities of actual language, as used in speech and texts, is practically infinite. As I see it, the true testing ground of mnemotechnics is not finite sets such as decks of cards and binary chains – it’s the complexity of human language.


There are rote memorisation. What I propose is to mix this approach with mnemonics. Lets say you want to memorize Hamlet, if you want to memorise this by rote you basically have one word linked to the next and the next and the next, but your content is also your structure. On the first level you can begin by building a structure to link chunks of verse, for memorising small chunks of verse is a lot easier than memorising scenes at a time.

the simplest way to do this will be to build a memory palace with loci for each of the pages in Hamlet (This will be easier to do than the main structure for books that I am currently working on). Now you need to link 5 images to each location, do this in a linked list. Now you link reminders to each of these so they can remind you of the pard you memorised linked to that. This will not only speed up your memorisation process, but also accuracy of recall. I agree that language is infinite, but having a sentence with specific words, there is a finite number of expressions for that idea. Even more so if you impose the rules of poetry.


Very well put. You could also exchange the word “complexity” with “flexibility.” For me, what works in memorizing poetry or prose, is the loci method where I put a stanza or sentence or paragraph in a certain location and add visual images associated with key words. I don’t find that I need a mnemonic for every word because rhyme, meter, rhythm, meaning, all contribute to memorization. Still, I sometimes use the Major method of the Dominic method along with simple word play.

Also, re Shakespeare, read up on Robert Fludd at There is a reference to Yates’ book and her idea that Fludd created a memory palace based on the Globe Theater.


(The Nightingale) #10

I’m in the process of doing this at the moment. I definitely think loci/memory palace is the best method for remembering information from a book, text or poetry. The link method is good for lists and it can be used if the text/poem is short with a simple structure, but for longer texts it just doesn’t cut it for me. I need more of a structured system, which loci provides.

I think it also depends on the kind of text you’re memorizing. I memorized ten pages of notes without using an image for every word and yet have 100% retention. However, perhaps if you were wanting to memorize a poem or excerpt of text verbatim then it might be a little more tricky to do it that way. I managed to learn two poems (Infant Joy and Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening) verbatim without using images for every word. I just used “triggers” for the words I was struggling with. But they are both easy, simple poems. If I were learning Paradise Lost, I doubt it would be quite so easy!


Just updating, I’ve had to take a few days off, but now I’m back to the book, and so I’ll be starting to read the second habit. Strangely the structure is very simple, but it is taking quite some time to set it up. But as I work on it, the structure seems to start building itself.

My main challenge is getting images for all the abstract concepts that I find the book. Things like “response” which became Rambo and “freedom” -> William Walace… Things are looking up, and I can confirm that it is a joy to “Read” through the first chapter in my mind, without having the book at hand.

What books are you memorising? and what have you found to be the best way to get it in there?

(Josh Cohen) #12

Very impressive…

Do you find that the memorization shapes your own speech or writing at all? I think that people tend to unconsciously imitate speech patterns from people that they spend time around. I wonder if memorizing great works in English would change a person’s speech or writing style, even subtly. The mind likes to follow well-worn paths and memorization creates those paths.

I’ve noticed that when I hear a phrase that comes from something I’ve memorized, my mind zooms in on the conversation. One example is a radio show where the host said, “that’s the rub…” I think they were talking about cars, but it was from Hamlet (slightly modified).

After a few hours of going over iambic pentameter, my mind seems to have that rhythm stuck in it for a while too. So far, I think it’s a good thing.

(The Nightingale) #13

Memorizing books is my main objective and one of the most useful things I can think of.

I’m focusing on non-fiction at the moment, as information is important to me. But I would also be quite interested in memorizing the main characters, plots and timelines etc. of fictional works.

There’s only one thing holding me back with the latter. I actually think there’s a sort of, beauty, in forgetting… Not to sound like a pretentious twit, but it’s kind of true. There are books that I read years ago and I can vaguely remember the plot, but not enough to know what’s going to happen next etc. When you pick up a book that you read years ago, there’s a sort of “thrill” in re-discovering it. It’s like finding it all over again. I can’t help but think, if I already remembered the book in great detail, that re-reading wouldn’t be quite so gratifying. So perhaps I’ll only apply memory techniques to fictional works that I need to study in school etc. Or maybe I’m just over-thinking this whole thing.

I’m currently mind-mapping the “English Language” chapter of the book I’m memorizing - mind mapping helps me identify the key ideas that I need. The only problem is that it’s taking a long time because there are a few concepts that I’m struggling to understand. But I don’t want to memorize it until I’ve fully understood it. There’s no point in remembering something you don’t understand! Equally, there’s no point in understanding something you can’t remember!


I’m trying a similar project as you here, i wonder if you might be able to elaborate on some more of these images you have come up with to help with the more abstract concepts.

So far I have things like the words ‘Latin’ and ‘exist’. Which i decided a chap in a toga should do for latin, and in context i can use an ‘exit’ instead (or something to do with eggs perhaps, just enough to tease out the connection).

Thanks for any help!


I have just begun memorizing Sun Tzu’s The Art Of War and it is going well but is starting to get tricky. I expect it is going to be incredibly difficult to memorize all of Clausewitz when i get around to it.
I have attempted memory palace construction in the past, half halfheartedly, memorizing a few bits of information, whether it be all the gestures associated with defensive body language or a list of names and dates of Roman battles and had some success but didn’t stick with it this time i am fully dedicated and i am doing well so will share how i have done this so far. I have started with the street i grew up on, each house will be the front door to an individual palace and each palace will be made up from a combination of buildings i know well, each house on the street will hold one book.
House 1
( ) = Info stored.
In the front garden there is a 30ft Sun Tzu that bows slightly as i walk past. (Sun Tzu The Art Of War)
I walk to the front door of the house and on the door is a big map. (Laying plans).
I walk through the door and to my left is a door and on the door is the Scottish flag, A white X with a blue back ground. The X in my mind stands for 5 and the x also stands for x factor. (The 5 Factors).
I walk through the Scottish door and to my left is Napoleon on a big white horse that has thrown it’s front legs in the air. The horse reminds me of the saying get off your high horse when someone is displaying intense morals towards a subject. (Moral law)
Next to napoleon is Caesar, doing some fancy moves with his sword. (Commander)
Next to Caesar is some clouds with lightening flashing beneath them (Heaven)
Next to the clouds a miniaturized earth spins on it’s axis. (Earth)
Next to the earth a a pair of Roman sandals sit on the ground with a drill can laying over them (Method and discipline).
If anyone is familiar with Sun Tzu i have gotten up to Waging War so far and i am on my 3rd house or should i say 3rd extension to my palace.
In the book, each of those 5 factors has more information attached to them, in my case i have used individual rooms to extend on each of the 5 factors, in order, but others in my situation would have done it as it is read in the book, for example they would, after seeing napoleon, start placing next to him the extended information attached to Moral Law but for me that wouldn’t have worked.
Hope that helped.


In my previous post the examples i gave were very simple so i will quickly provide some more complicated ones.
Change your plans when advantageous = me sat playing chess with Sun Tzu , Sun Tzu yawns and covers his face with his hands and i take the opportunity to move some pieces while he can’t see.
Your plans should be made according to the movements of your enemy = Me facing Sun Tzu and him facing me, he steps left, i step left, he steps right, i step right etc.
Appear unable to attack when you are able = Me limping towards an unworried Sun Tzu whilst holding a knife behind my back.
Nearly all of my examples are me and sun tzu, in some rooms there are 2 or 3 versions of me and 2 or 3 versions of sun tzu interacting with each other. I know it goes against all suggestions, i don’t have crazy things happening or bright colors or what have you, just boring, simple Loci but it works great for me and that’s all that counts.


I concur its not worth memorizing a whole book.
Fiction books: Just focus on what the whole book is about and the main ideas.
Academics/Non Fiction: Main idea, Sub-ideas, and vocabulary.
I have a friend of a friend who has a photographic memory in fact its so good that when he writes papers he copies it word per word not on purpose but because he can’t separate his photographic memory from his ideas. Anything he reads is forever in his head.

Personally I would rather have a number of long term palaces and a few short term/temp palaces. Why would I want to memorize every book is behind me. Even if I was Matt Daemen from Good Will Hunting it seems pointless. There is no point in memorizing something if your not going to apply it.


I started to memorize the Tao Te Ching a few years ago, before learning about mnemonics. Regarding “There is no point in memorizing something if your not going to apply it,” I found that having memorized just a quarter of the TTC, it would “come” to me during the day at some opportune moment. So I would argue that there doesn’t need to be a known or immediate application to a memorized book–it will apply itself at the right time, once you know it, based on your circumstances.



I would agree with that old fool. When you memorize something like that, whether it’s a book, article, speech, when you need it, the information comes to you. It just pops up into your mind when there’s something related to it around you.



Imo kindle(not the tablet) isn’t ruining anything and its just your personal choice to have a real book in your hands. The place where I live doesn’t have a good library facility.even my college library is mediocre(only keeps technical books (that too courses ONLY)). Kindle was my savior. I got into reading only after I bought the kindle. In developed areas, kindle may be considered a bug but you should also take into account so many people (like me) who benefit from such devices.
Another point, kindle helps me a lot to improve my vocabulary (just a tap to reveal dictionary meaning). You can carry a thousand books in your pocket. I’m not opposing physical books. I love them too. I’m just making you aware of one more variable to take into account when commenting on the practicality of kindle.