Text worth Memorizing


Some might say that the Quran or the Bible would be interesting projects or maybe Euclid’s Elements or Plato’s Republic.

I’m looking for something that is worth remembering and looking for suggestions.


(Josh Cohen) #2

I’ve been looking at that and plan to attempt the first book as an experiment.



I think the best kinds of books to memorize are moral maxim-based books and history books. I say “best” both from a technical point of view, because they have either an inherent order or a “bulleted” nature, and from a utilitarian one, because morals should guide our lives and history allow us to understand it.

The first kind is hard to suggest because your beliefs might be diametrically opposed to mine, what would deem those suggestions innocuous. Anyway, I find Epictetus’ Discourses (or, for a much easier project, his Enchiridion) something anyone should read and, at least a part of it, keep in mind.

The second kind provides more options. Going from easiest to hardest, I’d say A Little History of the World, by E. H. Gombrich, is a fascinating and quick overview of the world’s history that is well worth the time. I would advise listening to the audiobook as well for the narrator is wonderful and he puts you in the right atmosphere. For histories of philosophy, the obvious choices are The Story of Philosophy, by Will Durant, and History of Western Philosophy, by Bertrand Russell. Both are biased towards the authors’ views (but which history isn’t?) but since I don’t believe in the usefulness of verbatim memorization for the vast majority of texts, you’d have to make your mind with respects to many arguments and memorize your own words on each subject, so I think both are great choices. I vehemently vouch for Russell, though, because of it more encompassing nature; Durant focuses on just a few of the most important philosophers. However, Russell’s is also very uneven, and therefore hard to memorize without a lot of processing and decision-making first. Of course, the best idea is to read both (and even more), make extensive notes on them, join them after solving existing conflicts, and then memorize these notes – but who has time for that? Now, for a much more daunting objective, Durant’s History of Civilization would be a fascinating project, but to attempt such a feat knowing that the text itself is unfinished (Durand died after the age of Napoleon) is disheartening. To finish my ideas for history, I should say that I’ve recently bought Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond, and I am very interested in reading/memorizing it, but I haven’t started it yet, so I can’t say much.

Like you mentioned, Plato’s Republic is indeed one of the most complete philosophical texts, in my opinion, and his narrative style makes it conducive to memorization. This is a project I have had for quite some time, but still haven’t done much about it.

If you want to attempt verbatim memorization, I can’t but be unoriginal and suggest Dante’s Divine Comedy or Milton’s Paradise Lost. I have huge difficulties understanding both and I have only reached the end of Inferno in the Divine Comedy, but I am deeply fascinated by these texts (probably, exactly because I can’t understand them well) and I would love to make verbatim quotations of them. Of course, Illiad and Odyssey are also obvious choices.

On a side note, I have recently finished a nice project that taught me a lot. I got very interest in Objectivism recently and decided to read Ayn Rand’s books The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Both are great books, which contain so vivid metaphors that make conjuring images for memorization quite easy most of the times. I read and memorize in layers, so I have finished memorizing one rich mnemonic scene for each chapter of Atlas Shrugged and I liked the endeavor very much in many ways. The problem is that the most important part of the book is the final protagonist’s speech, which expounds her philosophy in more abstract and complete ways (she took 2 years to write just that speech). That demands a whole new level of mnemonic scenes to remember it, but these are hard to conjure because of the abstractness of most concepts. But, if you end valuing her philosophy I think it’s a great project, both philosophically and “mnemonically” speaking.

I hope this might help spark some ideas in your head.


(Josh Cohen) #4

I haven’t finished them, but those are great books.