Making Elitist Memories

Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.

In the last few years there have been a number of books flooding the market about happiness and how to increase yours. One of the niche markets within the happiness market is the one looking at how Scandinavians live and stay so happy. I’ve definitely read my fair share of these books – I’m game to find out how I can increase my personal happiness!

(Note: these books are not geared towards folks who are struggling with their mental health due to medical conditions like clinical depression.)

making memories.jpeg

The Art of Making Memories: How to Create and Remember Happy Moments by Meik Wiking is another one of these books. But while the ones before focus on ways to make your life happier, this one looks at what you can do to ensure that you remember those happy moments better. Wiking is also the happiness genius behind The Little Book of Hygge and The Little Book of Lykke. He mans the World Happiness Institute in Copenhagen and spends his life looking at how people experience happiness.

This book is his effort at showing readers what they can do to actually remember those simple happy memories. He’s not talking about the big life changing happy moments like getting married, graduating, or meeting your baby for the first time. He’s talking about the every day happy moments, a walk with family when the light is just right, a great meal shared with friends, reading a bedtime story with your freshly bathed kid. He talks about the senses that are connected with memory and what you can do to engage those when you make the memory so that you can trigger that sense to remember the moment – choosing a specific scent to wear on your wedding day so that whenever you wear it later, it reminds you of that day; going on a memory walk where you choose a route in a neighbourhood that hits locations that have meaning for you; write in a notebook on your happiest days capturing how you felt, what you smelled, what you wore etc.

It was an interesting look at how memory functions and how you can exploit those functions to better capture those moments of perfect contentment.

But at times this book felt a little elitist and out of reach. Talking about changing your annual sailing vacation destination from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean isn’t something that most of us can do to change the way we remember our experiences (the idea being that novelty captures memory better). Writing about your time on Hornby Island off the coast of British Columbia while you work on your book seems kind of accessible for those of us who live in the general vicinity (if we’re willing to pay the exorbitant BC Ferries rate) but it’s a pretty rareified experience for most.

It’s also not a super in-depth look at memory. As far as I could make out, it was based on one massive survey rather than years and years of work. Other professionals’ work was summarized but it was mostly very surface level.

Still, it was an incredibly gorgeous book. Every page is full colour, there are beautiful photographs and punchy illustrations that make the reading a memorable experience. It’s a bit like reading a TED Talk which means it’s very readable.

It just felt a little out of reach at times.