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Why We Remember


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About the Author

CHARAN RANGANATH is a Professor at the Center for Neuroscience and Department of Psychology and director of the Dynamic Memory Lab at the University of California at Davis. For over 25 years, Dr. Ranganath has studied the mechanisms in the brain that allow us to remember past events, using brain imaging techniques, computational modeling and studies of patients with memory disorders. He has been recognized with a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship. He lives in Davis, California. Outside of neuroscience, Dr. Ranganath is also a songwriter and guitarist with a number of recording credits, including a song on a feature film soundtrack.


“This is popular science at its best: entertaining, thought-provoking and an encouragement to the reader to keep an open mind."
—The Financial Times

—The New York Times

"Clever, insightful and humorous...The most significant lesson is that we need not be prisoners to our incompletely remembered past."
—The Wall Street Journal

"It has never been easier to fact-check our memories against an external record and find ourselves lacking, but Ranganath is intent on giving us a new way of understanding memory."
—The New Yorker

"[Ranganath's] descriptions of complex studies are entertaining and clarifying, and he vividly paints the intellectual history of the science of memory...He’s a generous, humble narrator...What’s most compelling about Why We Remember is that it offers a scientifically robust rationale to accept with grace that, no matter what happens in this new world, we will not remember everything we want. Memory research makes clear that there is no use in fighting the tide of forgetting that leaves some memories ashore even as it sweeps away — mercifully, at times — the rest."
—The Washington Post

"Ranganath is an astute and affable tour guide"—Undark Magazine

"A riveting overview of how memory works...Ranganath has a knack for describing neuroanatomy in accessible terms, and the science consistently surprises...Approachable and enlightening, this is worth seeking out."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"In this magnum opus, leading memory researcher Charan Ranganath turns much of what we think we know about memory on its head, revealing through hard evidence that the primary mission of our brain’s memory system is, in many respects, to forget things, in order to prepare us for a changing and uncertain future. Ranganath is a master explainer and storyteller."
—Daniel J. Levitin, author of Successful Aging and This Is Your Brain on Music
"Prominent neuroscientist and Guggenheim Fellow Charan Ranganath guides us through the science of our memories with incredible insight and clear science. He combines fascinating tales of the peculiarities of memory with practical, actionable steps. Not only will every reader remember better afterward, they'll also never forget this life-changing book."
—Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of Maladies and Gene
​"Why We Remember offers a radically new and engaging explanation of how and why we remember. More than just a record of our past, Dr. Ranganath shows us that memories are deeply involved in the present, and a path toward an anticipated future. It is a tour de force of both individual and collective importance.”
—Dr. Matthew Walker, author of Why We Sleep

"Why We Remember is terrific. Ranganath balances original first-class science with lighter, more personal writing. This will be a mind-changing read for anyone who wants to better understand and use their own brain."
—Robert Sapolsky, author of Behave
"Why We Remember is going to transform readers' understanding of memory. It’s hard to think of a topic more timely and important to communicate to the world, or a scientist who is better positioned to do so than Charan Ranganath."
—Ethan Kross, author of Chatter

"This book captures a transcendent truth about our lives. Memories serve to guide our future, our engagement of the world. They are not rigid, static pictures of our past. Ranganath has delivered a compelling picture of how basic science can help us all understand the human experience. It is a major accomplishment."
—Mike Gazzaniga, author of The Consciousness Instinct
"This book shows us how understanding the brain can help us change minds for the better. By giving us a clear map of memory, we are better able to take charge of our lives, learn from the mistakes of the past, make better decisions in the present, and positively predict our futures."
—Tali Sharot, author of The Optimism Bias and The Influential Mind
"Dr. Ranganath is the perfect messenger to fight the lack of knowledge in the society about our dearest organ – the brain and its role in memory. Why We Remember is an exciting and important book project, that will help us heal and be better, both individually and as a society."
—May-Britt Moser, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2014

"Charan Ranganath offers answers to universal questions: how do we stop worrying about the future, let go of the past, and live in the present? Through fascinating science, deeply compelling personal stories, and with a strong voice, Why We Remember delivers on all it promises.."
—Dr. Amishi Jha, author of Peak Mind

"There is no one on earth who could share the recent achievements in the study of human memory better than Charan Ranganath. With a passion for communication and sharing of knowledge, and the ability to take a broad perspective, he is the ideal person to write this book."
—Edvard Moser, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2014
"Charan Ranganath uses his cutting edge science to explain how our present shapes our past, and how the stories we tell ourselves ultimately impact our futures. Why We Remember is the key to moving beyond our inner narratives, and into a life of purposeful decision making and joy. An absolute must-read!"
—Dr. Lisa Miller, author of The Spiritual Child
"Why We Remember is a complete, much needed, appealing, poetic, and practical view of the field of memory—and there is no one better positioned than Ranganath to guide readers on a tour of this inner landscape."
—David Eagleman, author of Incognito

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