9-Step Guide to Memorizing Your Obsidian Book Insights Using Memory Palaces

9-Step Guide to Memorizing Your Obsidian Book Insights Using Memory Palaces
Photo by Kimberly Farmer / Unsplash

What if you could download your second brain into your first brain?

In the Obsidian community, people think building our second brains through taking notes, making links, and creating MOCs will also grow our first brains. But I noticed that even after taking highlights, creating concept notes, and writing summaries, I would forget insights from books just weeks later. I realized if I wanted to remember the books most important to me, I needed a more powerful technique...

This is what led me to creating memory palaces.

The memory palace technique involves imagining a location in your mind, and placing memorable imagery inside that associate with what you want to remember.

The memory palace technique is hands down the best technique for memorizing information we have ever discovered. According to Lynne Kelly's 2019 book The Memory Craft, it was used by our hunter-gatherer ancestors thousands of years before writing and second brains even existed. Because they had to spread their culture entirely orally, they needed a technique that could allow them to memorize tons of information without writing.

By using the memory palace technique, I can remember the most valuable insights from books I read many months ago.

I have downloaded my second brain into my first brain.

While this video orients towards Obsidian users anyone in the PKM space can use the principles discussed.

In this video, you're going to learn:

  • Why You Should Memorize Your Obsidian Book Notes Using Memory Palaces
  • The 9-Step Guide To Memorizing A Book In Obsidian Using Memory Palaces

Make sure to read to the end because the last step is probably the most underrated and most damaging if you fail to implement it.

Why Memorize Your Obsidian Book Notes Using a Memory Palace?

  • Memorizing the main insights from books using a memory palace will allow you to remember them for years rather than weeks, like most people are used to. The main reason I read books is to become a more knowledgeable, interesting, understanding human being. I want to talk about them in conversation and my writing. But if I have to pull up my Obsidian book notes every time I want to talk about them, we have a problem.
  • It fights against the collector's fallacy. The collectors fallacy occurs when you collect more information than you could ever possibly process or use in your life. This wastes time and leaves you feeling overwhelmed. When you read a book with the awareness you will be memorizing it afterward, you are much less prone to over-collecting.
  • More Effective Learning: Changing the modality of information for example from linguistic to imagery, facilitates your understanding of it. Therefore the memory palace technique is a great way to better understanding information.
  • Enhanced Focus and Concentration: Creating memory palaces requires active focus and concentration. In this way the memory palace technique can be a form of meditation. If you want to learn more about the mental health benefits of the memory palace technique check out my article Aidan's Infinite Play 30 The Victorious Mind: The Ultimate Guide to Calm Your Mind and Memorize Anything with Ease.https://www.aidanhelfant.com/aidans-infinite-play-33-the-ultimate-guide-to-creating-a-memory-palace-for-students/
  • Useful for Different Types of Information: Memory palaces can be used to memorize a wide range of information, including names, dates, facts, foreign language vocabulary, and even long strings of numbers. So you can take the principles you learn in this article and apply them to memorizing other things in your life.
  • It's just plain fun. As you will see when we get into the nine-step guide, the act of creating memory palaces is a delightful process. It requires an immense amount of creativity. It's a joyful experience.

The 9-Step Guide to Memorizing A Book In Obsidian Using Memory Palaces

Now I will walk you through the ninesteps to memorizing a book in Obsidian from start to finish using a memory palace.

Step 1: Choose A Book And Inspectional Read

The first step is to choose a book to read in the first place.

If you're struggling to find one, you can check out my book squad playlist above, where I summarize some of my favorite books of all time. Then you want to inspectional read, read the introduction, table of contents, and conclusion. Get a rough idea of the argument the author is making, the flow, and if the book is even worth reading in the first place.

This process primes your mind for the book's contents if you read it for real.

Step 2: Take Notes

Step two is to take notes while reading.

Make highlights and annotations. I usually go chapter by chapter or skip around, depending on what interests me. During this step, you must restrict the number of highlights you can take per chapter so you don't fall for the collector's fallacy discussed earlier. I usually constrain myself to 3-5 highlights, but you can change it around depending on the book.

We are trying to memorize the main insights from the book, not the book as a whole.

Step 3: Assimilate Highlights

Step 3 is to assimilate your highlights into Obsidian or your notetaking app of choice.

You can do this manually, but I like to use an app called Readwise. Readwise automatically collects and sends your highlights to your notetaking app of choice. And another great thing about Readwise is while taking Kindle notes, using specific code in my annotations, it can send the chapter headings over to Obsidian as well, so my highlights show up under their respective chapters inside of Obsidian.

If you want to get Readwise for yourself, you can use my affiliate link in the description for a full 60 days free.

Step 4: Create a Summary And Make Concept Notes

Step four is to create a book summary using your highlights and make concept notes.

Creating a summary is essential because it forces us to distill the main ideas of the author and put them in our own words. Plus, this is where we get to use the full power of Obsidians link based nature. In our summary, we can connect ideas from other sources to our book, creating an interconnected web of thought. If you would like to learn more about how I create summaries and concept notes out of books check out my video: How I Take Book Notes in Obsidian Compound Your Knowledge!

Summarizing the book and creating concept notes primes us for the memorizing we will be doing in the last four steps.

Step 5: Pick a Location

Select a location that you are familiar with, such as your house, school, or workplace that you will use as your memory palace.

The location should have multiple rooms or distinct areas that you can use to store information. I suggest choosing a location that starts with the same letter as the book you are memorizing to make things easy.

Step 6: Plan The Route

Step 6 is to plan the route you will take in your memory palace using a memory journal.

If you want to learn how to do all the memory palace steps, I will now discuss them more in-depth I highly recommend you check out my article: The Ultimate Guide To Creating A Memory Palace For Students.

But I will summarize the important bits here.

Your memory journal is the place where you keep all of your associated things related to your memory practice.

Here's mine:


Gotta support the Cornell Brand am I right?

The front is for drawing out your memory palaces while the back is for practicing recall of the information inside from memory.

I recommend you draw out your memory palaces before you try and memorize anything inside of them.

Planning the route in your memory palace is crucial. It involves determining the path you will follow and placing images in specific locations to remember things. Planning the path should only take 1-5 minutes. We aren't trying to create the Mona Lisa here. Simply draw the location you'll use and mark the stations where you'll place the images. The average book has around 10 chapters, so if you are taking 3 highlights per chapter, you will need a memory palace with 30 separate stations--or spots for images. Number and organize the stations, and create a column to note what each station represents in the memory palace.

Here's an example I drew out:


The room up above represents Diamonds, an Indian restaurant I went to with my girlfriend a few weeks ago.

Each number in the room represents micro-stations, individual spots in a room that we can use to place images inside. However, I recommend when you are first creating memory palaces that you use macro-stations, entire rooms that are used to place a single mental image inside of.

It's much easier to create images inside of macrostations when first starting than to use microstations.

Step 7: Create Images That STICK The Memory Palace

Step 7 is the most fun step of them all.

You create the memory palace by creating an image to represent each main idea of the 3-5 you highlighted for each chapter in its own memory palace station.

If you want to, you can use station 1 of your memory palace for the bibliographic information of the book so that you can recall it from memory.

When thinking about how to create an image that is sticky there are only a few things that you have to consider:

  • We remember connected things
  • Humans have incredible spatial memory
  • Humans remember multisensory, vivid, surprising, and vulgar things.

So when putting images into our memory palaces we want to try and take all of these things into account.

But there's one more way to superpower your images so they stick out like a sore thumb, a good thing in this case.

Make them personal to you.

Instead of using any old cup in a memory palace, use the cup your dad has that says "being 60 isn't all that bad!" Instead of using any old bee use Berry Bensen from the Bee movie. Instead of using any old knight use a knights radiant from the Stormlight archives.

The Magnetic Modes and Magnetic Characteristics

The best methods I have ever found on making images sticker is from Anthony Metivier in his course magnetic memory method.

He recommends you make images stick by utilizing the Magnetic Modes. Each magnetic mode involves a different sense of the body and mind. The more of these you encode in any single image, the more magnetic it is in your mind. It's magnetic because it pulls the information you are trying to remember deeper into memory while repelling the information you aren't trying to remember.

The magnetic modes can be summed up with the acronym KAVE COGS which stands for:

K - Kinesthetic

A - Auditory

V - Visual

E - Emotional

C - Conceptual

O - Olfactory

G - Gustatory

S - Spatial

I will give one example.

A few days ago I was memorizing a line from Marcus Aurelius's Meditations that went "Not of the same blood or birth, but of the same mind." I already had a M memory palace--Morrison Hall at Cornell--drawn out and ready to go for this memorization. The only thing I had to do was create the images. The first step was isolating the uncommon words.

Words like blood, birth, and mind.

Than I tried to come up with a image that would encapsulate the first three. After a few seconds I came up with Dracula--which associates with blood--tied to a table with rope--associating with not--giving birth to a baby that was made of brain matter--associating with mind.

Disgusting I know.

But that's what makes it memorable.

Than I ran through KAVE COGS and tried to add in each magnetic mode. For kinesthetic I felt the pain of giving birth. For auditory I heard Dracula screaming in anguish. For visual I saw Dracula giving birth to a baby brain while tied to a table in Morrison Hall. For emotional I felt Dracula's happiness and relief at having successfully birthed. For conceptual I imagined Dracula being related to blood. For olfactory I smelled the blood from Dracula. For gustatory I couldn't think of anything (not every magnetic mode must be used for every image). Finally spatial was already naturally incorporated because of the image being inside of a memory palace. The result is an image I can't help but remember and that sentence from Marcus Aurelius forever being in my head.

Implementing each of these senses into my image made it vastly more memorable.

Another massive tip I have for you is to use the book's author themselves as an anchoring figure for the memory palace. Anchoring figures are figures you can use as an anchor to a memory palace journey that show up in every encoding. For example, in my memory palace for Anthony Metivier's 2020 book, The Victorious Mind, I have Anthony Metivier in every encoding of my memory palace to act as a guide throughout my journey.

Through creating images that STICK inside of your memory palaces to represent the images you want to remember, you make it vastly more likely you will remember them years from then.

Step 8: Practice Recall Rehearsal To Get The Book Into Long Term Memory

In this step, we practice recalling our images through a process called recall rehearsal so that we can embed them in long-term memory.

Recall rehearsal is the art of routinely going through your memory palace(s) and decoding the knowledge present in them. Unfortunately, we humans are tubes of meat and have evolved to forget knowledge we don't apply. This rate at which we forget information was first studied and encapsulated in Hermann Ebbinghause's forgetting curve. According to his curve, we forget most information in the 24 hours after consuming something and slowly forget more over the ensuing weeks, months, and years without recall practice. But if we routinely actively recall knowledge we want to keep we can fight the forgetting curve through a technique known as spaced repetition.

That's where recall rehearsal comes in.

So how often do we have to recall rehearse?

Dominic O Brien, a very prominent memory champion, recommends you recall rehearse information using the system described below: Day 1: Go through the memory palace once. 24 hours later: Go through the memory palace once. 1 week later: Go through the memory palace once. 1 month later: Go through the memory palace once. 3 months later: Go through the memory palace once.

So how often should we do recall rehearsal? Unfortunately, the answer is it depends upon your goals in memorization. For example, is this book something that you want to memorize for life? Is it something you want to talk about frequently in conversation off the cuff? Questions like these determine how often you recall rehearsal.

I use Dominic's method as a foundation and recall depending on how I feel about the information.

Step 9: Continue To Interact With The Book Through Other Methods

Congratulations, if you follow the eight previous steps, you have memorized the insights from one of your books.

You have downloaded your second brain into your first brain.

But you can continue to deepen your grasp of the book even after memorizing through interacting with it through other methods like:

  • Conversing about it with a friend or family member
  • Reading more about the book's topic from a different author
  • Applying the book's insights to real life
  • Reading the book again months or years later
  • Reading another piece by the same author
  • Listening to the author speak about the book
  • Eating peanut butter. Okay, maybe that's just a me thing.

Memorizing Your Book Notes In Obsidian Will Change Your Life--It Changed Mine

Using the nine steps in this article, you can download your second brain into your first brain.

In the Obsidian community, we tend to think if we build our second brains through taking notes, making links, and creating MOCs, it will naturally grow our first brain as well. But if we want to remember insights we take from books for years and years, we can't just take notes, write a summary, and call it a day. We must use the memory palace technique.

Memorizing books in this way has a beautiful effect.

Not only do you remember insights from the books you read more deeply, but you also begin to build your love for learning.

You start to see the connections between books rather than seeing them as isolated pieces of information. You reignite your childhood curiosity and fall back in love with learning. You don't let your first brain rot by only building your second brain.

People will notice.

They'll see you can draw an unusually large body of knowledge months to years after you acquire it. They'll respect your avid expression without realizing it's so much easier when you have a foundation of valuable insights memorized. They will see the genuine joy and curiosity you show toward everything in life. Then they will become curious about what you are doing differently. Finally, they will make their own memory palace journeys.

In this way, PKM is not only the art of changing your relationship to information but changing others as well.

If you enjoyed this article, you should consider checking out my free email course 2 Days To Creating Your First Memory Palace As A Student. In it you will learn:

  • The 5-step guide to creating a memory palace
  • How to create a memory palace network and personal association list
  • My best tips and beginner mistakes for creating memory palaces
  • Advanced memory palace techniques