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The Perpetual Now: A Story of Amnesia, Memory, and Love

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3.60  ·  Rating details ·  221 ratings  ·  46 reviews
In the aftermath of a shattering illness, Lonni Sue Johnson--a renowned artist who regularly produced covers for The New Yorker, a gifted musician, a skilled amateur pilot, and a joyful presence to all who knew her--lives in a "perpetual now."

Lonni Sue has almost no memories of the past and a nearly complete inability to form new ones. Remarkably, however, she retains much
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Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 16th 2018 by Anchor Books (first published February 7th 2017)
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3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  221 ratings  ·  46 reviews


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Allison
I love books about how the brain functions, and this true story about an amnesiac whose hippocampus was destroyed by a life threatening bout of encephalitis had all the elements of a great read. Unfortunately the writing hovered between textbook and pedestrian with none of the elegance of Oliver Sacks' books about brain function. Lonni Sue sounds like a fascinating person, but the stories soon become as repetitive as her own daily grappling with memories must be. The sections more focused on bra ...more
Marty
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Received this in exchange for review
There were parts I really loved about this book, the scientific discussions on brain and function, memory and how memories are made, how injury or illness can change everything.
The book is primarily about one women who lost her memory due to illness. Also thrown into the mix is a the famous cases from the 1950's, the case of Henry Molaison who had part of his brain removed.
Lots of in depth medical information which I found informative and of interest.
What I di
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Kisså
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Aside from the crippling fear of viral encephalitis that it's given me, this book was very good. It was an easy read, but taught me a lot about how the brain works to create and store our memories, and also how the ability to form and recall different types of memories affects our daily (minute-to-minute, even) lives. Lemonick's writing is concise and informative while also remaining clear and entertaining, which can be tough to achieve in science journalism. Overall a fascinating read. One of t ...more
Anderson
Jul 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This clearly seemed like a shill for the New Yorker. My opinion aside, It [the book] was a fantastic read. You must want to pick it up if you have some neuroscience to do later.
Olivia Farr
Dec 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In "The Perpetual Now" Lemonick explores what we know about memory through the case of Lonni Sue, a woman who had viral encephalitis which was cured after severe brain damage, primarily in the temporal lobe (hippocampus). She lives in a "perpetual now" as she cannot retain or make memories. Lemonick discusses what we have learned about memory from her and other famous cases, primarily HM or Henry Molaison. Through these cases he describes that we've learned about "types" of memories and where th ...more
Donna Barney
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lonnie Sue became alive to me as I read this story.
K
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
I was expecting a lot more science. This was almost purely biography.
Summer
May 16, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: neurobiology, nonfic
The title of this book caught my eye because I like to read about meditation. This has nothing to do with that.

I saw it was about a woman with amnesia so I thought it might be interesting anyway. I have a terrible "episodic memory" (a term I learned from the book) so I'm often interested in learning more about what makes memory work.

If you want to learn more about how memory exists neurologically, this isn't the book for you. Scientists are just scraping the surface of the that question and th
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Karen Miles
Aug 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
I read this as a book club selection. It was a fascinating premise regarding the illness and recovery of Lonnie Sue Johnson who suffered from encephalitis which resulted in damage to her brain's hippocampus. Lonnie Sue was both a musician and an artist prior to her illness. The studies done on her after her recovery. showed what aspects of her former life were retained after such a devastating and debilitating illness. It was intriguing to learn more about how the brain works and how memories ar ...more
Linda
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I went to school with Lonnie Sue and was horrified when I heard of her illness and the fact that visiting her now would mean nothing to her. Lemonick writes of people and places that I know and expounds upon the circumstances of her brain’s inability to form any new memories in words that are easy for a layman to understand. Particularly interesting is the serendipitous way the specialists who study her condition came together - there was the wife of a shopkeeper, a personal trainer, a friend of ...more
Eric
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would say that the subtitle, "A Story of Amnesia, Memory, and Love," about says it all, although the sister's love for the afflicted is not quite brought out as well as the amnesia and memory parts. Lonnie Su Johnson suffered a brain infection that wiped out what had been a promising career in art, and her love for flying, along with a marriage that lasted ten years. Now, in remarkable fashion she carries on, and her willingness to share her story will likely keep neurologists busy for years t ...more
Robin
Feb 19, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had expected a better thread of the history of the research of Lonni Sue's condition. What they tried first, what they probed second based on the first. There was too much ancillary information, such as the bios of some of the researchers. It was less a story than I had hoped. I read Left Neglected and Still Alice which were more satisfying and still provided the important scientific information. The authors were able to toggle between the story and science better than this one. It just felt a ...more
Trina
May 01, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I found this slow going (definitely not a quick read for me), I also found it quite interesting. It left with as many questions as answers, but not in a frustrating way. I think I was most interested because I have a very weak episodic memory (and expect to be labelled as SDAM at some point) and also have aphantasia which adds a whole other layer to the puzzle. I actually hope to get chosen for testing someday so they can compare people like myself who have had the gaps from birth, to thos ...more
Pam Mooney
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book very much. It is the perfect mix of history, biography and, of course, science. I loved the story behind the science - the persons discussed were remembered and written about with fondness and compassion. I found the research on how the brain/memory works fascinating. While I am educated it is not in this field, yet, as a relative layperson on the subject I found the book to be entertaining, well researched, and educational. A good read.
Phyllis Cole-Dai
Fascinating. Lemonick brings the reader up-close-and-personal with Lonni Sue Johnson, an artist with profound amnesia, and her family. But he also leads the reader into a compelling history and contemporary status of relevant neuroscience. He thoughtfully probes questions about the mysteries of memory and identity. A book that both moved and taught me. A great resource as I'm researching my latest novel-in-progress.
Dawn
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well-written story about the case and science behind a recent amnesic. The author is a very good science writer who weaves the story and the science very well. I learned some things about the neuroscience of memory through his descriptions of the studies done with Lonnie Sue and reports of his discussions with neuroscientists as he researched the book.
Connie
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked this book although I got lost and bored a lot. I thought it was really going to focus on one person's journey, but it was way more. I love learning about the brain and how it functions and makes us function, but this was almost too much for casual reading. I'm looking forward to doing my own research on Lonnie Sue, her art, and her life.
Laura  Moon
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought it was super super interesting! I feel like I should have been a scientist or doctor to understand some of it, but other than that, I loved it. You fall in love with Lonnie Sue at the end of book and it feels like you actually know her!
Cindy
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the focus of the book was Lonni Sue Johnson, there was a lot of information about Henry Molaison, as well, which I'd previously been exposed to--and was delighted to find I remembered! This is an interesting book for those wanting to better understand memory and how it works.
CW
Aug 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is memory? Lonnie Sue's experience with memory loss provides a clue to what makes memory so important.
Laura Harrison
Jul 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
devastating, facinating and brave...
Nancy
Feb 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, goodreads
I won this in a Goodreads giveaway.
Fascinating book. It did have some spots that bogged down but very interesting and tragic.
Kristina Shiroma
Mar 16, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Literally had to fight myself to stay with the last twenty pages. Interesting story, TERRIBLE writing.Thank God that's over.
Bernice Rizor
I really like this story time I feel would not like not lose my memory because you can lose out of everything and miss
John
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Review to come.
Pam
May 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
An interesting book about a couple of patients (mainly one recent one) whose brain damage has helped scientists better understand how memory works in the brain.
Paula Keith
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times a little technical but very interesting all the same. I can't imagine how hard it would be to have zero short-term memory. It made me realize that I should take nothing for granted.
Sandra
Jun 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing read with a lot of information about memory and the brain. The subject is very interesting, but the writing is dry and pretty dull.

Thank you Netgalley for this book.
Tina
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Interesting from the point of view of neuroscience!
Beth Kressel Itkin
Fascinating story and well told though no groundbreaking thesis.
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