I must begin with a confession. I am terrible at remembering stories. I'll read a book and not even be able to give you the main plotline in several weeks' time. Not only do I find this sad, it's unfortunate, because what's the point of reading if I'm not going to remember anything? I'm going to summarize my thoughts on how to get more out of the books you read, even if they're just for fun!
~Take Your Time~
Several years ago I was made to read a book titled How to Read Slowly for an intense multi-credit, honors-level highschool course. I could not believe we were wasting our precious time learning how to read slowly when all of us were slow enough as it was! Come to find out, the book was less about speed as it was comprehension. But the title was still relevant, because there is definitely a connection between how quickly you read and how much you remember.
I'm not an uber fast reader to begin with, so my average speed is on the slow side. I think the main thing to remember here is to enjoy the book. I know we all have books we get so caught up in that we just fly through them. There's nothing wrong with that. But if you can relax into whatever your "normal" reading speed may be and deliberately read each word instead of blowing through the pages, you will (1) notice more details, (2) have to go back less, and (3) retain the story better. At least, that's been my experience.
Some of the stories I have followed the best have been the ones I have beta read. Why? Because I was reading slowly and deliberately. I had my eye peeled for errors, typos, and holes. But in forcing myself more alert than usual, I will forever remember those ladies' stories better than a book I pick up from the library. I don't think that's a coincidence.
This is another point that comes out when I beta read, because I leave the author suggestions and ideas in the form of comments. Doing this bugged me a little bit at first, because I had to stop reading and type. However, just like with reading slower, I found that I was getting more out of the story by not just zipping through it.
I know not everyone likes to mark up a pretty new book of theirs, but I encourage you to bring yourself to writing in the margins where you can, even if it's only on a Kindle version. I have always regretted not leaving a note when something stood out to me. This was especially the case with The Divergent Trilogy because I have no intention of reading that series again. I am still bummed that I didn't bring myself to use a pencil and underline all the author's references to the nature of man. If I had, I could still go back and see what stood out to me from the book without having to reread it.
No matter what you are reading, I find that taking the time to complete these two simple steps is always rewarding in the end. Believe it or not, they will actually save you time! I want to be able to recommend a book and say more than, "It was good. I remember I connected with it somehow at some point." Maybe it's just me and you can retain stories better than I can. Either way, I encourage you to pick a book to try these steps and let me know if anything is different for you! And if you really want to get in depth, get a copy of How to Read Slowly by James Sire and see how your reading comprehension improves just by reading with intention.