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True amnesia may be relatively rare in real life, but in fiction, it’s a phenomenal device that allows readers to be pulled along with the most basic mystery of all: who am I? From characters who wake up in a hospital bed with no knowledge of who they are, to those piecing together alcohol-induced blackouts, to those with more nefarious or sci-fi reasons for their memory gaps, amnesia can make for a first-rate read.

Other than the really famous examples of memory loss (Fight Club, The Bourne Identity, etc.), which are the best reads for fans who want to watch a character unravel their own lives and selves? Or to imagine what it would be like to see ourselves from the outside, not knowing who we are? These books are a good place to start.

 

Mia from Siri, Who Am I? by Sam Tschida

In Siri, Who Am I?, Tschida plays with the idea of the Insta-perfect life and obsessions with social media. Mia wakes up in hospital after a (short) coma, alone, without a memory, and with nothing but a Prada dress and a cell phone. From her Instagram, it looks like she has a pretty spectacular life, but as she teams up with new friend Max to try and figure it all out, there is a whole lot that she doesn’t post on Instagram…romance, humor, and a lack of the murder that usually comes along with amnesia storylines makes this a fantastic light read.

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Henry from The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This heartbreaking romance doesn’t deal with amnesia in the more straightforward “I woke up and can’t remember who I am” sense, but involves a huge amount of careful piecing together of a life, as Henry discovers that he can travel through time…but he can’t control it. The stories of future-Henry and past-Henry (and present-Henry, as much as that is a thing) all come together around the love of his confusing, complicated life: Clare.

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Martie from False Memory by Dean Koontz

Taking things to a much darker place is this classic from Dean Koontz, which doesn’t seem to be amnesia-related at all, to begin with. Instead, it seems focused on Martie, and her struggles with agoraphobia. However, as the novel continues, it becomes clear that Martie isn’t just agoraphobic, but she is having severe memory loss and has no idea what she is doing…or what is being done to her…in the periods she can’t remember.

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Lexi from Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella may be best known for her Shopaholic series, but this stand-alone title has all the charm of her most famous books, but with a totally new cast of characters. Readers return to the hospital-amnesiac, but with a twist: Lexi can remember all of her life, up until a bad fall. When she wakes up in hospital, she assumes that is what knocked her out, but it turns out that the fall was three years ago. It seems like she has used those three years to create a perfect life, but as she pieces everything together and tries to settle in to being the “new Lexi,” she realizes that the perfect life isn’t a perfect fit.

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Rachel from The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This thriller deals with a different kind of memory loss: the drunk blackout. But Rachel hasn’t just gone out partying and forgotten who she kissed. She thinks that she may be connected to a missing person’s case, but cannot remember the night in question. This dark novel combines multiple heartbreaks and mysteries with the core crime and a deeper look at Rachel’s alcoholism, all coming together for the best part of any amnesia read: the big reveal, as Rachel and the reader figure out whodunnit at the same time.

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What are your favorite amnesia reads? Comment and let us know!


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