Looking back at the Beatles book

Book Review: Looking Back at The Beatles

5 min read |

A new book celebrating The Beatles aims to get people living with dementia back into reading.

Author Matt Singleton wrote ‘Looking Back at The Beatles’ for his dad Brian, a bookworm who’d stopped reading following his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

After doing research into the barriers facing readers living with dementia, Matt worked with The Alzheimer’s Society to make his book as user-friendly as possible.

Here’s our review of the book and how it could help your loved one regain their love of reading....eight days a week.

What we’ll be covering:

  • Why the story of The Beatles is the perfect subject matter for a book aimed at people living with dementia.
  • How research discovered the barriers making it harder for dementia patients who want to read.
  • How the book uses a range of different techniques to tell the story in a dementia-friendly way.
  • The extra elements of the book that make it an interactive and social experience for families.


the beatles statues in liverpool

What is ‘Looking Back at The Beatles’ about?

For many music devotees, the story of The Beatles is the greatest pop culture tale ever told.

After Beatlemania exploded in 1963, these four young lads from Liverpool spent the next seven years redefining the landscape of music.

This book charts their story from the early days of their Hamburg gigs in 1960 to their breakup in 1970.

Each page takes an element of the story and brings it to life with a combination of rhyming prose and colourful images.

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How does the book tell the story of The Beatles?

In his research, author Matt Singleton discovered that readers with dementia need books to present material in different ways.

So, in telling the story of The Beatles, he’s used lots of different narrative techniques.

Some pages concentrate on a year, using song titles, chart positions and moments of significance to capture a moment in time.

Other pages take each Beatle and focus on John, Paul, George and Ringo’s musical contributions, life stories and physical characteristics.


How does this help readers to engage with the story? 

Research found that people living with dementia often struggle with the length and complexity of the books they read.

That’s why ‘Looking Back at The Beatles’ features pages that work independently and collectively as part of the story.

The pages feature short chunks of copy which can be easily digested by the reader and are presented in rhyming form.

Using simple but engaging prose, the story of Liverpool’s finest export comes to life.

Cognitive Books has worked with the Alzheimer’s Society to better understand how we can break down the barriers that the UK’s nearly 1 million people with dementia face when it comes to reading.
Matt Singleton Author of 'Looking Back at The Beatles'

What are the interactive elements of the book?

After the closing chapter of ‘The End’, the book invites readers to take a quiz designed to help cognition and stimulate conversation.

All the answers can be found in the previous chapters, so readers can test their knowledge or look back to remind themselves.

After pages of fascinating facts about the Fab Four, the book then goes deeper to encourage readers to share their stories of the Sixties.

This is part of the reminiscence therapy element of the book, which gives readers and their loved ones a way to unlock memories.

beatle book

Why does the book feature these specific exercises?

Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) is used to encourage thought processes, the use of memory and social functioning.

These exercises are all based on CST and are designed to help stimulate the mind and give readers ways to interact with others.

In the book, there is also a ‘Supporter’s Guide’ for loved ones to help them use it to its full potential for readers with dementia.

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Exploring the physical barriers to reading for dementia patients

Matt Singleton’s research found there are a myriad of physical barriers that frustrate readers living with dementia.

They may struggle with smaller fonts, so ‘Looking Back at The Beatles’ is written in a larger font with plenty of illustrations.

The pages are full of colourful and detailed imagery on the left-hand side, which helps those with eyesight issues.

The paper is thicker and heavier, which makes it easier for readers to turn the pages.

books for people with dementia

Is there an audio version of ‘Looking Back at The Beatles’?

Not only is there a free audio version of the book – but it’s read by acting legend Bill Nighy.

Sometimes, readers might like to read along as Bill narrates the story, which can help make it more accessible at different stages of dementia.

The audio version comes free with the book and can be downloaded at the publisher’s website or accessed via the QR code inside.

Imagine how soothing and engaging Bill’s delightful voice will be for your loved one.

Are there any other books in this series?

At present, ‘Looking Back at The Beatles’ is the only book published in this series – but more are on the way.

Author Matt Singleton has set up Cognitive Books and was accepted into The Alzheimer’s Society Accelerator Programme.

In partnership with the charity, Matt was able to develop and publish this book and intends to build out the series with other books telling popular stories.

The next book in the series will be ‘Looking Back at The World Cup 1966’, and more will follow.

Brian Singleton reads the book

What inspired the author to write a book for people living with dementia?

Matt wrote the book for his dad, Brian, an avid reader who struggled after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia in 2017.

With cognitive challenges, Brian found he couldn’t enjoy reading, a hobby he’d loved throughout his life.

Matt wanted to create a book that his dad would enjoy and chose The Beatles because they both love the band.

He worked with other people living with dementia to craft and test the book as it was developed.

“Most people with dementia can read but there are few books designed specifically for them. Cognitive Books are written for the needs of people with dementia. They have the potential to give pleasure and may help improve social functioning.”
Professor Gill Livingston Professor of Psychiatry in Older People at University College London (UCL)

Where can I buy ‘Looking Back at The Beatles’?

For customers who want to buy the book for a loved one living with dementia, there are a few different options.

You can purchase it directly from The Alzheimer’s Society here, or from Waterstones, Bookshop.org or Amazon.

If you are part of a care home team and want more than five copies for your residents, you can get them at a discounted price.

Go to the Cognitive Books website and follow their link to distribution partner CBL.


penny lane

An inspiring read

It’s sad to hear that research shows almost 62% of people read less or give up reading after a dementia diagnosis.

Reading is an activity that brings so much joy, and this Beatles celebration helps empower dementia patients to reignite their love of books.

It certainly helps to have such superb subject matter, but the bold and brilliant way the book is designed makes it so accessible.

It’s easy to imagine families coming together to read this book and then getting their Beatles records out to take a magical mystery tour down memory lane.

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