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Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

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The blockbuster phenomenon that charts an amazing journey of the mind while revolutionizing our concept of memory An instant bestseller that is poised to become a classic, Moonwalking with Einstein recounts Joshua Foer's yearlong quest to improve his memory under the tutelage of top "mental athletes." He draws on cutting-edge research, a surprising cultural history of The blockbuster phenomenon that charts an amazing journey of the mind while revolutionizing our concept of memory An instant bestseller that is poised to become a classic, Moonwalking with Einstein recounts Joshua Foer's yearlong quest to improve his memory under the tutelage of top "mental athletes." He draws on cutting-edge research, a surprising cultural history of remembering, and venerable tricks of the mentalist's trade to transform our understanding of human memory. From the United States Memory Championship to deep within the author's own mind, this is an electrifying work of journalism that reminds us that, in every way that matters, we are the sum of our memories.


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The blockbuster phenomenon that charts an amazing journey of the mind while revolutionizing our concept of memory An instant bestseller that is poised to become a classic, Moonwalking with Einstein recounts Joshua Foer's yearlong quest to improve his memory under the tutelage of top "mental athletes." He draws on cutting-edge research, a surprising cultural history of The blockbuster phenomenon that charts an amazing journey of the mind while revolutionizing our concept of memory An instant bestseller that is poised to become a classic, Moonwalking with Einstein recounts Joshua Foer's yearlong quest to improve his memory under the tutelage of top "mental athletes." He draws on cutting-edge research, a surprising cultural history of remembering, and venerable tricks of the mentalist's trade to transform our understanding of human memory. From the United States Memory Championship to deep within the author's own mind, this is an electrifying work of journalism that reminds us that, in every way that matters, we are the sum of our memories.

30 review for Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Here’s the hook. Suppose you want to commit the items on your to-do list to memory because you don’t have a pencil and paper. The first five items on your list are: 1. Buy a bottle of Bordeaux for tonight’s dinner party 2. Put Trainspotting at the front of the Netflix queue 3. Finish the office TPS reports before the weekend 4. Pick up the copy of The Master and Margarita that’s on hold at the library 5. Check the Haile Selassie wiki entry to see if the account of the attempted coup in Cutting for Here’s the hook. Suppose you want to commit the items on your to-do list to memory because you don’t have a pencil and paper. The first five items on your list are: 1. Buy a bottle of Bordeaux for tonight’s dinner party 2. Put Trainspotting at the front of the Netflix queue 3. Finish the office TPS reports before the weekend 4. Pick up the copy of The Master and Margarita that’s on hold at the library 5. Check the Haile Selassie wiki entry to see if the account of the attempted coup in Cutting for Stone was factual The list may be much longer than this, but the shortened version above will illustrate the point well enough. Research shows we remember mental images of things much better than we do raw data by rote (things like numbers, playing cards, poems, or list items). Most people can only keep a random sequence of about 7 digits in their heads at a time when first hearing them. Memory experts have found that by transforming any sequence of things into pictures instead, and sticking these pictures in what they call a memory palace, that we can recall them much more effectively. An example should help show this. First of all, we need to visualize a place we know very well. This is the memory palace. In fact, the home you grew up in, while it may not have been a real palace, is probably rich in the kind of recallable detail that can help in retaining long sequences. We then position the mental images associated with the objects we’re trying to remember along a path within the home. In my case, that might mean I come to the front door where a little doe – say Bambi’s girlfriend Faline – is resting. You can tell by her eyes that she’s bored, though. She’s a “Bordeaux”. (I know it’s bad, but this is going to work.) Let the image burn into your brain for a moment. Once inside at the base of the stairs in the foyer I come to a freight car of a model train. It looks ridiculous spotted with pink polka dots, but hey, it’s a way to remember Trainspotting. Up the stairs on the left is a faux antique table. On it sits our mnemonic for TPS: miniature tepees. And just to make it more memorable, imagine that a teenager lives inside one of them and it was TPed with Charmin. (I was tempted to have Lumbergh say “Ummm… yeah…. “ at this point, but wasn’t sure that Office Space was a universal reference.) Then it’s a quick right into the living room. In the middle of it is a big hot tub, but instead of water inside, it’s a giant margarita. The drink comes complete with salt around the edge of the tub and a wedge cut from a lime the size of a beach ball. Inside the tub is a miniature ship with a master on board shouting orders. Some of the crew look like they wouldn’t mind walking the plank. Finally, through the entry way into the kitchen I see Marley’s ghost (Bob Marley, that is) and he’s sitting on the table with doctor/writer extraordinaire Abraham Verghese. In case the link to Haile Selassie isn’t clear, he was also known as Ras Tafari, viewed by many a Jamaican as a messianic figure. Surprisingly enough, Marley is not holding anything rolled up and burning; he’s got a dove perched on his hand instead and it’s cooing (which, of course, is auditorially equivalent to coup-ing). So there’s our list. Picture it in sequence one more time: the bored doe just inside the door, the spotted train at the base of the stairs, the tepees on the table at the top of the stairs, the ship master in the margarita in the living room, and finally, sitting on the kitchen table, the Selassie worshipper with the author of Cutting for Stone and the cooing dove. I could presumably have had dozens of these images stuck along a path throughout the house. The placement along a set route (say up the stairs and clockwise, hitting every room) helps since that way we aren’t as apt to skip anything. Experts also say it’s best to choose images that are ridiculous or racy or in any other way more apt to stick in your head. That pretty much covers the trick to memorization. To get an entire book out of the deal, though, Foer had to expand the scope. He started out mentioning the remarkable feats the elite memorizers can perform (x digits of pi, y decks of cards, z lines of verse). He then got into the small but interesting world of competitive memorization, including his own involvement. Foer began his investigation on a journalistic whim and ended up, with hard work and a lot of help from memory mentors, becoming the US champion. Even though the end result of his competition is mentioned at the outset, there is drama in how it unfolds. The competition involves several categories, one of which is memorizing card sequences. The trick in doing that is an offshoot of what I described above. The difference is that every card has a mental image associated with it that you spend days and days drilling into your head beforehand. Each mental image has a subject and a verb. The ace of clubs may be Karl Spackler (the Cinderella boy himself) teeing off at Augusta. The two of clubs may be Groucho Marx lighting a cigar. And so on for each card in the deck. Then, when you want to memorize the randomized order of a deck, you put these images in a fresh memory palace. Only to make fewer images necessary, you can join the subject of one card with the action of the next card into a single image. If the first card is the seven of diamonds (which you may have associated with Einstein twirling the tassel on his mortarboard) and the next one is the jack of spades (which is J.D. Salinger moonwalking, say) then the pair of those cards together would produce an image of Einstein moonwalking. Memorizing the deck would then involve 26 images. There may be variations, but that’s the basic approach. Sequences of digits are done similarly, only for that you may have 100 different pre-memorized images – one for each pair in the range from 00 to 99. Foer points out that our memories don’t get much of a workout these days. We all know how easy it is to rely on spell checks and Google searches for things we used to keep in our heads. So is it useful to keep more information available for immediate use? Probably. Foer argues that our ideas, abstractions, and arguments depend on recallable units that are the building blocks. What Foer does not do as effectively is demonstrate how the aforementioned devices help with that kind of practical memory. He admits to it, too, though only after he tells his fun story of the US Memory Championship. The “mental athletes” he first encountered were not what he’d expected. They were not savants, nor did they possess photographic memories. Rather, they’d all learned these visualization techniques that date back to the ancient Greeks. The top competitors were often the ones with the most creative images. After being coached by several top mnemonists, Foer was able to compete with the best in the US. He said he still loses his keys, though. There was more to this book as well. However, and I say this with a full appreciation of the irony, I don’t remember much of it. (It was several months ago.) There was a partial debunking of the savant from 60 Minutes who was “born on a blue day”, there was a bit on the tricks in reciting poems, and there was the blow-by-blow action of the memory competition. My impression at the time was that it was all fairly interesting, but not very useful in the end. So who remembers the to-do list? Would you have remembered it without the images? I just tested myself and I can recite it back without error, but then I’ve made six rounds of edits to this stupid review. I’d probably remember it anyway. Besides that, I usually have a pencil and paper.

  2. 4 out of 5

    J

    Unimpressive - This is a great example of how misleading a book title can be. I'd give it one and a half stars but it is just not worth two. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art & Science of Remembering Everything reads like a long magazine article - which is kind of where I found out about the book - The NY Times - last week. Having read the article, I was sufficiently impressed to get online and order the book. It arrived four days later and I couldn't wait to get started. At the onset of his Unimpressive - This is a great example of how misleading a book title can be. I'd give it one and a half stars but it is just not worth two. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art & Science of Remembering Everything reads like a long magazine article - which is kind of where I found out about the book - The NY Times - last week. Having read the article, I was sufficiently impressed to get online and order the book. It arrived four days later and I couldn't wait to get started. At the onset of his book - which does have a snappy title - Foer was very clear this is not a 'how to' book but rather, it is an account of his one-year journey from being a journalist-spectator to becoming winner of the US Memory Championship. Maybe that's where I got off track. The NY Times article, detailed as it was, failed to mention that part. Its a critical detail - more than an oversight - in my estimation. Foer has a decent writing style - again, like a magazine article. This book is written in the vein of Malcolm Gladwell's books and it does have information but not quite as polished or as jam packed. So far, hardly anything that wasn't already mentioned on the NY Times synopsis has been written and little has been added to what I already read so I am feeling just a little bit ripped off - the subtitle seems to imply that the book will talk about, "the art and science of remembering everything..." For the sake of accuracy, it should read; "My year-long journey toward becoming the US Memory champion with a few interesting tidbits about memory thrown in for good measure." I'd give this book a grade of "B+" for style and an overall grade of "D" because it was not at all what it was hyped to be. The discontinuity between Foer's book title and its content are such that if I ever come across this writer's books again, I am going to be hard-pressed to trust him enough to plop down my hard-earned money because I will be less likely to fall for that trick twice. Foer's synopsis on the NY Times deserves an "A" - moreover, since he failed to expand the book that's where the material should have stayed. I am going to be recommending the NY Times synopsis - penned by the author and - which turns out to be $14.00 + shipping cheaper - not to mention, the article is (ironically) more directed at hard examples of just how memory techniques can be applied. I suppose if there is anything redeeming about Foer's book is its extensive bibliography. Other than that, save your money and check this book out at your local library where you can also photocopy the bibliography because it will offer more detail germane to the topic.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    Ignore the ridiculous title. Forget the hideous book cover. This is a fun and interesting read once you get past those stumbling blocks. Joshua Foer was a journalist who wrote a story on the U.S. Memory Championship, and he became so intrigued by the chance to improve his memory that he spent a year training to become a "mental athlete." The book covers his year spent learning about mnemonics and memory palaces and all of the memorable (ahem) characters he met along the way. My favorite sections Ignore the ridiculous title. Forget the hideous book cover. This is a fun and interesting read once you get past those stumbling blocks. Joshua Foer was a journalist who wrote a story on the U.S. Memory Championship, and he became so intrigued by the chance to improve his memory that he spent a year training to become a "mental athlete." The book covers his year spent learning about mnemonics and memory palaces and all of the memorable (ahem) characters he met along the way. My favorite sections covered the history of memorization -- it goes back to the ancient Greeks, when Socrates famously complained that writing destroys memory -- and some inspiring passages on how to make your life seem more full: "Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next -- and disappear. That's why it's important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives." The last chapter and the epilogue cover the memory championships in which Foer competed, but the outcome of those events really doesn't matter. By then, it was clear that the purpose of a good memory isn't just for party tricks like memorizing a deck of cards; more importantly, it teaches you to become more mindful in your life.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything is a nonfiction book by Joshua Foer, first published in 2011. Foer discusses how Daniel Tammet's index finger slides around on a table as he performs mental calculations in a documentary; mental multiplication experts and mnemonists that Foer speaks with imply that Tammet's claims, involving synesthetic morphing shapes and colors standing in for complex numerical feats, are Moonwalking with Einstein, Joshua Foer Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything is a nonfiction book by Joshua Foer, first published in 2011. Foer discusses how Daniel Tammet's index finger slides around on a table as he performs mental calculations in a documentary; mental multiplication experts and mnemonists that Foer speaks with imply that Tammet's claims, involving synesthetic morphing shapes and colors standing in for complex numerical feats, are questionable. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز پانزدهم ماه جولای سال 2015 میلادی عنوان: قدم زدن روی ماه با اینشتین : علم حافظه، هنر به یاد سپردن همه چیز؛ نویسنده: جاشوا فوئر؛ مترجم: گیتی قاسم زاده؛ تهران، هورمزد، 1393، در 390 ص، شابک: 9786006958095؛ موضوع: تقویت حافظه از نویسندگان امریکایی - سده 20 م فوئر می‌گویند: «با تمرکز، انگیزه، و بالاتر از همه، صرف زمان، می‌توان ذهن را تربیت کرد، تا کارهای بیمانند انجام دهد. این کشفی بود که به من قدرت بسیار داد و باعث شد، این پرسش را از خودم بپرسم: اگر در هر زمینه‌ ای، شیوه‌ ی درست را بیابم، و در پیش بگیرم، قادر هستم چه کارهای خارق‌العاده‌ ی دیگری را انجام دهم؟».؛ ا. شربیانی

  5. 5 out of 5

    Richard Stephenson

    Let me see if I have this right... pickled garlic, cottage cheese, Pete's Smoked Salmon, 6 bottles of champagne, 3 pairs of socks, hoola hoops, scuba diver in the sink, dry ice, send Sophia an email... I think I messed it up, but there's some simple proof that memory techniques *can* be useful. Unfortunately, this book isn't about teaching memory techniques. It's about Josh's journey to winning the biggest little award in the US... which is NOT why I read this book. Sure, the overall story was Let me see if I have this right... pickled garlic, cottage cheese, Pete's Smoked Salmon, 6 bottles of champagne, 3 pairs of socks, hoola hoops, scuba diver in the sink, dry ice, send Sophia an email... I think I messed it up, but there's some simple proof that memory techniques *can* be useful. Unfortunately, this book isn't about teaching memory techniques. It's about Josh's journey to winning the biggest little award in the US... which is NOT why I read this book. Sure, the overall story was interesting, there were some useful tips, and some real truths came out of the work. However, this book is not, I repeat, about *teaching* the "Art and Science of Remembering Everything". I will admit I went into the book expecting much in the way of being taught some useful skills so my rating reflects this entry bias. Read it for a decently entertaining tale of participative journalism. Read something else for working on your memory.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie *Extremely Stable Genius*

    Cross posted atShelfinflicted People do the oddest things in the name of winning. I’m a competitive person (as are most of you reviewers out there). A few years ago I would have added the word “very” in front of competitive; I’ve mellowed as I’ve aged but I remember the lengths I went to in order to be the best at whatever I deemed important. But I’m fairly certain I would not go to such lengths to win a memory competition. Joshua Foer thought it was a dandy idea….. Joshua found himself in the Cross posted atShelfinflicted People do the oddest things in the name of winning. I’m a competitive person (as are most of you reviewers out there). A few years ago I would have added the word “very” in front of competitive; I’ve mellowed as I’ve aged but I remember the lengths I went to in order to be the best at whatever I deemed important. But I’m fairly certain I would not go to such lengths to win a memory competition. Joshua Foer thought it was a dandy idea….. Joshua found himself in the world of competitive memory when he decided he wanted to do a journalistic book about the subject and the people in it. Apparently, and I didn’t know this, there is a world competition for memory. These people memorize long lists of numbers, decks on top of decks of cards, poetry….ect, all to repeat what they remember to some judges in hopes of winning. My question was why? What purpose could this possibly serve? Who needs a skill like this and when would one have the need to memorize 20 decks of cards? As the author points out in the book, we no longer need to remember much of anything these days, all our electronic gadgets serve as our external memory. When was the last time you memorized a phone number? Pretty close to “a really flippin long time ago” I would guess. To accomplish the mind boggling feet of, say, memorizing the order of cards in many set of cards in just minutes, they use the technique called mnemonics. What this is, is making a visual backdrop for each card, or number, or object and putting them in ‘memorable’ situations doing strange things……and apparently the raunchier the better. Trust me you don’t want to know what his mind had conjured up for Bill Clinton and a Watermelon, but I will never forget it. Competition got the better of Foer, and he went from writing a book about memory competitors to being a competitor himself. He wanted the American memory championship bad! So bad he resorted to wearing blacked out goggles with small holes in them to see whatever he studying and to wearing earmuffs to minimize distractions. That's dedication.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    This wasn’t a bad book – I quite enjoyed some of it and the author sometimes had me laughing in the way you can’t help but laugh the first time you see the last scene of the very first Star Wars movie. About twenty years ago I first came across Tony Buzan. I read a couple of his books and even learnt enough of his methods to be able to memorise an entire weekly shopping list and to go around the supermarket without paper. The problem was that I quickly came to the conclusion that ‘learning’ has This wasn’t a bad book – I quite enjoyed some of it and the author sometimes had me laughing in the way you can’t help but laugh the first time you see the last scene of the very first Star Wars movie. About twenty years ago I first came across Tony Buzan. I read a couple of his books and even learnt enough of his methods to be able to memorise an entire weekly shopping list and to go around the supermarket without paper. The problem was that I quickly came to the conclusion that ‘learning’ has very little to do with ‘remembering’ – particularly when ‘remembering’ is defined as keeping strings of more or less unconnected facts in mind. There is quite a lot of this book dedicated to watching the author learn to remember a deck of cards in a very short time. Perhaps, if I was a gambler, this might seem a much more worthwhile task. However, like too many memory feats, this just seems like a waste of life. Part of this book talks about learning poetry by heart and how hard this can be. But he does say that at least with learning poetry by heart you can bring texts with you wherever you go. This is the desert island scenario, but rather than getting to choose a book to bring with you at the last minute, you in fact spend your life ensuring you always have favourites with you just in case. Now, this is a worthwhile thing to do, there is never a time when you can be bored if you can think your way through a great poem. For years I used to memorise poems – I have, more or less by heart – poems such as The Second Coming, La Figlia Chi Piange (which I do with extravagant hand gestures) and have tried and failed for years to learn Sonnet 129 – the lists of nouns and the inversions trip me every time. But it all comes in handy eventually – I was talking to my mother the other day about growing older and was able to quote one of my remembered poems to her in full: The cruel girls we loved Are over forty, Their subtle daughters Have stolen their beauty; And with a blue stare Of cool surprise, They mock their anxious mothers With their mothers’ eyes. (Now that I’ve checked my memory against the poem it seems I almost remembered it – but couldn’t quite remember what kind of surprise they had, I had it as cruel for a second time – and the line breaks I remembered as fewer – mine was a poem of four lines in total, but I still knew there was a big break between beauty and And.) A couple of weeks ago my eldest daughter and I were walking around St Kilda talking about this and that. Now, St Kilda has lots of streets that are named after poets – and we came to Herbert Street and I told her it was probably named after George Herbert, a poet she didn’t know and so I started quoting The Collar – God, I love that poem, I love it so very much. I love how it gets increasingly annoyed with itself and how the end is the calm after the climax. In fact, the rushing urgency of the poem is very much like sex, now I think of it. Ted Hughes has a wonderful book I can’t recommend too highly called By Heart – about the poems you should learn by heart and why. The problem with memory is that we think we know what it is – but really, memory is much more complicated than we generally imagine. I tend to think there are three kinds of memory: recognition, recall and recollection. Recall is the one that is most ‘prized’ – particularly by the Tony Buzan’s of the world. Being able to recall pi to 300 decimal places might seem a remarkable thing to some minds – but as someone who would train huskies to turn and eat their adventurers after they had crossed the first ice field or on the call of the twentieth ‘mush’ on their way to the North Pole, I have to say the whole thing seems rather pointless to me. I’ve never really liked the ‘because it’s there’ excuse for doing anything. Recall is hard, and is often the only type of memory we bother ‘testing’ – but really, it is hard because it isn’t something that we humans actually need all that often. We are infinitely better at recognition. We may not remember names, but by god we remember faces and what those faces have meant to us. Names are a recall task – faces a recognition task. There is a lovely experiment where people are shown a thousand photographs and asked to remember as many as they can. Generally, people are only able to remember about 2% - our recall is a very weak type of memory. But if you add another thousand photos and show them to the people again and ask which photos they have seen before then you get about 98% right, our recognition ability is almost infallible.. The point being, that if you want to remember something then you need to link it to your recognition memory, and not rely on your recall memory. The memory palaces and techniques described in this book rely on this fact and virtually this fact alone. The third kind of memory is our most dangerous and also our most interesting. We think we ‘remember’ our lives – in much the same way that these guys spending their time memorising cards remember lists of disconnected facts – but actually, we don’t remember disconnected facts in any sense at all well. What we remember is story. And facts tend to get twisted out of recognition if they don't fit with the story we have chosen to tell. Try telling someone about a fight you had between with your partner and not only will the story prove to be rather self-serving, but much more interestingly (if there is a way to compare what you have to say with what actually happened), your ‘story’ will drop facts in ways that make for a good story – rather than a true story. We re-collect facts to fit our narrative, sometimes adding some to help the story make sense, often dropping some that add nothing or that no longer fit. I got to witness this happening at the start of the year when I was on a jury. We watched hours of film from hotel security cameras and we listened to people, good people, trying their best to tell the truth, but being repeatedly caught out completely misremembered something. Sometimes the disbelief these witnesses felt in being proven they had misremembered a key fact – clearly shown on the videotape in complete contradiction to what they had said – was utterly remarkable to witness. I’ve known for a long time narrative-flow trumps fact every time. But I never knew quite how much that was the case until I sat in that jury box trying to decide if I could reconstruct the truth of what had happened that night from the all-too-fallible memories of a dozen or so ‘witnesses’. My point is that you can remember as many cards as you like, but recall memory is by far the least interesting of the three types of memory we humans have. By far the most important is recollection – it is the story we tell ourselves about our lives and therefore the story that structures how we experience the world (past, present and future). This has virtually nothing to do with recall, despite what we tell ourselves – in some ways we could say recollection is the series of lies we tell to ourselves to help us make sense of our lives, but if they are lies, they are lies we believe implicitly and breathlessly. Like I said, I quite enjoyed this – the guy got to compete in various memory events and shows that hard work brings rewards. Buzan repeatedly talks about the ‘education revolution’ his memory tricks will bring – you might notice that in the twenty years since I first noticed him his revolution hasn’t quite gotten off the ground. But then, we’ve waited longer for the second coming of Christ, so if Buzan wishes to slouch his way toward Bethlehem, who am I to stop him? He seems to be making buckets of money in his widening gyre, if nothing else.

  8. 5 out of 5

    ☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~ ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣

    Deliberate/cognitive practice! Sounds just like Hank Moody's motto: 'Constant vigilance!' Q: The brain best remembers things that are repeated, rhythmic, rhyming, structured, and above all easily visualized. (c) Q: Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next - and disappear. That's why it's Deliberate/cognitive practice! Sounds just like Hank Moody's motto: 'Constant vigilance!' Q: The brain best remembers things that are repeated, rhythmic, rhyming, structured, and above all easily visualized. (c) Q: Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next - and disappear. That's why it's so important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives. (c) Q: The more we remember, the better we are at processing the world. And the better we are at processing the world, the more we can remember about it. (c) Q: There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. (c) Q: Psychologists have discovered that the most efficient method is to force yourself to type 10 to 20 percent faster than your comfort pace and to allow yourself to make mistakes. Only by watching yourself mistype at that faster speed can you figure out the obstacles that are slowing you down and overcome them. By bringing typing out of the autonomous stage and back under conscious control, it is possible to conquer the OK plateau. (c) Q: When the point of reading is, as it was for Peter of Ravenna, remembering, you approach a text very differently than most of us do today. Now we put a premium on reading quickly and widely, and that breeds a kind of superficiality in our reading, and in what we seek to get out of books. You can’t read a page a minute, the rate at which you’re probably reading this book, and expect to remember what you’ve read for any considerable length of time. If something is going to be made memorable, it has to be dwelled upon, repeated. (c) Q: Amateur musicians, for example, are more likely to spend their practice time playing music, whereas pros are more likely to work through tedious exercises or focus on specific, difficult parts of pieces. (c) Q: The brain is like a muscle,” he said, and memory training is a form of mental workout. Over time, like any form of exercise, it’ll make the brain fitter, quicker, and more nimble. It’s an idea that dates back to the very origins of memory training. Roman orators argued that the art of memory—the proper retention and ordering of knowledge—was a vital instrument for the invention of new ideas. (c)

  9. 5 out of 5

    Oriana

    Well, I'm not going to lie, this book has already got two strikes: I basically hate the genre of "I did this wacky thing for a year, and then I wrote a book about it!", plus he is the brother of a famouser writer whom I more or less revile. But! OMG you guys, my memory is so laughably bad. And apparently this book might possibly have a side effect of helping me improve that, which would be worth slogging through a middling memoir. *** Here's another book I'm sad I never found time to review. It Well, I'm not going to lie, this book has already got two strikes: I basically hate the genre of "I did this wacky thing for a year, and then I wrote a book about it!", plus he is the brother of a famouser writer whom I more or less revile. But! OMG you guys, my memory is so laughably bad. And apparently this book might possibly have a side effect of helping me improve that, which would be worth slogging through a middling memoir. *** Here's another book I'm sad I never found time to review. It was a great case of proving my open-mindedness (ha)—although I went in very ready to hate, I was totally charmed by this. Moonwalking is a strange window into a very strange world; if you didn't know there was a "competitive memory" circuit, you're in for some fun (and some bemused head-shaking). It's actually also a very good use of the "I did this wacky thing for a year, and then I wrote a book about it!" genre, because it's fascinating to watch Joshua completely embrace a new hobby and get totally embroiled in it, but I'm glad he then extricated and went back to (presumably) his normal life. I'd like to say other things about this book, like to tell you about the very fascinating people you'll meet herein, and the unbelievably intricate lengths people go to to build their competitive-memory chops, such as constructing "memory palaces" completely populated with bizarre statuary and bric-a-brac, which is assigned excruciatingly specific meaning that corresponds to the thing you're trying to remember—but look, I read this book over a year ago, and I didn't actually do any of those memory-training exercises, even while I was reading, and so: nope. Nothing much more was retained. It's a great book, though.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    Joshua Foer begins exploring memory at the US Memory Competition, where he watches people who claim to have normal memory capacity memorize lists of phone numbers, the order of decks of cards, and poems in mere minutes. Intrigued, he eventually decides to compete in the competition himself and receives help from leaders in memory techniques along the way. Foer weaves his experience in memory training with research and a history of the practice. With a casual, story-telling style he takes you on a Joshua Foer begins exploring memory at the US Memory Competition, where he watches people who claim to have normal memory capacity memorize lists of phone numbers, the order of decks of cards, and poems in mere minutes. Intrigued, he eventually decides to compete in the competition himself and receives help from leaders in memory techniques along the way. Foer weaves his experience in memory training with research and a history of the practice. With a casual, story-telling style he takes you on a meandering but fascinating journey. I enjoyed that he was able to take himself seriously while also poking some fun at himself and his memory competitors. While he begins as an outsider looking in, by the end, he really seemed to become a part of this eclectic community. I came to this book curious to know how I could improve my own unreliable memory. Foer does make a serious case that most people who dedicate themselves to learning memory techniques could learn how to do some pretty awesome party tricks. However, once I learned what that dedication required, I lost interest in doing any sort of serious memory training. However, I think this book makes a strong point that being more aware of what we're taking in, and finding ways to record it on our external memory devices like computers and notebooks, can improve our own creative output. I found it an interesting commentary on what we may have lost along the way as we have gained more ways to store and record information.

  11. 4 out of 5

    midnightfaerie

    Moonwalking with Einstein was a phenomenal book that made me feel differently about myself. An average student growing up, I still felt I was a step behind everyone when it came to "getting stuff". So I made a point to know things ahead of time, go over itinerary for conventions, review code and new techniques for a meeting before the meeting or seminar happened, memorize rules and lists for activities in which I belonged to in a group, etc. Because of this I was often seen as being in the "top Moonwalking with Einstein was a phenomenal book that made me feel differently about myself. An average student growing up, I still felt I was a step behind everyone when it came to "getting stuff". So I made a point to know things ahead of time, go over itinerary for conventions, review code and new techniques for a meeting before the meeting or seminar happened, memorize rules and lists for activities in which I belonged to in a group, etc. Because of this I was often seen as being in the "top of the class" or "In the know", but the truth was I was terrified of looking stupid, a particular insecurity of mine. As I got older I learned to live with my strengths and weaknesses, but some of those habits are still around. I'm convinced my obsession with reading comes from this insecurity as well. The problem is, like the old adage says, the more I read, the more I know, and the more I know, the more I realize I really don't know anything. And then there's the whole retention rate. How much of what we digest do we really retain? Then one of my book clubs suggested this book about world memory championships and I was fascinated. Like most, my first thought was that these people that memorize numerous decks of cards or numbers that are twenty thousand digits long have innate abilities or are savants of sorts. But Foer shows us this isn't necessarily true. In fact, he's convinced many people that are labeled special or savants are just normal people that have utilized these age old memorization techniques. I was hooked. Is it possible that I could be retaining even more information? That I could make myself (at least feel) smarter? I was determined to find out. Foer is a journalist that just happens to stumble on the memory championships and decides to train for a year and compete, to test his theories. This book is both eye-opening and thought provoking. Is it possible we've been teaching our children the wrong way to learn in schools? How do the experts in certain fields learn what they do? How is it that they show super human like abilities in analyzing and understanding their fields? In science? In chess? In cricket? Foer explores the many different memory techniques that have become standard for these memory sports. He also researches the whole idea of human memory at the same time. He gets tested himself before and after he starts training, he talks to scientists and psychologists who have studied this field for years and looks at various case studies that have been done over the years. He interviews people with various memory deficiencies/abilities, from world renown savants to a man who can't retain any information longer than it takes to concentrate on it. Foer does an exceptional job with looking at both sides of the issues, but keeping an open mind all the way up until the end. His struggles and humorous imagery he uses for some of his techniques stay with you long after you've read the book. As I read the book and began to learn some of these techniques, I immediately began to employ them. The lady at the library that I asked three times what her name was, my grocery list, the names and interests of the twenty or so families that I've recently come to know in my church group. I employed techniques for all of these and was surprised to find how quickly the information came to me when trying to recall them. I've chosen a memory palace and have decided to memorize a small book I use for reference all the time called, "Know your Bible: All 66 books explained and applied". I use it constantly to look up the name of the book or the general idea of the book of the Bible I'm studying. I also wanted to memorize the names of the books of the Bible in order, as it makes for much easier referencing. So, I keep this book next to my bed, and have begun using my childhood home as my memory palace, forming imagery as I walk through my house to retain the information. This is a popular technique Foer explains in the book, especially when memorizing lists of concrete things, like a grocery list. It's working wonderfully. The more obnoxious or silly the image, the easier it is to retain the information. I won't go into each scene, but I will say some of my scenes include the Oompla Loompas, Professor Dumbledore, and talking French Peas. (Not all in the same scene though) I found the history of some of these techniques fascinating as well, especially the sexual aspect of it. As you can imagine, lewd and obscene sexual acts might come in handy in forming imagery to remember things, and it was because of this, at some point in history it was sometimes banned as being immoral. In demonstrating to the reader the technique of using the memory palace to memorize a grocery list, he used an image of Claudia Shiffer covered in cottage cheese. He described the clumps of it falling off of her and asked the reader to imagine the smell of it. Many days later, I still can't get that image out of my mind, and will have no problem if I ever need to remember cottage cheese on my shopping list. But, with much humor, Foer also demonstrates the down side to sometimes using sexual acts to remember. For remembering playing cards he needed to remember a person, action, and item for each card, then (without going into too much description) as the cards are shown in a particular order, you have these people, items, and acts/verbs mixed up to form new images. He made the mistake of including some sexual acts as some of the verbs and his mother as one of the people. You can see how this got him into trouble. He ended up having to go back and change some of his image decisions or endure some mental scarring. All in all though, are these techniques enough to really help us retain information or are they just fancy tricks that really have no real world use? Does memorizing your address book really matter when you can't remember where you put your car keys? Well, that's for you to decide. But Foer does an excellent job of exploring all sides of this entertaining phenomenon. And I highly recommend this book. ClassicsDefined.com

  12. 5 out of 5

    Simon Eskildsen

    This is a book review turned rant. I often hear 'good memory is useless with technology' or 'memory techniques are tricks, but wouldn't add value to my life'. I think both of these are wrong. I've been spending this Christmas understanding more about memory because I think there's significant leverage in being productive with these techniques. I have varies situational checklists. If I am about to buy something, I ask myself simple questions such as "Would I buy this again if it broke?", "Have I This is a book review turned rant. I often hear 'good memory is useless with technology' or 'memory techniques are tricks, but wouldn't add value to my life'. I think both of these are wrong. I've been spending this Christmas understanding more about memory because I think there's significant leverage in being productive with these techniques. I have varies situational checklists. If I am about to buy something, I ask myself simple questions such as "Would I buy this again if it broke?", "Have I wanted this for more than a month?", "Does this replace something I already have, or does it add a new need?" and "If I get this, will I have to resist the urge to get 10 other things to go along with it?". I have checklists for making decisions: "What would change my mind about this decision?", "What alternatives have been seriously considered?" and "What can we do to get our feet wet, without jumping in heads first?". I have lists of the mental models, principles and cognitive biases that I use on most problems I face: inversion, second-order effects, black swans, survivorship bias, antifragility, conditioning, fundamental attribution error, and so on. I have a 20+ point checklists for reviewing code. The problem with these lists is that they're stored in an app on my phone. I only run through them on occasion, despite finding value every time I do. It's difficult to condition myself to use them as often as I'd like. In the middle of a discussion, it's disruptive to pull up a list on your phone and work through it. With a memory palace, I can install these checklists in my head to run through at any point in time. I've started doing this since reading the book and it's provided the impetus to finally adopt memory palaces into my day-to-day. I don't have many of them yet, in fact, the only one is a subset of my list of mental models, principles, and biases. I've built this on a couple of streets in the city I grew up in. I start the memory palace in the parking lot of my kindergarten. There, I see a bunch of people doing headstands. It reminds me to attempt to invert the problem. On the sidewalk, I see a bunch of domino pieces falling. This prompts me to consider second-order and third-order thinking. I look over the fence, inside the kindergarten. There's a tall, blue tower and I see a monkey throwing carrots. That means I should think about what the incentives are in the problem at hand. Do the incentives of the systems line up with those of the individuals? I keep walking and see a massive, exponentially shaped slide, thinking of compounding. Soon enough a black swan jumps out, causing me to think of Taleb's black swan. I see clocks on the pavement and I think of whether everyone is operating on the same time-scale, or if the disagreement is formed because some are thinking on a 1-month time-scale, and others on a 1-year time-scale? I see a barbell, think of antifragility. A plane, and think of survivorship bias. I have about 20 mental models and biases incorporated in this model so far. This may seem slow, but in fact, I'd be able to name all of the models in seconds. It's extremely fast to run through this list. Adding new models is only getting easier, too. Remembering numbers and card games isn't particularly useful for me, but these are just easy-to-evaluate tests for a competition format to test how productive someone is with memory palaces. They don't do the techniques justice. As you use these techniques more and more, it becomes easier to form mental images to build palaces. I'm only a week in, and I'm already building small palaces for the books I'm reading and vocabulary I'm currently learning. This makes it easy to go through it when you aren't reading the book. Fundamentally, as a result of reading this book and other resources on memory, I've come to think of a brain as a data structure with the following strengths: * Great at building associations * Extremely visual and spatially oriented * Good at appending, poor at updating, mediocre at recall Boiling memory down to these limitations makes it easier for me to understand why palaces are so useful. The brain is poor at lists and numbers unless packaged into visual, spatial and associations—for which the memory palace is a fantastic technique. If you think of building memories in terms of these strengths, it makes a dramatic difference. I like the book because it has a compelling narrative. The problem with it is that it doesn't go deep enough into how to use memory day-to-day, despite my hypothesis that it is useful in day-to-day life. Adopting these techniques is hard work, don't read the book if you don't see any use for it. But if you do, this is a fantastic place to start. Something I found incredibly surprising is that we used to be much better at remembering than we are now. In ancient greece, they had perfected these techniques to remember. Before the printing press, getting your hand on a book was rare. When you did, you made sure to memorize as much of it as possible. With Gutenberg, we had the first wave of suppressing the importance of memory. The second wave came with smartphones and the Internet, where everything seems to be just seconds away. I certainly agree that this changes things in terms of what we need to remember, but I feel that strategically applying these techniques would yield great results. I look forward to see if I'm still using them months and years from now.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Grumpus

    I love his style of writing...fun and chatty. Nice introductory chapters and a technique I learned while listening on the train (for half an hour) that allowed me to come home and impress my kids by having them write down a 50-digit number and then me recalling it digit-by-digit in order for them. I never thought about it before, but the book points out that before pen and paper, anything that needed to be preserved had to be memorized. That is why so many of the techniques mentioned in the book I love his style of writing...fun and chatty. Nice introductory chapters and a technique I learned while listening on the train (for half an hour) that allowed me to come home and impress my kids by having them write down a 50-digit number and then me recalling it digit-by-digit in order for them. I never thought about it before, but the book points out that before pen and paper, anything that needed to be preserved had to be memorized. That is why so many of the techniques mentioned in the book are from antiquity and continue to stand the test of time. The mind likes sequential memories. Memories that are stored as part of a story that are made as multi-sensorial in the mind as possible are easily recalled. After finishing the book and applying some of the techniques, I can attest to the fact that my mind does operate in this fashion. Once a memory association is started vast amounts of information can be easily stored and retrieved. It is like knocking over the first domino in a series. They just lead into the next thought, which leads into the next. I was amazed how effortless it becomes once you get going. The book also chronicles the author’s story of covering both the U.S. and world memory championships as a journalist that ultimately led to his own appearance in the tournament one year later. No spoilers here regarding how he did. His story, the history of memory, and how to apply some of these memory methods make for an enjoyable book with practical applications in your daily life. I have been inspired to see how big of a memory athlete I too can become. Highly recommend.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters

    I'm an expert mnemonicist now! Ha ha. This book is a fast read..(funny, somewhat interesting, somewhat useful) June: 2015... 4 years later: i've come back to change my rating from 2 stars to 4 stars This book actually is brilliant I remember it quite well. It didn't deserve 2 stars. The ending is actually very touching. My reason for giving it 2 stars four years ago is I didn't think I personally was very good at the techniques in the book. This book came to my attention today from another friend I'm an expert mnemonicist now! Ha ha. This book is a fast read..(funny, somewhat interesting, somewhat useful) June: 2015... 4 years later: i've come back to change my rating from 2 stars to 4 stars This book actually is brilliant I remember it quite well. It didn't deserve 2 stars. The ending is actually very touching. My reason for giving it 2 stars four years ago is I didn't think I personally was very good at the techniques in the book. This book came to my attention today from another friend on the site. I hope she reads it. I always value and left her reviews and I look forward to your comments. Here's to you Monkey Girl!!!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This book explores technics that can be utilized to remember things. It's not a "how to" book, but rather it's an account of a year in the author's life dedicated to the training in the use of mnemonics to change from being a person with "normal" memory to winner of the USA Memory Championship. The basic point seems to be that you don't need to have a good memory to remember things. What's needed is to use the human brain's natural abilities at remembering images as a means to remember the This book explores technics that can be utilized to remember things. It's not a "how to" book, but rather it's an account of a year in the author's life dedicated to the training in the use of mnemonics to change from being a person with "normal" memory to winner of the USA Memory Championship. The basic point seems to be that you don't need to have a good memory to remember things. What's needed is to use the human brain's natural abilities at remembering images as a means to remember the esoteric things of today such as telephone numbers, names of strangers, and in the case of memory championships, the order of a shuffled deck of playing cards. Humans are descended from a long line of hunter gathers who needed to remember where to find food and how to find their way back home. Thus the ability to remember numbers or names of strangers did not play a role in natural selection. That is why today we have minds that can remember images better than we can remember numbers and names. Mnemonics is the technic of utilizing the human brain's natural strength as a means for helping those areas where the brain is naturally weak. As the book's narrative follows the author's year of mnemonic training it addresses miscellaneous facts about the history of memorization technics, examples of unusual memory abilities, and miscellaneous neurological facts. So the reader of this book can learn some worthwhile facts of history and science which I found to be of more interest than the author's work at mnemonic training. I feel sorry for any readers who pick up this book with the expectation that it is about Einstein. I went through the whole book and didn't recall any reference to Einstein. So I did a word search of the ebook text and found the word Einstein mentioned two places. One place in the author's training he mentions that he uses the imagined image of "Albert Einstein's thick white mane" as a way to remember the playing card, "three of diamonds." Then later in the book after the author has developed a system of images to remember all possible three card combinations, the word "Einstein" is used again. Under this enhanced system, "Myself moonwalking with Einstein," stands for, "four of spades, king of hearts, and three of diamonds." The author admits that even though he is able to memorize the order of a deck of cards in less than two minutes, he still can't remember where he left his car keys.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Carmen

    This was a book about a man who learns to improve his memory in order to compete in the memory competition. The book talks a lot about creating 'memory palaces' in your mind in order to remember things. One thing that really annoyed me about this book was the sheer amount of time and effort these people put into memorizing useless stuff when I struggle so much with foreign language acquisition. This book also teaches that one should 'practice better, not harder.' Also, their methods of This was a book about a man who learns to improve his memory in order to compete in the memory competition. The book talks a lot about creating 'memory palaces' in your mind in order to remember things. One thing that really annoyed me about this book was the sheer amount of time and effort these people put into memorizing useless stuff when I struggle so much with foreign language acquisition. This book also teaches that one should 'practice better, not harder.' Also, their methods of memorization involve imagining some pretty gross stuff that I don't think I want in my mind. “There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you.” - Bruce Lee, p.185. It also seems that people with the best memories have no life (and no job). There is also a difference, I believe, between learning and memorizing, although the author makes the case that you can't do one without the other. Learning without understanding, really knowing the text you have memorized, etc. are all concerns of mine. He argues that it 'takes knowledge to gain knowledge' and that everything expands on your memory (which is called a database). I don't know if I necessarily agree. He really tears down Daniel Tammet (author of Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant) for reasons I can't quite understand (he feels threatened by him?). I am sorry to say I laughed at his description of Kim and Kim's childhood. It also made me laugh to imagine (not suggested in the book) that one could self-injure their left brain in order to become a savant. I like that, at the end, he suggests all that work was really for nothing and he still forgets plenty in real life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    One more disk to listen to but I can safely review it now. I listened to this as a flier thinking it to be a how to on Mnemonics. It's more of a participatory journalism book like the Omnivores Dilemma, The Wave, Born to Run and Word Freak. These books share a common formula. 1 Part History,1 Part Science, 1 Part Interview with Characters, 1 Part How to, 1 Part Essay and 1 Part Personal Quest: training and competing in the America Memory Championship which he entered on a lark. I found it to be One more disk to listen to but I can safely review it now. I listened to this as a flier thinking it to be a how to on Mnemonics. It's more of a participatory journalism book like the Omnivores Dilemma, The Wave, Born to Run and Word Freak. These books share a common formula. 1 Part History,1 Part Science, 1 Part Interview with Characters, 1 Part How to, 1 Part Essay and 1 Part Personal Quest: training and competing in the America Memory Championship which he entered on a lark. I found it to be well written and much more interesting than I thought. Things that stand out: Mark Twain's memory training and failed attempt to sell a memory game Ricci's Palace of Memory Tony Buzzan and his coach Ed as characters Samuel Gompers High School memory training success Foer being a subject for Erickson (sp?) of Deliberate Practice Fame Discussion of memorizing poems and text

  18. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is a fascinating book about the subculture of memory competitions. Joshua Foer, a journalist, decided to explore this subculture by attending competitions and talking with a number of the competitors. He relates some of the astounding feats of memory, like reciting 50,000 or even 80,000 digits of pi. He interviews Kim Peek, about whom the film Rain Man was written. Kim Peek really has the mental abilities portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the movie, but is much more sociable (maybe even overly This is a fascinating book about the subculture of memory competitions. Joshua Foer, a journalist, decided to explore this subculture by attending competitions and talking with a number of the competitors. He relates some of the astounding feats of memory, like reciting 50,000 or even 80,000 digits of pi. He interviews Kim Peek, about whom the film Rain Man was written. Kim Peek really has the mental abilities portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the movie, but is much more sociable (maybe even overly sociable) in real life. But Peek is quite unlike the other characters in the book, for his mental abilities come naturally, apparently without effort or practice. Foer decided that the best way to understand the technical approaches used by mentalists, is to try learning the set of mental tricks himself. He is approached by a world-class competitor, who acts as a tutor and a mentor. Foer learns and practices the mental tricks, such as the "memory palace." In the palace, the mentalist imagines a set of rooms that one follows in a preset order. In each room the mentalist places vivid (and often sexual) images that correspond to numbers/cards/dates in a pre-planned way. The trick is to place these images quickly, as the competitions are races against time. Within a year, Foer finds himself a real contender for the American memory champion!

  19. 5 out of 5

    Robert Delikat

    I just realized that my last three books had to do with memory: Remembrance of Things Past, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Moonwalking with Einstein (MwE). It was certainly not intentional and the Proust was not really about memory per se, only the title suggests that. But MwE is all about memory. If you are looking for a self-help book on improving your memory, you might wish to look elsewhere, perhaps something by Tony Buzan who is a very important character in MwE. This is not to I just realized that my last three books had to do with memory: Remembrance of Things Past, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Moonwalking with Einstein (MwE). It was certainly not intentional and the Proust was not really about memory per se, only the title suggests that. But MwE is all about memory. If you are looking for a self-help book on improving your memory, you might wish to look elsewhere, perhaps something by Tony Buzan who is a very important character in MwE. This is not to suggest that the author does not elucidate many of the techniques used by MAs or Mental Athletes as the memory champions of the world are called. One might think that the individuals who compete at the national and international memory competitions are mentally-gifted or Savants. Not so. In fact, by definition, Savantism, as described in the literature, is that rare condition that, among other aspects of the syndrome, has as a commonality among its holders a prodigious memory that while very deep, is also exceedingly narrow. MAs on the other hand have memories that can, to name only a few, manage and regurgitate ordered lists of hundreds of random numbers, orders of multiple, shuffled decks of cards, poetry never before seen and all in a matter of a few short minutes. While these are but a few examples of the feats these athletes are capable of performing, there really are no limits to the subject materials they are capable of memorizing. And, as in the case of other forms of athletics, these require a similar kind and degree of training and conditioning. In my studies as an educator, we learned theories about the kinds of student learning that takes place within us and particularly two and the one of which most of us have a particular proclivity for. We, for example, were taught that there are visual- and there are auditory-learners. I did not totally buy into that division and later on came to believe that even auditory learners, upon ‘hearing” the words, translate them into pictures, “seeing” them within their brains and therefore making us all pretty much visual. This is the premise upon which the techniques employed by MAs such as The Memory Palace derive their inspiration. Much to its credit, this is not only a book about the personal stories of some of the most important contemporary memory champs alive today, it is also about how they accomplish their stunning and almost magical feats of mental acumen. One of the most fascinating aspects of the book is that its author. 20-something and fledgling author, Joshua Foer, in the process of writing a piece for Discovery Magazine on the U.S. Memory Championships, is convinced to train himself for the competition. He, with no particularly high IQ or Savantist syndrome whatever, does just that and goes on to win. While it gives hope for us mortals on the one hand, the book goes on to describe the incredibly intense training that goes into accomplishing such a feat. Writing for Discovery, this is not a schlock, tabloid-like look at the subject of memory. Much of what is outlined is taken from cutting-edge research in the fields of psychology and neuroscience. I felt that the book was very well written, easy to understand, edifying and enjoyable. I think that I came to better understand and appreciate how much memory actually defines just who we are... and not necessarily who we are to others, but who we are to ourselves. The book was very well narrated and was everything a book should be and I give it five stars all the way around.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Vonia

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Plain and simple. This is a valuable book that overviews so much more than the title. There are a few pages highlighting the basics on how to be an "expert" menocist, but really these are things that need to be practiced; it is nothing that cannot be easily found elsewhere. All can be traced to The Method of Loci/The Memory Palace Technique, a mnemonic device adopted in ancient Roman and Greek rhetorical treatises (in the anonymous Rhetorica ad Herennium, Cicero's De Oratore, and Quintilian's Plain and simple. This is a valuable book that overviews so much more than the title. There are a few pages highlighting the basics on how to be an "expert" menocist, but really these are things that need to be practiced; it is nothing that cannot be easily found elsewhere. All can be traced to The Method of Loci/The Memory Palace Technique, a mnemonic device adopted in ancient Roman and Greek rhetorical treatises (in the anonymous Rhetorica ad Herennium, Cicero's De Oratore, and Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria). In basic terms, it is a method of memory enhancement which uses visualization to organize and recall information; data is stored in a sequence of memorable images that can be translated back into their original form (i.e., remembering a groceries list would translate into placing said list items into various "locations" around a house; the more memorable the image, the better. On recall, the idea is that the individual would "walk" through the house, the images coming to mind with relative ease). Many memory contest champions claim to use this technique to recall faces, digits, and lists of words. These champions’ successes have little to do with brain structure or intelligence, but more to do with their technique of using regions of their brain that have to do with spatial learning. He includes The Major System and the PAO System for memorizing numbers and cards, and Mind Mapping by Buzan, founder of The Memory Championship in this country. In fact, the title is completely misleading, as it really is not so much a guide on how to become an expert in memorization as it is a reference/informational book on so many intriguing topics, from The Art of Memory to The History of Printing to Savant Syndrome to Defining Expertise to Linguistics, Humanities, Mythology, Psychology, Sociology, Neurosciences... The list goes on, as Foer managed to cover a lot of research in his year, unemployed, studying for The National Memory Championships. He also meets Daniel Tammet (formerly Corney), a famous savant whom he manages to "debunk" a little, Kim Peek, inspiration for "Rain Man", & "EP", who seems to essentially be the character in "50 First Dates" whom forgets everything within two minutes (not Drew Barrymore, but the guy they meet together @ the hospital). Aside from all this fascinating information there is Foer's story; the memoir aspect of the book in which he documents his year in training, his transition from reporter at the event one year with a mere interest in the techniques used to becoming a serious competitor in the following year's event. Yes, I will say I am quite impressed that Foer was able to win it all; as The 2006 United States of America Memory Champion, he represented the nation in the international circuit. Of course, as in all things education, we are far subpar in the international realm, so Foer, although still managing to perform impressively, did not place. Foer states in the epilogue that he had no hesitation in deciding never to compete again; although fun, challenging, etcetera, he knew there were better ways to use his time. The important thing he has from his year immersed in this subculture is the insightful proof that with enough work, enough practice, enough desire, the brain can do quite awesome things. As obvious and/or cliche as this seems, I agree with Foer completely. This is my take away from his story, as well.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cheeky Cher

    1.5 stars - I didn't like it. This book had languished on my TBR shelf for over a year before I finally picked it up. Alas, it was not worth the wait. There are tiny moments of interesting information regarding how the human memory works, but for the most part, the author drones on about mundane details regarding his tedious preparation for a memory contest. It was a repetitive read, and very difficult to maintain focus and interest in the book. Sadly, I do not feel it will be very memorable, 1.5 stars - I didn't like it. This book had languished on my TBR shelf for over a year before I finally picked it up. Alas, it was not worth the wait. There are tiny moments of interesting information regarding how the human memory works, but for the most part, the author drones on about mundane details regarding his tedious preparation for a memory contest. It was a repetitive read, and very difficult to maintain focus and interest in the book. Sadly, I do not feel it will be very memorable, though I did award an extra 0.5 star rating for that glorious little bit of irony. ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: In a sense, the elaborate system of externalized memory we’ve created is a way of fending off mortality. First Sentences (which were my unheeded warning): Dom DeLuise, celebrity fat man (and five of clubs), has been implicated in the following unseemly acts in my mind’s eye: He has hocked a fat globule of spittle (nine of clubs) on Albert Einstein’s thick white mane (three of diamonds) and delivered a devastating karate kick (five of spades) to the groin of Pope Benedict XVI (six of diamonds). Michael Jackson (king of hearts) has engaged in behavior bizarre even for him. He has defecated (two of clubs) on a salmon burger (king of clubs) and captured his flatulence (queen of clubs) in a balloon (six of spades).

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    Wow. Seldom do I finish a book and feel it has changed who I am, or who I could be. There are many areas here related to education which inspired me (most interestingly and somewhat removed slightly from memory of the concept of the ‘ok plateau’), and of which I must further research, but... the memory palace was extraordinary! I sat with my two daughters and we moved in just an hour from remembering 7 +/- 2 bits of info to 24. And could easily recount them the following day, even backwards! Wow. Seldom do I finish a book and feel it has changed who I am, or who I could be. There are many areas here related to education which inspired me (most interestingly and somewhat removed slightly from memory of the concept of the ‘ok plateau’), and of which I must further research, but... the memory palace was extraordinary! I sat with my two daughters and we moved in just an hour from remembering 7 +/- 2 bits of info to 24. And could easily recount them the following day, even backwards! Those who are familiar with my reviews will know how poor my memory is, I am astounded. So how much use will this be to me or my students? I’m really not sure (without spoilers, there’s an excellent anecdote at the end of the book related to its usefulness). I really aim to find out though. Loved this!!!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Peter Mcloughlin

    Here is a related interview by Sean Carroll with Lynne Kelly. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYhVk... Here is Lynne Kelly talking about memory techniques in ancient cultures sixteen-minute runtime. I think she is onto something big. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k9kpJ...

  24. 5 out of 5

    David

    What do chicken sexers, chess masters, and SWAT officers have in common? They all become good at what they do by memorizing a vast amount of highly specialized information that allows them to make instant judgments. Moonwalking with Einsein is about memory, and is the most interesting non-fiction book I've read in the past year. It's full of interesting facts, a history of the art of memory and how it relates to the history of reading, and a lot of surprising information I did not know about how What do chicken sexers, chess masters, and SWAT officers have in common? They all become good at what they do by memorizing a vast amount of highly specialized information that allows them to make instant judgments. Moonwalking with Einsein is about memory, and is the most interesting non-fiction book I've read in the past year. It's full of interesting facts, a history of the art of memory and how it relates to the history of reading, and a lot of surprising information I did not know about how memory works. The author, Joshua Foer, was initially just writing a magazine article on the U.S. Memory Championship. This is a highly geeky competition for a handful of obsessive "mental athletes" who compete in events like memorizing long strings of random numbers, decks of cards, and lines of poetry. The tricks they can do are impressive, and for the true champions, may seem to border on superhuman. What Foer learns, though, is that they are just tricks - learned techniques. In fact, with few exceptions, all those fantastic feats of extraordinary memory you have heard about are not tricks performed by savants with superhuman recall, but people with perfectly ordinary brains who have learned special memory techniques. Anyone can do it! The key to becoming really great at memorizing, and the reason why everyone doesn't learn these (fairly simple, when you get down to it) techniques and impress their friends at parties, is that memory techniques are like playing chess or the piano — anyone can do it, and anyone who puts in serious effort can become pretty good at it (at least good enough to impress people who aren't very good at it), but to become great at it requires lots and lots of practice and years of study, like any other skill. Still, it was quite a revelation to me that this is a skill that anyone can learn. There is really no such thing as "photographic memory" and those guys who memorize the entire Bible cover to cover or can recite pi out to thousands of digits do not actually have memories, or brains, that are any better than yours or mine. To prove it, Foer decides to enter the U.S. Memory Championship himself. I won't spoil the ending, but after just one year of training, he does very well indeed. Part of the book is his own odyssey of memory competition and reporting on the U.S. and international memory competition scene (American competitors he likens to the Jamaican bobsledding team - very enthusiastic, but not considered serious competitors internationally; what breaks records in the U.S. is barely qualifying in European championships.) So what are these "tricks"? Foer describes the techniques in the book, but basically, you learn to build "memory palaces" constructed from places very familiar to you, and stock them with vivid, memorable, often outrageous images (a 14th century author of a treatise on memory techniques offended churchmen by admitting that he used images of, ahem, comely maidens in his memory palaces) that you associate with whatever it is you want to memorize. So if you are memorizing numbers, you might come up with a system in which 137 is Britney Spears performing a karate kick while standing on the back of a giant turtle, and you place her in your living room, and then the next chunk of numbers is another image which is in the hallway to your bedroom. If this sounds unlikely or bizarre, read the book (or go read one of the books that actually teaches the techniques). To prove it works, I am typing this right now off the top of my head without having spent any time with brute force, rote memorization: A jar of pickled garlic Cottage cheese Peat-smoked salmon Six bottles of white wine Three pairs of socks That's a partial grocery list Foer gives you in one chapter — as much of it as I bothered to memorize when he gave a quickie tutorial to demonstrate how the technique works. This is several days after reading it, and according to the brain scientists Foer interviews, it's possible that that list will stick in my head for months or years. Seriously, the "palace of memory" works! The only problem is, as Foer points out, there actually aren't that many situations in the modern world where this kind of memorization is actually useful. We now have externalized memories in the form of books, computers, sticky notes, etc. Memorizing huge volumes of information that you could just as easily grab with a Google search doesn't seem worth it. But these "memory palaces" go back to ancient Greece, and at one time, every educated person used these techniques. That is why lawyers, orators, poets, kings, generals, doctors, monks, and so on, were famous for being able to give long speeches or recite back a long body of work from memory - everyone learned to do it. Before the printing press, when books were rare and expensive, people wouldn't just read as many books as they could get their hands on, they'd make a serious study of a handful of books in their lifetime and pretty much commit each volume to memory. Really, really interesting book. Will change the way you think about memory and intelligence, expertise, and maybe even reading. My highest non-fiction recommendation!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ellie

    I enjoyed Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. I guess I just wanted it to be more...life-changing. And I resented its movement between a theoretical examination of memory, a history of memory and memory techniques, and the author's experience with a group of hard-core champions of memory contests. The author happens upon the world of memory training in which people perform amazing feats of memory and claim that their memory is only average, I enjoyed Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer. I guess I just wanted it to be more...life-changing. And I resented its movement between a theoretical examination of memory, a history of memory and memory techniques, and the author's experience with a group of hard-core champions of memory contests. The author happens upon the world of memory training in which people perform amazing feats of memory and claim that their memory is only average, that we could all (pretty much) do what they do if we trained ourselves. The book is a recounting of Foer's year training with the experts to compete in memory championships. Along the way, Foer recounts the history of memorization-its one-time primacy, its fall into disrespect and its current championship by some educators. He has some fascinating stories to tell and raises some interesting questions as well. Before writing, memory was the only way to transmit information, culture, and history. Even after writing was invented and became common, even, in fact, after the printing press was invented, books were (Foer informs us) more of a memory aid than a source of information. As books became more sophisticated, it became easier to access the information they contained and gradually at first, then, with the advent of the Internet, extremely quickly, memory no longer seemed important. Foer raises an important question: Although memory does not constitute understanding, facts are an essential foundation to learning. As a teacher, I find myself defending the need to memorize a sets of basic facts so that the students can then proceed to think about them and analyze them. Stories about individuals whose memories have been damaged along with stories of "savants" were of more interest to me for the questions they raised about the function of memory in forming our identity and as a necessary constituent of relationships than for their anecdotal pleasure. Generally, my dissatisfaction with the book came from what is also its major attraction: a lot of information is covered in a relatively short space. In fact, not just a lot of information, but a lot of different areas-history, education, psychology-along with the current tale of Foer's training and the people he meets along the way. The book left me dissatisfied in that it didn't seem to offer a coherent starting point for further investigation because of the rapidity with which it covered so many important issues. On the other hand, I was fascinated by much of the book and will spend time trying to sort out the questions it raised and decide where to go next with it. And that's a great thing for a book to do.

  26. 5 out of 5

    James

    A deeply interesting book. Joshua Foer covered a US Memory Championship and was inspired or stumbled into the world of memorization to the extent that a year later he competed and won the US memory championship. Now accounts of journalist undertaking some droll activity, with some appealingly oddball characters, are pretty common place and usually feel like a great magazine article was stretched out to painful lengths. What made Moonwalking with Einstein so enjoyable was the mixture between A deeply interesting book. Joshua Foer covered a US Memory Championship and was inspired or stumbled into the world of memorization to the extent that a year later he competed and won the US memory championship. Now accounts of journalist undertaking some droll activity, with some appealingly oddball characters, are pretty common place and usually feel like a great magazine article was stretched out to painful lengths. What made Moonwalking with Einstein so enjoyable was the mixture between learning about things you never knew you would find interesting, having answers to questions you always wanted to know, a practical application that is surprisingly effective, and finally putting it all in a rich context. In terms of the practical application I could do no better than steer you to this review my link text with the warning that you will now have lodged in your mind the particular set of chores Steve was grappling with on that day for much longer than you would ever want. As some of the other reviewers point out there are probably better texts out there to help you learn the art or science of memorization many of them written over a thousand years ago. I doubt though you would get the same richness of nuggets. Two of my favourites: Chess Grandmasters and Chicken Sexers have the same IQ and the same highly evolved use of certain parts of the brain; and that the earliest texts had no punctuation or indeed spaces between words, a form of writing that would suit me to a tee. I have always wondered about the claims that ones brain is akin to a muscle that can be further developed by extensive training. A claim that is thoroughly debunked and will save us all a fortune in late night advetorials but rather different parts of the brain can be enlisted in solving memory questions. So essentially while we struggle to remember more than seven numbers or seven words we are absolutely wonderful at remembering a whole host of images. Finally the whole book is put in the context of what the learning of memory has meant and what it means in todays environment where on has so very many tools that replace the need to rely one oneself. A grand read and if you will excuse me I will be constructing an array of memory palaces.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    I started this one with somewhat lowered expectations, feeling like I was revisiting too-familiar territory. Being the clever woman I am, I had diagnosed a trend of immersive journalism about "brain sports" (I just made that term up), profiling the odd sort of people that tend to become obsessive about such things, and learning how to become obsessive oneself. And having spotted this trend, I was (of course) subsequently dismissive, skeptical that this book about memory competition would I started this one with somewhat lowered expectations, feeling like I was revisiting too-familiar territory. Being the clever woman I am, I had diagnosed a trend of immersive journalism about "brain sports" (I just made that term up), profiling the odd sort of people that tend to become obsessive about such things, and learning how to become obsessive oneself. And having spotted this trend, I was (of course) subsequently dismissive, skeptical that this book about memory competition would entertain me any more than similarly themed books like "Word Freak" by Stefan Fatsis (about Scrabble) and "The Kings of New York" by Michael Weinreb (Chess) already had. (I can't help but assume that, as a journalist, immersing oneself in competitive memory competition would be much more attractive than say, covering Afghanistan or playing for the Detroit Tigers, due to the substantially decreased risk of bodily harm). However, even though the premise was nothing new, I was very entertained by this book. Foer manages to find many fascinating things to say about something that is, at heart, just an extreme version of an everyday human activity - remembering shit. I found myself eager to come back to this book when I had to put it down, and excited to learn more about the subject.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldn't wait to get back into it every time I had to step away. I don't know that it taught me very much (& I have no intention whatsoever to improve my memory using the tactics loosely outlined in this book - not because I don't believe they are effective, but because I don't want to), but it was extremely interesting and kept me engaged the entire time. I also REALLY enjoyed the writing style and hope Joshua Foer plans to write more in the future, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and couldn't wait to get back into it every time I had to step away. I don't know that it taught me very much (& I have no intention whatsoever to improve my memory using the tactics loosely outlined in this book - not because I don't believe they are effective, but because I don't want to), but it was extremely interesting and kept me engaged the entire time. I also REALLY enjoyed the writing style and hope Joshua Foer plans to write more in the future, because I am eager to read whatever it may be.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Genia Lukin

    Joshua Foer tackles in his book the issues of memory - how it is formed, how it has been lost, and how to improve it. Aside from the anecdotal - the rather interesting glimpse into the world of the mental athletes, amusing to me personally because of my familiarity with (and let's be frank here, membership in) the geeky society at large, Foer also presents the more general - research into memory and amnesia, as well as a historical perspective on the memorisation techniques and learning of the Joshua Foer tackles in his book the issues of memory - how it is formed, how it has been lost, and how to improve it. Aside from the anecdotal - the rather interesting glimpse into the world of the mental athletes, amusing to me personally because of my familiarity with (and let's be frank here, membership in) the geeky society at large, Foer also presents the more general - research into memory and amnesia, as well as a historical perspective on the memorisation techniques and learning of the past. In my world, the world of religious Judaism, Torah readings, and extensive familiarity with texts, we still memorize a great deal. So I approached this book with a level of interest especially to the educational and historical aspects of the subject which Foer presents. I also enjoyed the cognitive, but the research he presents is one I am generally familiar with, and thus less interested in, when reading a presentation for the layman. Foer's research is generally good, though oftentimes insufficient. We get a slew of cognitive limitations and some exploration into amnesia - a very interesting chapter in and of itself - but not much about memory research beyond the very generic. We do not see some of the abnormal research into memory done on various sub-populations, except a tiny glimpse into savants, which are a somewhat different phenomenon, and even then the glimpse is mostly one of disillusionment. However, I can't help but agree with Foer intellectually when he makes his educational claims concerning the point that, for any person to think creatively and analytically, he first has to supply himself with basic facts which can be retrieved and analysed. If you do not know the basic material, the ground rules, or the structure of a subject, you then have nothing to analyse, nothing to expand upon, nothing to create with. If you can't remember the shape of an object you can't draw it, and if you can't remember the points of disagreement between two ideologies you cannot judge them. The parts pertaining to the memory sport itself, somehow, interested me less. It is still in the realm of the esoteric - as Foer himself claims - and card memorisation and the ability to recite long poems after fifteen minutes still would not help us - or him - find his car keys, Still, this is an interesting and important book, especially for people without the academic background, because it provides yet another glimpse into how our minds work, or don't work, and what we do, or don't do, with them.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Azaa Kh

    A very misleading title, but the content was not a disappointment. "Experience is the sum of our memories and wisdom the sum of our experiences" If we follow this logic, we gain wisdom through our memories. And yet, memorization has been largely criticized by many school officials and educators that it kills creativity and critical thinking. But what this book points out, which I completely agree, is the fact that memorization is never really taught in schools. Instead, they make students A very misleading title, but the content was not a disappointment. "Experience is the sum of our memories and wisdom the sum of our experiences" If we follow this logic, we gain wisdom through our memories. And yet, memorization has been largely criticized by many school officials and educators that it kills creativity and critical thinking. But what this book points out, which I completely agree, is the fact that memorization is never really taught in schools. Instead, they make students memorize a bunch of unimportant facts through rote memorization without teaching how to retain the information, and that is what is corrupting our education system but not the memorization itself. In fact, the book reasons that learning and memorization come hand-in-hand, so you cannot get one without the other. This has completely changed my perspective on memorization. Another interesting fact pointed out in this book was that we can make our lives seem longer through varying our life experiences. This may sound contradictory at first because when we have fewer things to do, time does not seem to move at all. However, the study shows that it is the contrary: In 1962, a researcher named, Michel Siffre, conducted a self-experimentation by spending two months in a cave without access to a clock, calendars, or the Sun. As time went on, his memory deteriorated and lost track of the passage of time. After two months, when he finally got out of the cave, he thought that only a month had passed. This suggested the hypothesis that the less we experience, the shorter the time seems to fly, so according to this hypothesis, to stretch our psychological time, we will need to create new memories that play as anchor points in our lives. Last but not least, the book also illustrates how we attain new skills and reach beyond our limits. I personally think this was the most important topic discussed in this book. When we learn a new skill, we progress through three stages: cognitive stage, associative stage, and autonomous stage. The cognitive stage is where all the learning occurs and the skill is developed rapidly. In this stage, a person fully focuses on the task consciously and intellectually discovers new strategies to get the task done. But once we pass this stage and become good enough, what we do becomes so autonomous or unconscious that we do not even have to use our intellects anymore. This is what the book calls the OK plateau, the period in which we see almost no growth because we are merely following our unconscious process. So to go beyond our limits, we need to stay in the cognitive stage and continuously develop our capabilities. There's a saying "Practice makes it perfect", but how we practice is more important than the amount we practice, and only when it is the concentrated, self-conscious, and deliberated kind of practice, we will not be restrained by our limits anymore. Overall, I'd suggest this book for anyone who wants to improve their learning process.

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