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Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything Paperback – February 28, 2012
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"Absolutely phenomenal... Part of the beauty of this book is that it makes clear how memory and understanding are not two different things. Building up the ability to reason and the ability to retain information go hand in hand... The book reminds us that we all start off with pretty much the same tools for the most part, and we can be intentional about strengthening them, or not."—Bill Gates
“Captivating. . . His narrative is smart and funny and, like the work of Dr. Oliver Sacks, it’s informed by a humanism that enables its author to place the mysteries of the brain within a larger philosophical and cultural context.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“His passionate and deeply engrossing book. . . is a resounding tribute to the muscularity of the mind. . .. In the end, Moonwalking with Einstein reminds us that though brain science is a wild frontier and the mechanics of memory little understood, our minds are capable of epic achievements.”—The Washington Post
“Joshua Foer’s book. . . is both fun and reassuring. All it takes to have a better memory, he contends, are a few tricks and a good erotic imagination.”—Maureen Dowd, The New York Times
“Highly entertaining.”—Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
“It’s delightful to travel with him on this unlikely journey, and his entertaining treatment of memory as both sport and science is spot on. . .. Moonwalking with Einstein proves uplifting: It shows that with motivation, focus, and a few clever tricks, our minds can do rather extraordinary things.”—The Wall Street Journal
“It’s a terrific book: sometimes weird but mostly smart, funny, and ultimately a lovely exploration of the ways that we preserve our lives and our world in the golden amber of human memory.”—Deborah Blum, New Scientist
“Foer’s book is relevant and entertaining as he shows us ways we can unlock our own talent to remember more.”—USA Today
“A fascinating scientific analysis of mnemonic mysteries. What we remember, [Foer] says, defines who we are.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Sprightly, entertaining. . . [Foer] has a gift for communicating fairly complex ideas in a manner that is palatable without being patronizing.”—Financial Times
“[An] inspired and well-written debut book about not just memorization, but about what it means to be educated and the best way to become so, about expertise in general, and about the not-so-hidden ‘secrets’ of acquiring skills.”—The Seattle Times
“[An] instant bestseller.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“Funny, curious, erudite, and full of useful details about ancient techniques of training memory.”—The Boston Globe
“With originality, high energy, and an appealing blend of chutzpah and humility, [Foer] writes of his own adventures and probes the history and literature of memory, the science of how the brain functions, and the connections between memory, identity, and culture. . .. Moonwalking with Einstein. . . is engaging and timely.”—The Jewish Week
“A smart, thoughtful, engaging book.”—The Portland Oregonian
“Charming. . . The book is part of a grand tradition, the writer as participating athlete, reminiscent of George Plimpton taking up football in Paper Lion.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
“[A] wonderful first book.”—Newcity
“Fascinating.”—Town & Country
“For one year, Foer tried to attain total recall, extracting secrets from the top researchers, the real Rain Man, and the world’s memory champs. He triumphed, both in his quest and in this lively account, which is, no exaggeration, unforgettable.”—Parade
“In recounting his year in training for the USA Memory Championship, journalist Foer delivers a rich history of memory.”—Discover Magazine
“Foer’s history of memory is rich with information about the nature of memory and how it makes us who we are.”—Scientific American
“A brief and pithy recounting of Foer’s exploration of the fuzzy borders of his brain—a marveling at how and why it’s able to do something quite unexpected. . .. Moonwalking with Einstein fits handily inline with the recent tradition of ‘big idea’ books.”—The Millions
“An original, entertaining exploration about how and why we remember.”—Kirkus Reviews
“An engaging, informative, and for the forgetful, encouraging book.”—Booklist
“Hard to put down. . . The mind is a bigger thing than any of us realize, and Foer reminds us to keep exploring it.”—Barnes & Noble Review
“He has thought deeply about memory and his effort yields questions that are well worth reflecting on.”—The Daily Beast
“Intriguing. . . Foer does an excellent job of tracing the history of the arts of memory.”—The Forward
“The kind of nonfiction work that gets people talking. . . A highly enjoyable read.”—Thirteen.org
“You have to love a writer who employs chick-sexing to help explain human memory. Foer is a charmer, a crackling mind, a fresh wind. He approaches a complex topic with so much humanity, humor, and originality that you don’t realize how much you’re taking in and understanding. It’s kind of miraculous.”—Mary Roach, author of Packing for Mars, Bonk, Spook, and Stiff
“Moonwalking with Einstein isn’t just a splendid overview of an essential aspect of our humanity—our memory; it is also a witty and engaging account of how Foer went from being a guy with an average memory to winning the USA Memory Championship.”—Dan Ariely, professor of behavioral economics at Duke University and author of The Upside of Irrationality and Predictably Irrational
“In this marvelous book, Joshua Foer invents a new genre of nonfiction. This is a work of science journalism wrapped around an adventure story, a bildungs-roman fused to a vivid investigation of human memory. If you want to understand how we remember, and how we can all learn to remember better, then read this book.”—Jonah Lehrer, contributing editor to Wired and author of How We Decide and Proust Was a Neuroscientist
“Joshua Foer proves what few of us are willing to get our heads around: there’s more room in our brains than we ever imagined. Moonwalking with Einstein isn’t a how-to guide to remembering a name or where you put your keys. It’s a riveting exploration of humankind’s centuries-old obsession with memory, and one man’s improbable quest to master his own.”—Stefan Fatsis, author of A Few Seconds of Panic and Word Freak
About the Author
Joshua Foer was born in Washington, DC in 1982 and lives in New Haven, CT with his wife Dinah. His writing has appeared in National Geographic, Esquire, Slate, Outside, the New York Times, and other publications. He is the co-founder of the Atlas Obscura, an online guide to the world’s wonders and curiosities. He is also the co-founder of the architectural design competition, Sukkah City. Moonwalking with Einstein is his first book.
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It definitely was a major aid for me and I do think of it as a unique "self help" book, one that can have immediate results, helping to make life easier, alleviate tricky memory issues and more. I think it is important to disclose that I'm a Baby Boomer and my memory seems to have worsened with age. I used to recall the name of nearly everyone I met as well as both major and minor actors and actresses, all of my teachers (from kindergarten through high school) as well as the first and last names of every one of my high school classmates. I could recall even tiny details of books read long ago.
But Moonwalking with Einstein goes far beyond remembering the names of acqaintances. It can help make your daily life easier, aiding you when you try to find lost items - or keep them from getting lost in the first place- and actually train you to find ways to improve your memory.
For added fun, the author includes examples of people who have amazing abilities to recall things. I wondered if at least one of them could give Vegas a run for its money or even be banned from casinos. Although I don't plan to test my abilities in Vegas, I have been practicing in casual card games, with gratifying results. The surprised looks from friends and family members was worth the cost of the book.
I'd strongly recommend you give this one a try. The techniques can even be fun for a whole family to share - and test -together. And c'mon...how can you pass up a book which explores "the art and science of remembering everything"?
How to Develop a Perfect Memory
After that I'd recommend Lorayne's book The Memory Book: The Classic Guide to Improving Your Memory at Work, at School, and at Play as a useful guide that even covers things like remembering where you put your keys.
If you've read both of those, you aren't going to learn anything new in this book, except the personal experiences of one Joshua Foer (who admits that he still has trouble remembering where his keys are). It might seem unkind to deny the literary value of a person's personal experiences but in this case I feel that there are many better ways one might spend their time. Racing snails for instance.
If you find yourself desperate for a book of personal experiences sprinkled with a few memory techniques (and don't we all feel the urge occasionally!) then my final suggestion would be to pick up Derren Brown's 'Tricks of the Mind' which covers the subject briefly but in an entertaining manner. Tricks Of The Mind
Well, yes, it is about memory and how to improve it, but it is at once a history of techniques, a description of what memory is and what can go wrong with it, and also a running narrative of how the author, a journalist himself with no special memory skills, becomes one of the most proficient memory athletes in America.
I'd learned a mnemonic device to aid memorization decades ago while in college, and found it to be helpful, but for some reason I'd abandoned the technique once I graduated. But Moonwalking with Einstein expands the mnemonic technique I learned back then by use of something of which I'd never heard: the "Memory Palace." The Memory Palace exploits our inherent skill for remembering images and spatial locations, harnesses these two abilities we all posses in abundance, and relates them to the memorization of numbers, lists and assortments of other difficult to remember items. The amazing thing is that the Memory Palace not only makes memorization easy, it also makes it fun.
What makes the book so interesting is that it is narrative non-fiction and reads like a novel. The author locks his conflict with his own memory early on, gives a sense of rising tension as he accumulates the forces to overcome its limitations, and resolves this internal conflict at the end when he participates in the US Memory Championship. I didn't read it as urgently as I did today's number one bestseller, Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken, but still, I couldn't put it down.
In Chapter Five, I scanned the "to-do" list of fifteen items on pages 92/3 that the author had to memorize in his initial attempt, and developed the technique for myself as I read about the author memorizing it. As my Memory Palace, I used an old home of a high school friend with which I was still familiar, constructing useful details as I went. When I had finished reading about the author memorizing the list (took me about five minutes), I had memorized it myself, and I found that the items were not only immediately memorable, but that the list of items and their sequence was still with me days later, and so imbedded in my memory that I'm sure I'll ever forget it. All this, I accomplished effortlessly. This is a truly remarkable feat for me because I'm almost seventy years old and have chronic fatigue syndrome, which adversely affects all aspects of my memory.
It has also given me hope that I might finally learn ancient Greek. I tried to learn it several years ago, but found building a vocabulary so difficult that I abandoned the project. Rote memory was just too much trouble. I am interested in all things Greek, and as it turns out, the Memory Palace technique was invented in the fifth century BC by Simonides following his narrow escape from the collapse of a building. This in itself is a story you'll be interested in reading about. The author says that since the time of this ancient Greek, "the art of memory has been about creating architectural spaces in the imagination." Having been to Greece twice, I have all the makings of a superb Greek Memory Palace. While traveling around Greece and the western coast of Turkey for ten weeks, I visited many cities and islands: Athens, Thebes, Delphi, Ithaca, Mykonos, Delos, Santorini, etc. I can't count all the archaeological sites I visited. What I'm creating isn't just any old Memory Palace but actually a Memory Country. Within each location, I can identify as many locations for storing words and meanings as I need. But not only that, I can also use characters from Greek mythology to create actions and images to reinforce the material, as the author suggests. All this constitutes my Greek Memory Palace: the location where I will store ancient Greek words and meanings as I learn the language, in accordance with the instructions learned in Moonwalking with Einstein. None of it was difficult. I picked it up as I read the book.
The author describes how in the past people viewed their minds as something to perfect by loading it with all sorts of intellectual material. "People used to labor to furnish their minds. They invested in the acquisition of memories the same way we invest in the acquisition of things." [page 134] Some even believed that "the art of memory was a secret key to unlocking the occult structure of the universe." [page 151] This has given me an entirely new view of how to perceive my own mind and nourish it in the future.
The author also discusses how we came to lose touch with our ability to remember with the invention of the printed word. The history of that estrangement and how inventions like Wikipedia and the Internet foster that estrangement is a very interesting story. The author makes the reader aware of what is happening to us and provides a way to project ourselves into the future without suffering so much of technology's debilitating effects.
Perhaps the reason this book is so successful is that the reader never loses sight of the practical use of the information the author is providing because the author is discovering it himself and actively making use of it in his quest to make it into the US Memory Championship.
This is an important book. Everyone can benefit from reading it.