This is not a self-help book. It offers a historical view how memory has been applied over hundreds of years and then questions basic assumptions and limitations we commonly accept about our ability to memorize things. After listening, I'm now ready to find a self-help book and attempt to improve my memory with a better understanding of the subject. The book has a lot of humor in it too!
One thing I would like to point out in this review is that about two hours in I also said to myself... this book is a snoozer... but, if you can hang in there, it does get VERY informative. I actually was able to gather alot of things that I can do to get my memory going in the right direction. I am actually suprised that the two reviews before me say they weren't able to gather any tips from this book. ... among many more a couple of these tips include: How to use a memory palace (I know that sounds funny but, TRUST ME... I am notoriously bad at this stuff and that memory palace thing actually worked!), The Major System (which I havent employed yet but I can see that actually being very easy for remembering numbers), techniques to train your mind to stay out of automation.... or not drop into an autonomous state and therefore basicly fall into a rut... and above all else for me the thing he points out and makes very clear throughout the book is to eat, breathe, smell, taste, touch, and fully ENJOY everything that you want to remember... obviously this last thing I am mentioning was extremely helpful not only for my memory but also for my day to day life... I gotta say, I have been kinda inspired by this book.
I am not one to write reviews, and when I do they are usually to highlight what is wrong with a book. However, I can't say enough good things about this book. The writing is really funny and well done. The author seamlessly weaves between understanding of memory and cognition and the amazingly entertaining storyline of him being coached to enter the US Memory Championships-- challenging "mental athletes'" claim that "anyone can do this". The book blew my mind. Part anthropology, part brain science, part Toad's Wild Ride, I could easily listen to this book again just for the sheer pleasure. You won't be disappointed with this.
But that was not really the gist of this book. It turned out to be more about the "sport" of competitive memorizing. There are people who compete all over the world in huge competitions to see who can memorize the longest string of digits, who can memorize a group of people's names the most accurately, and so on and so forth. They can train for years, and up to 6 hours a day. If I spent that kind of time on learning to memorize, I would not need to make a shopping list! At least I hope I wouldn't.
The author also follows people who are able to make complicated calculations in their heads, or can know how many toothpicks there are in a pile on the floor without counting them. He looks at savants, such as Kim Peak, the person on whom the character in the movie "Rain Man" is based. I found that all very interesting, and enjoyed hearing about it very much. But the part I liked best was the history of memorizing. I didn't even know there was a history of memorizing, but there is, and it is quite fascinating. It is easy to understand that one of the key components to our humanness, to our ability to relate, invent and progress, hinges on our memories. Without them, we have pretty much lost everything. I learned that when I watched my aunt lose herself in the vicious Alzheimer's disease as it robbed her of her memories and personality.
I also really liked hearing about how far the human ability to memorize can be pushed. It is quite phenomenal what our average human brains are capable of, when we choose to exercise and feed them properly.
This was a good book that was easy to listen to. The narrator is not my all time favorite, but at the same time, he did a very good job. If you are at all interested in learning more about how your memory works, I recommend this book. If you are interested in how to remember where you put your car keys, um, not so much. Aw heck, it's still a good read.
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 after studying it for 10 minutes.
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.
Instantly one of my favorite books ever. I'm only writing a review because I was curious to see if anyone possibly could give the book a bad review. Alas, amazingly some did. Of the very few negative reviews I read "boring" and "it didn't teach me to improve my memory". Are you kidding? How can some reviewers possibly not get what this book is about? It''s about the brain, and HOW memory works, and how it can be improved. Its not just another mnemonic technique, its the story of an amazing writer who tackled the subject like no other. Congratulations Joshua on winning the US memory championship, and more importantly, for providing for my family, me and the rest of the world with a road map to the mind that none had ever before written.
I bought this audiobook for a little light entertainment in the car. It blew me away. It is smart, very entertaining, and really makes you think about making positive life changes, better than any cheesy self-help book. The writing is witty and funny, the narrator is fluent and not at all monotonous. I will definitely buy it in text form from Kindle, though, so that I can go over some parts with more pause and detail.
I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the human mind and our incredible natural abilities.
As someone who's always been considered to have a pretty bad memory, this idea of this book certainly intrigued me before reading it. It's both an interesting look into the world of competitive memorization, and helpful in understanding more about how memory functions. In terms of trying to improve my memory personally, I've walked away from the book with some insights into how to more memorably associate things that I try to remember so they'll stick. While that's true, don't go into this book expecting to come away with some secret that's going to improve your day-to-day memory instantly - I'm glad I didn't, because that's not the book's intent. The narration is well done, and I enjoyed Foer's style of writing.
As others have said, this isn't a self-help book. Indeed, Foer has a fairly critical view of some of the self-help gurus who promote memory enhancement.
Mostly it is a history and analysis of how human memory has been used from a time before writing to the current age of instant recall via the Internet.
We also get some current science about how memory is handled in the brain and how some unusual individuals have naturally (or in one case unnaturally) acquired either perfect memory or complete lack of long-term memory.
The book is also an autobiography of how Foer attempted, without every having taken up the practice of competitive remembering, to compete in an effort to become a contender in the "sport's" championship.
I'm only about 60% of the way through this book, so the next 40% may change this review, but so far it's been very interesting to me, and I've already toyed with one of the techniques that Foer explains in the book. It worked, but of course I can't see using it extensively nor for everything. As I read this, it seems that there are many techniques, and it's not easy work. Remembering, whether it's wrote in the way most would try without any such techniques, or whether one uses these techniques, is hard work! Some of these techniques, though, also exercise a part of our brain which many of us have turned off, our creativity, and for some, like myself, it does take some doing to get those systems back up and running!
Enhancing ones memory has been touted by some as some kind of way of making one incredibly successful in life, but as I read this, it doesn't seem at all that this is a given, and many of the memory champions are otherwise unremarkable people. But I do think it is one way to "exercise" your brain in different ways, and can provide some definite practical advantages in many situations, it's just not going to make you a completely different person.
I would echo some of the previous reviews in that, this is a book well worth listening to. The author talked about many facets of memory throughout history. He shared his journey with humor and insight. He looked at, explored and answered many questions we all have regarding memory and how it plays into our everyday lives. Historical, informative, practical and human. Extra points to Mike Chamberlain for an excellent narration.