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 feel like this book is going to be taken very differently from each individual, based on their background, tastes, etc. So I'm wondering how useful individual reviews are. Coming from an Atheist perspective, but one who wants to understand what various religions mean to their faithful, I thought this book would be useful in some way. And I suppose it was, but I feel now, about halfway through, that I've more or less "got it" and no big need to go further. It's fairly repetitive, but I figure that's not unexpected or dissimilar from other religious texts, since repetition helps strengthen the concepts. The narration is very peaceful, but I normally listen to stuff at double speed, so it didn't seem horrible to me, but yes, after half of the text, I'm ready for something a bit more dynamic. This is a nice book to listen to when you want to relax, in other words, but if you want to be entertained or otherwise engaged, maybe not - at least not unless you are the spiritual type to begin with, which I'm not.
Again, this is a very subjective take on this, but at least for those who come from the same secularist/Atheist mindset, hopefully it is somewhat useful...
I would agree with many of the other reviews of this title. There are few interesting techniques for those of us who are shy, but there is so much garbage that it's hard not to be constantly annoyed. Lot's of common sense things that really anyone with even a modicum of social skills would understand (and thus unecessary to state). Lot's of pretty mean, arrogant, and downright dumb things - calling people dweebs and nerds and only using them as "practice" because they aren't the people who really "matter." Essentially this book feels like it was written in 1980 with 1980 sensabilities. It's copyright 1996 or so, but that seems a bit recent given some of the verbiage - unless the author was in her 50's or 60's even then and still living in the past?
If you can get past the garbage, there might be some good techniques to try out, but personally I couldn't read past the halfway mark.
While this book poses some interesting ideas based on ancient texts, it's very hard for me to believe these aren't just nice coincidences. Hey, anything's possible, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and simple hypotheses do not equal "evidence." That's all fine, and everyone's BS detector is set to different points, but what really bugged me about the book wasn't so much the hypotheses, because really any hypothesis is a valid one from my standpoint. It's going from there to "proof" that is really the key, and Sitchen seems to decide at some point that just piling up multiple hypotheses equals proof. He decides for us, he doesn't let us decide. He jumps into statement that either he proclaims blatantly as "fact" or at least implies it by his language. If he simply argued this as his opinion based on the sources he's used, that would have been great, but he jumps way beyond that. To me that becomes completely unscientific and thus completely invalid. Some will say that science is to constraining for things like this, and to you I say, fine, but wild, fantastic guesses don't usually prove true, and besides, in science you ARE allowed to make such guesses, but you also have to make guesses that can either be SOMEHOW proven right or wrong...
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