Your body may be a temple, but your mind, memory experts say, is a palace, or should be, to master remembering. The Memory Palace is one of the notions that Joshua Foer explores in Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, his entertaining and enlightening account of competing in the U.S. Memory Championships.
Narrated by Mike Chamberlain, who genuinely conveys the author’s nerdy and playful persona, Moonwalking began in 2005 when Foer, a 20-something fledging journalist living in his parents’ basement, covered the New York-based championships and met Ed Cooke, a memory Grand Master and delightfully eccentric brainiac. Cooke convinced Foer to become a contender in the contest, becoming his guru and guide over his year of training. In addition, Foer broadened his training by meeting with memory experts and athletes like Cooke’s European colleagues, who, Foer says, make their American counterparts seem like Jamaican bobsledders in the Olympics. While Chamberlain’s curiously random use of accents is a minor distraction, his interpretation of the group’s pub games getting and memorizing women’s phone numbers and stealing kisses against the clock is plenty funny.
Foer focuses first on the construction basics of The Memory Palace, a technique derived from the ancient Greek poet Simonides that takes advantage of the mind’s visual and spatial bent. A physical structure, a childhood home say, is selected from memory and filled, room by room, with the numbers, names, concepts, etc., to be memorized. One has to prepare the items previously, however, by charging them with the most vivid, better yet, erotic and bizarre personal associations possible. Using the PAO (Person Action Object) technique, one can also consolidate and compound the associations, thus producing a moonwalking Einstein, not to mention, Foer writes, the “indecent acts my own grandmother had to commit in the service of my remembering the eight of hearts”. It’s a nutty business inside and out, which Chamberlain as Foer conveys drily, none more so than when, working at his desk in anti-distraction earmuffs and goggles, he looks up to find his father staring at him.
While the narrative follows the calendar leading up to the competition, relevant digressions include looks at the clinical and other literature about mnemonists, plus visits with living examples. Tony Bouzon, a memory entrepreneur; ‘savants’ like 'Rainman' Kim Peek and 'pi' reciter Daniel Tammet; and memory researchers are interviewed, which raises issues and controversies related to autism, intelligence, and photographic memory. We also grasp more of the reality of those who suffer from remembering too much or too little. Foer additionally spends time exploring cultural questions of memory and memorizing; once considered a sign of nobility, what will be its fate in our infinite, digitally preserved age?
The idea of actually “moonwalking with Einstein” encapsulates wonder and delight at the boundaries of knowledge; so does Foer’s memorable book. Elly Schull Meeks
Foer's unlikely journey from chronically forgetful science journalist to U.S. Memory Champion frames a revelatory exploration of the vast, hidden impact of memory on every aspect of our lives.
On average, people squander 40 days annually compensating for things they've forgotten. Joshua Foer used to be one of those people. But after a year of memory training, he found himself in the finals of the U.S. Memory Championship. Even more important, Foer found a vital truth we too often forget: In every way that matters, we are the sum of our memories.
Moonwalking with Einstein draws on cutting-edge research, a surprising cultural history of memory, and venerable tricks of the mentalist's trade to transform our understanding of human remembering. Under the tutelage of top "mental athletes", he learns ancient techniques once employed by Cicero to memorize his speeches and by Medieval scholars to memorize entire books. Using methods that have been largely forgotten, Foer discovers that we can all dramatically improve our memories.
Immersing himself obsessively in a quirky subculture of competitive memorizers, Foer learns to apply techniques that call on imagination as much as determination - showing that memorization can be anything but rote. From the PAO system, which converts numbers into lurid images, to the memory palace, in which memories are stored in the rooms of imaginary structures, Foer's experience shows that the World Memory Championships are less a test of memory than of perseverance and creativity.
At a time when electronic devices have all but rendered our individual memories obsolete, Foer's bid to resurrect the forgotten art of remembering becomes an urgent quest. Moonwalking with Einstein brings Joshua Foer to the apex of the U.S. Memory Championship and readers to a profound appreciation of a gift we all possess but that too often slips our minds.
©2011 Joshua Foer (P)2011 Penguin
Now, this is a great book, I could not stop listening to. It's very funny at times, tremendously stealthily educational at others (you barely even realize how much knowledge Joshua imparts on you), and in general–a very entertaining piece. This I one of those books that I wouldn't mind receiving as a gift at all.
I enjoyed the story of Mr. Foer learning how to train his memory. By the end of the book I was rooting for him to win and I wasn't thinking that at the beginning of the book. There is also a good bit focused on Daniel Tammet. The author takes off the gloves but is somehow still respectful. My biggest compliant with the book is that Mr. Foer does not leave us with a guide to the training that he went through. A daily schedule would have been nice.
There is no question that this book helped me remember large quantities of information. I used it to study/memorize everything from grocery lists to terms and definitions for my classes in psychology.
The first time Josh walks you through a "Memory Palace" and you realize that you can remember all the things on a list long enough that, had someone asked you to remember said list before reading the book, you'd have politely chuckled while pulling out you're iPhone to write everything down.
Outside of the actual techniques I enjoyed the scenes that humanize the people who are testing and creating the techniques.
Note that this is not a book for improving your "Damn! I left my keys at home" kind of memory. It is more focused on the "I'd really like to be able to recall my favorite poem, all the presidents, and my grocery list" kind of memory. Also, while I do not, in any way, support the kind of school systems that thinks education should be conveyed by "wrote memory", if you happen to be in a school system that is a fan of this method, this book will be externally useful. In short, if you want to cram a long list of facts, dates, terms, or words into your head with less effort and laugh a bit while you do it, read Moonwalking with Einstein
This book is NOT a How to book on memory, but I was not expecting a how too book. It does give a great personal narrative of how a reported became the US memory Championship. This is a very inspiring story, and he does a great job of showing that anyone can master these techniques.
Mr. Foer does a wonderful job of describing the underground world of memory sports. The story of his journey to become the US memory champ mixed in with facts and other anecdotes just give this book an extra dimension. The narration is well done and the narrator himself sounds excited to be reading this book.
I was fascinated by this book, so much so that I bought it (in hard copy) for my son-in-law's birthday after listening to it here. The book not only discusses the process of memorizing but also branches into educational theories and other areas that I found very interesting, including so-called idiot savants. It all appeared to be well-researched and documented. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the process of memorizing and in our educational system.
... depending how you use it. Well written, entertaining, and surprising. Who would have thought a book about memorizing stuff would be so interesting? I enjoyed this a lot, and picked up some useful tips to improve my dodgy memory.
Not a great book to listen too. It has math problems etc and it is just hard to really get into while driving a car.
The process behind learning/memorizing, and how the brain works to remember.
A chance to listen while driving.
No, it caused a lot of reflection and thought with respect to how one can apply the processes and understanding to the real world. Could you train children to remember in this way, such that they would be better students?
Information overload, what a great presentation of the way the mind functions and how it can be trained. Trying to figure out how to make it practical is the next step....
This book made me wonder if the memory games would work for me.
Not a favoirte
He allows me to think more about what is being said, and not on what is in front of my eyes.
This was a good listen, it is thought provoking and easy to follow
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.