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
I would listen to this book again just to remember how to better remember.
It was fascinating hearing about individuals who had wonderful memories as a gift as well as those who learned to master the skill. The story contrasted with individuals memories which were impaired. It was extremely interesting to follow his discovery of memory and his master of it.
My favorite scene is building a memory castle and learning how to make my own memories.
This book was excellent on many levels. Great historical facts, great questions, interesting interviews, introduction to the science of memory and a very interesting personal story woven through the whole book. I would love to sit down and chew the fat with this author.
I think the highest praise you can give a book like this is that I got so wrapped up in the process of learning to memorize things that I wanted to go out and learn the techniques myself. I really enjoyed the look into the memory competition community and the story of the author's path of breaking into it.
Note - this book does not teach you how to memorize things. It does explain some fundamental techniques in the process of telling the story, but it's not a tutorial. There are many textbooks on memory techniques.
This book has nothing to do with either Moonwalking or with Einstein. Cool title, sure, but in no way a clue as to the subject matter. I most enjoyed this book when I was learning little tidbits about history. There were times when I had the impression that the author had gathered way more research material than he knew what to do with. Some listeners may feel that the author wanders a little, to find ways to share all those fun facts. Looking back from the end, though, my overall impression is of an interesting and engaging personal story of one man's experiential journey into the fringe world of mental athletes. A recommended read.
For me, the book really never really gets to the point. There are too many stories about characters that never really come to life. Glimpses into these gifted people that only leave you with their quirks.Many times through the book, I was just bored and waiting for something interesting.
Concentrate more on the techniques and less on himself.
Needs better editing. Maybe it reads as a book better than a listening experience.
Participatory journalism at its best, Joshua Foer (brother to novelist Jonathan Safran Foer) explores the world of mnemonists (memory experts to you and me) who can quickly memorize long lists of numbers, words, passages of poetry and more. Foer goes from covering the U.S. Memory Championships for a magazine article to competing in it, and along the way explores how memory works, what tricks and techniques mnemonists use, what role memory plays in our lives and many more little side passages that were always fascinating and interesting.
This book is just fascinating. It held my attention throughout and had me mourning its end. After listening, I was compelled to try building a memory palace of my own … and damn if it didn’t work! More than 9 months after getting a list of 15 random words from Mr. Jenners and BB, I can still remember the list IN ORDER. If you’re looking for an interesting, amusing and educational non-fiction book, this would be an excellent choice.
ABOUT THE NARRATION
Mike Chamberlain was the narrator, and his voice was the perfect fit for Foer’s book and personality. (His voice had a bit of a nerdy flavor to it that seemed appropriate.) Because the book is written in the first person, his narration made the book really come alive. In my mind, Joshua Foer talks exactly like Mike Chamberlain—whether he likes it or not.
More details of how he did his training
Not unless he gives more details of his training (his memory chart)
KL 7 --> boring
We all know he won US Championship which is really Great, but it be more interesting if he give us the details of his steps by steps of his training. Since he is not training any more, it be nice to following his training charts.
There is a lot of science in this book as well as an engaging story. It's possible you need to be a bit geeky to enjoy it. I thought the mix of the science and history behind memory, along with the author's adventure into the world of competitive memory sport was fascinating. The narrator does a great job - one of the best I've listened to.
This book is too long and lengthy to be audible. Didn't like it at all. It is not worth the money.
I'd love to have friends read this. I picked it up because I thought it would give me memory tools. It did give me insight into memorizing, but it was much more engaging that just some ways to remember things. It was a personal story as well as interesting background and tips on the art of the memory.
The author is a great character. He's a reporter who cares enough about a story to step inside it. He's funny, intelligent, and someone I'd love to meet.
He read with perfect inflection. It wasn't dull - although some of the material was somewhat straightforward and factual. It also wasn't overly dramatic. It was like hearing a friend tell the story as well as some interesting information.
My favorite moment was the final World Championship. The tension buildup was perfect, but I won't give away the ending.
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