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
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.
i thought this book was about learning memory improvement techniques but more was a story of the author's journey to making his way to be the US Memory Champion. Interesting story but leaves me feeling like I need to look around to find out more.
I would compare this book to "Fooling Houdini." Both follow the authors as they embark on competing in strange competitions to demonstrate their obsessive proficiency in weird habits. Unlike "Fooling Houdini," Foer's "Moonwalking with Einstein" was so boring at times I almost fell asleep while driving. You know it's bad if news radio is more thought provoking than your audio book.
The difference between the two books lies in the personal touches added to "Houdini" that were missing in "Moonwalking." You rooted Alex Stone's magic journey because of his passion. Foer's enthusiasm for his sport (if we can call it a sport), did not showcase until the last chapter - and that chapter was the most thrilling of the whole book. Unfortunately, "Moonwalking" felt like a text book at times. He failed to make the ancient Grecian ways personal and relatable. Still, the scientific studies that Foer delved into were fascinating. Especially when he interviewed "EP" - a victim of a virus that erased his memory capacity.
I think I was also expecting a little more practical uses for Foer's memory tools. I guess I could use a memory palace for remembering my conference attendees' names, but I won't necessarily need to memorize a deck of cards.
The audio book of "Fooling Houdini" may have resonated with me more because Alex Stone actually read his own novel. Foer opted for a professional reader, who was great but didn't connect to the text like Stone did.
If you're looking for a more entertaining nonfiction, I would definitely recommend "Fooling Houdini" over this one.
It is so well researched and Josh Foer seamlessly intertwines his personal story inside that research. It's exciting and fun and educational.
Learning that Daniel Tammet, aka Brain Man, may just be a Mental Athlete like the rest.
At first I thought his nasally voice was going to be a real problem, but then I saw an interview with the author, Josh Foer, and realized that Mike Chamberlain was basically imitating the author. He's dorky and has that traditional nerd nasal voice, so after that I just accepted it and enjoined his performance. Also, Mike Chamberlain reads quickly, whicj i love. Some of these narrator's take there sweet time.
Yes. But at 8 hours, I couldn't quite pull that off. I listen to it in pieces while exercising.
Josh Foer is a rising star for sure.
This was one of the best audiobooks to which I have listened. The subject is memory, and while that may not sound enticing at first, it's the true story of a young American journalist challenged and cajoled by a few drunk British memory champions to take up the sport. Through the book, you not only hear about his experience training for (and, in the final chapter, competing in) the American memory championship, but also get a lesson in memory techniques and the history of memory--which is truly and unexpectedly fascinating. Read this book and start creating your own titillating memory palaces today.
Yes I would listen again becasue the book exposes you to techniques of learning that can be applied to everyday life.
Learning how to remember things that are not related
No, I liked listening to it in parts and taking in the different ways of learning.
The reporter wrote this to be read and I found it better as a listen. Joshua became the story after covering the memory contests. The middle of the book has a lot of conversations with memory phenoms that are interesting but not directly a part of the story.
Didn't realize that Tony Buzan had such a large role in memory contests and creativity development. He is now one of the people in the world that I want to meet.
Joshua is my favorite. I don't have any memorizing ability but i now know that is just an excuse.
The beginning and the end of the book. The competition itself. I thought that the participants were gifted with extraordinary ability. Joshua made me realize that it is extraordinary commitment.
Unusual. Interesting. Engaging.
The feeling I got from this book was similar to how I have felt in the past when reading some of Mary Roach's books - I feel like I've been exposed to a topic that I knew nothing about and got a bit of an insider's view into that world. (This author is good, but is not in the same league as Mary Roach, so I don't intend any disrespect to her by making the comparison)
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