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Moonwalking with Einstein | [Joshua Foer]

Moonwalking with Einstein

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 forty 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.
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Audible Editor Reviews

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

Publisher's Summary

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

What Members Say

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  •  
    Scott Guelph, ON, Canada 04-27-12
    Scott Guelph, ON, Canada 04-27-12
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The value (or not) of memorization..."

    ... 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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    elizabeth United States 04-22-12
    elizabeth United States 04-22-12 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not a good listening to book"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Charles The Dalles, OR, United States 04-05-12
    Charles The Dalles, OR, United States 04-05-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Stimulating thought"
    If you could sum up Moonwalking with Einstein in three words, what would they be?

    Fantastic information


    What did you like best about this story?

    The process behind learning/memorizing, and how the brain works to remember.


    What does Mike Chamberlain bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    A chance to listen while driving.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    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?


    Any additional comments?

    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....

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe United States 03-31-12
    Joe United States 03-31-12
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    "Interesting read"
    What did you love best about Moonwalking with Einstein?

    This book made me wonder if the memory games would work for me.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Not a favoirte


    What does Mike Chamberlain bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    He allows me to think more about what is being said, and not on what is in front of my eyes.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    This was a good listen, it is thought provoking and easy to follow

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brad statesville, NC, United States 02-10-12
    Brad statesville, NC, United States 02-10-12
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    "thoroughly enjoyable"

    Really dug this book. Actually practiced one of the memory strategies and got it down. Entertaining and enjoyable read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Anthony OAK RIDGE, TN, United States 02-02-12
    Anthony OAK RIDGE, TN, United States 02-02-12 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Must Listen Audible Book!"

    This was an absolutely delightful listen - the "story," the factual information, the reader. A must listen for many Audible listeners, great fun!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joe Crescenzi Staten Island, NY USA 01-24-12
    Joe Crescenzi Staten Island, NY USA 01-24-12 Member Since 2009

    From CouponPages.Com

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    "Fascinating! A great listen."

    I'm one of those people who forgets what he had for breakfast, so I thought this book might shed some light on how people with exceptional memories manage to remember thousands of numbers in sequence.

    Joshua Foer had an average memory, just like the rest of us, until he decided to follow the "Memory Sport" circuit for a couple of years. He was just an observer, but soon became the national memory champion, proving that anyone can learn to improve their memory.

    This book isn't a self-help book and it doesn't spent too much time on techniques or tricks to improve your memory. It's more about the journey itself and that makes it more... memorable.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lee Brookline, MA, United States 01-10-12
    Lee Brookline, MA, United States 01-10-12
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    22
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    "Great writing matched by a well-suited performance"
    Any additional comments?

    Book was a fun narrative that was easy to get through and full of fun facts and silly stories. The performance was perfect, matching the tone of the book very well.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Evan Honolulu, HI, United States 07-27-11
    Evan Honolulu, HI, United States 07-27-11 Member Since 2015

    Business owner , philanthropist.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Loved it Learned a lot."

    If you read a lot of these kinds of books you will notice that this book has the same material as most of the others. Still I like the style and I learned a couple new things.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L.B.Erlich Celebration, FL, United States 05-12-11
    L.B.Erlich Celebration, FL, United States 05-12-11
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    "Good presentation of classic material"

    Very good presentation of material that has been around since the classical age. I took a memory course 40 years ago and it was the same material. I should have done it then and I will do it now. The book reads like a novel and it is perhaps the most useful information that you have ever been exposed to.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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