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
This is an incredibly well written book. I for one took a lot from this and use these techniques in my daily life. My memory has improved by simply taking on a few simple changes that Joshua explains in the book. A must read!
I really enjoyed this book and found it mysterious and captivating. I've always enjoyed learning about the capacities of the human mind and how some people choose to use it. I was sceptical before reading the book, but once I was into it, I looked forward to my long commutes to work. I found it fascinating. I was a little disappointed in how the book ended. It's conclusion was suprising to me and unexpected, but reasonable. I'll leave it at that.
The book is not uninteresting, but there are many other audiobooks of greater value to me.
Maybe, if I make it to the movies often
It's not boring and I did enjoy listening to it, but in the end I don't feel I've retained much that is valuable. Let's say it is as good as many contemporary novels if not better... but I seldom buy novels on audible.com.
I truly enjoyed this book. While it is not a how-to book on improving your memory, it is an enjoyable, humorous trip with the author to the memory championships.
There are a few slow spots, especially in the beginning, but I'm glad I pushed through. I finished the book with my own memory palace, which is still furnished with the items on the to-do/shopping list the author got in the park and a smile on my face.
Very interesting. A lot of fun. Well worth the time and the credit.
This is an excellent exploration into memory and how to train it. The author made the book that much better by being honest about his struggles and experiences.
I learned a great deal about memorization techniques, how memory affects us, and how we can affect/train memory.
The narrator was good, but I had to increase the speed.
The reason I didn't give the book a five-star overall rating was because the author used some lewd or gross imagery that I could have done without. He takes the position that the more lewd the image is, the better you remember it. I don't agree with that statement as I have made an effort to forget the images that he mentioned and have succeeded with at least most of them leaving only a vague recollection of the remainder. I haven't won any competitions, but I have a good memory, and I don't believe that a memory has to be lewd to be outrageous, and therefore, memorable. I also believe in the old adage, "Garbage in, garbage out," when it comes to what you put in your mind.
The author really went to a lot of trouble to adequately research the topic, and he gives a lot of credence to the art of rote memorization and its usefulness in education and everyday life.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in improving their memory or who just wants to hear a good read about a journalist who went on a memorable adventure and didn't quite get what he was looking for. You'll understand that part when you reach the end of the book.
This is easily one of my most favorite books in my collection. It was well researched, honest, entertaining and engaging.
The most moving part of this book is how the author ties normacy to his experience - showing how his experience can apply to everyone listening. He is not special or super human, but instead dedicated and hard working. As he says, if he can do it...
This book is a story about the authors experience learning about, and participating in the national memory competition. The author is able to tell his story using first hand experiences and expose an insider view of mental sport as well as expose very informative details on the historic research on learning, memory, and humanity. Very well done.
Top 1 considering its the only one
didnt like it. Kinda cut it off before it finished it.
He did his job right, there's nothing to like or dislike about it.
Arround chapets 6-10 is when you really start learning and seeing what the author wants you to see.
Yes, Stick with it and hang on. The beginning is a little boring because its basically history but it is necessary. Later in the book he doesn't exactly tell you how to use the memory palace but he does give you everything you need to master it. Think about what he says carefully and research a few things and you'll get it.
Only book i have ever read about memory and now i can memories 100 digits of pie in about 5 minutes, about every persons name after the first time i meet them, and basically anything i want.
Best advice to anyone looking to master this method is "Imagination is more important than knowledge" Albert Einstein.
This isn't simply another book about memory tricks. It's a neat story about mastery of memory techniques, and a little bit about how the brain works. The story seamlessly runs all over the place, like interviewing the real rainman, and breaking through personal barriers by focused training. It was a very enjoyable story. And Mike's seamless narration felt like it was coming from the author.
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