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Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and…

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Joshua Foer

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Title:Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
Authors:Joshua Foer
Info:Penguin Books (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:library, mnemonics, memory, competition, mnemonic major system, phonetic number system, cards, tricks, subculture

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Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer (2011)


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Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
Moonwalking with Einstein was better than I expected it to be. I feel like there are many things I've gained from this book, which is exactly what I hope to get from reading non-fiction. First of all, this book is part history about memory and what memory actually means, but also I think partly a self-help book. Foer touches on memory techniques, meaning techniques to help improve your memory - much of which is helpful. There is an exercise which Foer is made to do and he advices the reader to try do as well - it's an exercise to memorize a certain group of items. Even though I did this exercise at least two weeks ago, I still remember all of the items I was meant to memorize. That's enough to convince me the merit to the techniques, if used wisely of course.

There were also several points I found interesting in the history of memory, for example the role that it has played in society and how that has changed since technology has evolved, especially since the introduction of books. Another interesting aspect was the way that memory shapes our lives, what it means in terms of being human - how it gives us a frame of reference, how it helps us understand the world around us. So many interesting and thought provoking points throughout this book, and yet I find the most important one to be what Foer ends the book with - that perfect memory might not be something that desirable, but that being aware and being more mindful of the world is. The things I've gained from this book is something I will carry with me.
  zombiehero | Mar 25, 2016 |
Recommended by Amazon.
  ValNewHope | Mar 5, 2016 |
This book delves into the history of memory – how it's been used throughout history, the study of it, etc. - and also the journey of the author as he goes from a man with an “average” memory to the U.S. Memory Competition. It was a very interesting, well written book by this first time author. While he went into detail on the subject matter of memory and how the brain works, it wasn't overly scientific (which is good since science is not my strong suit). However, I did find some parts a bit dry and repetitive and wish Foer would have gone more into his own journey with memorization. But overall, a good, insightful book on the use of memory both in our past and present times. NOTE: this is not a self-help book, and while there were tips on how the “experts” become to well at their memorization skills, this is not the book for you if you are looking to sharpen your own skills. ( )
  UberButter | Feb 9, 2016 |
I've always been fascinated by the role memory plays in...well, being human. This book explores just that with an enjoyable mixture of history, philosophy, science, and personal experience with memory athletes (not to mention the author becoming one). Highly recommended. I'd like to say that I'll never forget this book, but, well, I know better. Good thing I will have my record of reading it stored on this "external memory system," Goodreads! ( )
  bibleblaster | Jan 23, 2016 |
This is pretty good. Foer uses his participation in the US Memory Championship to frame an investigation into what memory is and how it works. It's a fast read, with a handful of rather colorful characters and a fairly page-turning ending (even though you probably know the outcome if you've read any of the reviews). I particularly enjoyed the chapter where he describes how Ed Goode taught him the Memory Palace technique and invites the reader to participate. Good stuff! ( )
  chasing | Jan 18, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joshua Foerprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chamberlain, MikeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Christensen, IngeborgTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rahn-Huber, UrsulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zwart, JannekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The smartest man is hard to find -- The man who remembered too much -- The expert expert -- The most forgetful man in the world -- The memory palace -- How to memorize a poem -- The end of remembering -- The ok plateau -- The talented tenth -- The little rain man in all of us -- The US memory championships.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 159420229X, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, March 2011: Moonwalking with Einstein follows Joshua Foer's compelling journey as a participant in the U.S. Memory Championship. As a science journalist covering the competition, Foer became captivated by the secrets of the competitors, like how the current world memory champion, Ben Pridmore, could memorize the exact order of 1,528 digits in an hour. He met with individuals whose memories are truly unique—from one man whose memory only extends back to his most recent thought, to another who can memorize complex mathematical formulas without knowing any math. Brains remember visual imagery but have a harder time with other information, like lists, and so with the help of experts, Foer learned how to transform the kinds of memories he forgot into the kind his brain remembered naturally. The techniques he mastered made it easier to remember information, and Foer's story demonstrates that the tricks of the masters are accessible to anyone.
--Miriam Landis

Author Q&A with Joshua Foer

Joshua Foer

Q: First, can you explain the title of you book, Moonwalking with Einstein?

A: The title refers to a memory device I used in the US Memory Championship—specifically it's a mnemonic that helped me memorize a deck of playing cards. Moonwalking with Einstein works as a mnemonic because it's such a goofy image. Things that are weird or colorful are the most memorable. If you try to picture Albert Einstein sliding backwards across a dance floor wearing penny loafers and a diamond glove, that's pretty much unforgettable.

Q: What are the U.S. Memory Championships? How did you become involved?

A: The U.S. Memory Championship is a rather bizarre contest held each spring in New York City, in which people get together to see who can remember the most names of strangers, the most lines of poetry, the most random digits. I went to the event as a science journalist, to cover what I assumed would be the Super Bowl of savants. But when I talked to the competitors, they told me something really interesting. They weren't savants. And they didn't have photographic memories. Rather, they'd trained their memories using ancient techniques. They said anyone could do it. I was skeptical. Frankly, I didn't believe them. I said, well, if anyone can do it, could you teach me? A guy named Ed Cooke, who has one of the best trained memories in the world, took me under his wing and taught me everything he knew about memory techniques. A year later I came back to the contest, this time to try and compete, as a sort of exercise in participatory journalism. I was curious simply to see how well I'd do, but I ended up winning the contest. That really wasn't supposed to happen.

Q: What was the most surprising thing you found out about yourself competing in the Memory Championships?

A: In the process of studying these techniques, I learned something remarkable: that there's far more potential in our minds than we often give them credit for. I'm not just talking about the fact that it's possible to memorize lots of information using memory techniques. I'm talking about a lesson that is more general, and in a way much bigger: that it's possible, with training and hard work, to teach oneself to do something that might seem really difficult.

Q: Can you explain the "OK Plateau?"

A: The OK Plateau is that place we all get to where we just stop getting better at something. Take typing, for example. You might type and type and type all day long, but once you reach a certain level, you just never get appreciably faster at it. That's because it's become automatic. You've moved it to the back of your mind's filing cabinet. If you want to become a faster typer, it's possible, of course. But you've got to bring the task back under your conscious control. You've got to push yourself past where you're comfortable. You have to watch yourself fail and learn from your mistakes. That's the way to get better at anything. And it's how I improved my memory.

Q: What do you mean by saying there an "art" to memory?

A: The "art of memory" refers to a set of techniques that were invented in ancient Greece. These are the same techniques that Cicero used to memorize his speeches, and that medieval scholars used to memorize entire books. The "art" is in creating imagery in your mind that is so unusual, so colorful, so unlike anything you've ever seen before that it's unlikely to be forgotten. That's why mnemonists like to say that their skills are as much about creativity as memory.

Q: How do you think technology has affected how and what we remember?

A: Once upon a time people invested in their memories, they cultivated them. They studiously furnished their minds. They remembered. Today, of course, we've got books, and computers and smart phones to hold our memories for us. We've outsourced our memories to external devices. The result is that we no longer trust our memories. We see every small forgotten thing as evidence that they're failing us altogether. We've forgotten how to remember.

Q: What is the connection between memory and our sense of time?

A: As we get older, life seems to fly by faster and faster. That's because we structure our experience of time around memories. We remember events in relation to other events. But as we get older, and our experiences become less unique, our memories can blend together. If yesterday's lunch is indistinguishable from the one you ate the day before, it'll end up being forgotten. That's why it's so hard to remember meals. In the same way, if you're not doing things that are unique and different and memorable, this year can come to resemble the last, and end up being just as forgettable as yesterday's lunch. That's why it's so important to pack your life with interesting experiences that make your life memorable, and provide a texture to the passage of time.

Q: How is your memory now?

A: Ironically, not much better than when I started this whole journey. The techniques I learned, and used in the memory contest, are great for remembering structured information like shopping lists or phone numbers, but they don't improve any sort of underlying, generalizable memory ability. Unfortunately, I still misplace my car keys.

(Photo of Joshua Foer © Emil Salman Haaretz)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:30 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Having achieved the seemingly unachievable-- becoming a U.S. Memory Champion-- Foer shows how anyone with enough training and determination can achieve mastery of their memory.

(summary from another edition)

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2 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 1846140293, 0141032138

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