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Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and…

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

by Joshua Foer

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 95 (next | show all)
A history of memorization and a how-to book (though for a better introduction to the techniques, I recommend Oddbjørn By's books). Draws the long historical lines of how culture used to depend only on internal memory - in people's minds, whereas today so much relies on external memory, in the form of books, etc. People forgot that after books became commonplace, to the extent that the theory that Homer's Iliad and Odysseus had the form that they did (repetitions, rhymes, etc.) because they had survived long as oral works was groundbreaking. Today it is people with memorization as a hobby who keeps that flame, calling themselves "mental athletes." I knew the basic of the person-action-object method, which is used to memorize numbers, but I learned something new about memorizing text: meaning vs. words. In real life the meaning is most important, but in memory competitions exact wording and punctuation, etc. are essential, so competitors assign each word to a route and have systems of fixed associations for common, hard-to-visualize words, and use similar-sounding words for not so common ones. The book also contains an exposé of celebrity savant Daniel Tammet, who seems to have been a quite good mental athlete with standard techniques, but who at some point switched careers (and name) to become a best-selling author and exotic savant who among other things (inconsistently) feels numbers' color, shape, etc. Recommended. ( )
  ohernaes | Mar 11, 2017 |
This is not really a book to improve your memory (although there are a few tips sprinkled throughout) this is more of a book about other people's memory abilities or disabilities in some cases. The audio listen didn't fully hold my attention. Not sure if it was the subject matter, the writing or the narrator. ( )
  Kathl33n | Feb 12, 2017 |
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and although it doesn't give a lot of specifics anybody with 1/2 a brain can find out more about the tools and more step by step instructions. So if you are looking for a “how-to” book, you probably won’t find this to be what you are looking for although you will still likely enjoy it.

Like anything else, it will take practice and the ability to think outside the box to find applications for the new skills being learned. I would encourage individuals and people who are interested in stuff like this to also do their own research. I have read some Tony Buzan books, and other books which reference things like Memory Palaces and Mind Mapping. Although I personally like the IDEA and the CONCEPT behind mind mapping, the ability to do things and see things in your mind and translate them onto paper are entirely different. I found then difficult because they actually took longer to put down on paper. My mind works quickly enough that the words and images go by to fast, and I cannot hold them in my "mind’s eye" as the author puts it long enough for it to be transposed. Mind mapping alone in your head is quite applicable and similar to the memory palaces described in the book. It's about engaging all of the individual parts of your brain and not relying on any one particular part.

The author does a great job of chronicling his journey from "absent minded" to "memory master" and does it in a thought provoking, genuine and captivating way. I would read this or at least listen to the audio book again if I didn't have 100's of other books to read. I think in some ways the paper book would have been a little faster to read, but the audio book made it easier to differentiate from when the author was speaking to when others were speaking. Would highly recommend this book though to anyone is interested in an introductory book on how memories are made and stored. ( )
  Tom_Westlake | Jan 16, 2017 |
An interesting, fascinating, look at memory, and how we use it, construct it, manipulate it, and how it changes, and becomes altered through time. A journalistic journey through the competition of the memory championship (primarily the US championship, though he does discuss -- briefly -- his loss at the world championship). Much of the novel is in the vein of 'journalist finds weird subgroup and joins and undergoes a journey through their realm for a year and emerges victorious' and part of the novel is 'historic/history overview of memory and its relationship with us'.

The memory palace thing is nothing new to me (and nothing new to anyone whose read Cicero or the Hannibal [Hannibal the Cannibal, not the general] series). It's basically a construct we create in our mind so we can store more information than typically available. You can assign digits (binary codes like they do in the competitions - 10101111010010101, etc.) names/places, faces, decks of cards, etc. -- you just create an image per number/card/face/location/event/etc. and then assign it a place in your memory palace. Ex. King of Clubs could be Einstein, and you place him in the kitchen of the house you grew up in. To further quicken it, you can create combo's. So King of Clubs followed by Queen of Spades, you could create the mental image of Einstein (King of Clubs) dancing with Hillary Clinton (Queen of Spades) in the kitchen of your house, and then the next two cards would be placed in the next spot of your house as if you were walking through it.

An interesting look at memory. The book was a bit dry in places, but overall Joshua Foer is a good writer with a wry and witty side to him, self-deprecating in a few ways, that makes it a fun read, even if dry in spots. Definitely worth checking out. ( )
  BenKline | Sep 11, 2016 |
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 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Joshua Foerprimary authorall editionscalculated
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.

» see all 4 descriptions

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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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