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Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything [Paperback]

Joshua Foer
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (217 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 April 2011

On average, people squander forty days annually trying to remember things they've forgotten. Joshua Foer used to be one of those people. But after a year of training, he found himself in the finals of the U.S. Memory Championship. He also discovered a truth we too often forget: In every way, we are the sum of our memories.

In Moonwalking with Einstein Foer draws on cutting-edge research, the cultural history of memory and the techniques of 'mental atheletes' to transform our understanding of human remembering. He learns the ancient methods used by Cicero and Medieval scholars. He meets amnesiacs, neuroscientists and savants - including a man who claims to have memorized more than nine thousand books. In doing so, he reveals the hidden impact of memory on our lives, and shows how we can all dramatically improve our memories.

At a time when electronic devices have all but rendered our individual memories obsolete, Foer's book is a quest to resurrect the gift we all possess, but that too often slips our minds.

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (7 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846140293
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846140297
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 13 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (217 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 187,358 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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In this marvellous book, Joshua Foer invents a new genre of non-fiction. This is a work of science journalism wrapped around an adventure story, a bildungsroman fused to a vivid investigation of human memory. If you want to understand how we remember, and how we can all learn to remember better, then read this book (Jonah Lehrer)

A marvelous overview of one of the most essential aspects of what makes us human - our memory ... Witty and engaging (Dan Ariely)

Captivating ... Engaging ... Mr. Foer writes in these pages with fresh enthusiasm. His narrative is smart and funny and, like the work of Dr. Oliver Sacks, it's informed by a humanism that enables its author to place the mysteries of the brain within a larger philosophical and cultural context. (Michiko Kakutani New York Times)

Memory ... makes us who we are. Our memories, Foer tells us, are the seat of civilization, the bedrock of wisdom, the wellspring of creativity. His passionate and deeply engrossing book means to persuade us that we shouldn't surrender them to integrated circuits so easily. It is a resounding tribute to the muscularity of the mind. ... though brain science is a wild frontier and the mechanics of memory little understood, our minds are capable of epic achievements. The more we challenge ourselves, the greater our capacity. It's a fact that every teacher, parent and student would do well to learn. The lesson is unforgettable. (Washington Post)

[An] endearingly geeky world...witty and revelatory...[The] journey certainly demonstrates how much memory matters...Apart from anything else, filling up our mental storehouses in the right way can make life feel longer. (Oliver Burkeman Guardian)

Riotous...[Foer] makes suspenseful an event [the World Memory Championships] animated mostly by the participants' "dramatic temple massaging". By book's end Foer can boast the ability to memorise the order of nine and one half decks of cards in an hour. Yet he still loses track of where he left his car keys, like the rest of us. (Alexandra Horowitz New York Times)

One year, Joshua Foer is covering the US Memory Championships as a freelance journalist, the next he returns as a competitor - and wins it...How he pulled off this extraordinary feat forms the spine of this crisply entertaining book. (Matt Rudd Sunday Times)

Combines erudite analysis, historical context, a mind-bending adventure and extremely suggestive sex - some of it involving Foer's grandmother. (Tony Allen-Mills Sunday Times)

A labyrinthine personal journey that explains how our author ended up in the finals of the US Memory Championship - a compelling story arc from sceptical journalist to dedicated participant. I can't remember when I last found a science book so intriguing. (David Profumo Literary Review)

[D]elightful...empathetic, thought-provoking and...memorable. (Elizabeth Pisani Prospect)

[A] charming book...interwoven with informed exposition about the psychological science of memory. (Professor Larry R Squire Nature)

A fascinating, engaging and very well-written book. (Dallas Campbell Science Focus)

Addictive and fascinating...extraordinary. [Foer] attended the US Memory Championship as a journalist and returned the next year as a competitor and won...It is Foer's gifts as a teacher and a storyteller that make this book essential reading. (Leo Robson Scottish Sunday Express)

Take, for example, the emergence of Downing Street as a salon for intellectuals from around the world, and not only economists and political scientists. Under David Cameron-or, more accurately, Steve Hilton, the prime minister's most influential adviser-the thinkers invited to hold court there often have little to say about policy per se. Joshua Foer, a young American who has written an acclaimed book about how memory works, was a recent guest. Mr Hilton's rationale is that governments have more to learn from fields of research that investigate how humans behave, such as neuroscience and social psychology, than from conventional technocrats. There is now a policy team devoted to "behaviourial insight" in the Cabinet Office. (Bagehot, The Economist)

Foer's book is great fun and hugely readable, not least because the author is a likeable sort of Everyman-science nerd whom we want to become a memory champion. Always fascinating and frequently mind-boggling, Moonwalking with Einstein is a book worth remembering. (Mark Turner The Independent)

In the most entertaining science book of the year, Foer describes how, though claiming to have an average memory, he became America's Memory Champion after just 12 months in training. The best way to recall an array of disparate objects is to place each object within some bizarre visual narrative. The more bizarre the better, hence the title of the book. Foer's personal story frames a history of memory from early hunters needing to find the way home to modern-day investigations (still very much in their infancy) of memory's neural workings (Sunday Times Science Books of the Year)

About the Author

Joshua Foer was born in 1982. He studied evolutionary biology at Yale University and is now a freelance science journalist., writing for the National Geographic and New York Times among others. Researching an article on the U.S. Memory Championships, Foer became intrigued by the potential of his own memory. After just one year of training and learning about the art and science of memory, he won the following year's Championship. Foer is the founder of the Athanasius Kircher Society, an organization dedicated to 'all things wondrous, curious and esoteric' and the Atlas Obscura, an online travel guide to the world's oddities. Moonwalking with Einstein is his first book.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and entertaining 15 April 2011
By Jaylia3
Our memory skills, just like our food cravings for fat and sugar, were better suited to our days as hunter gatherers, according to Joshua Foer in Moonwalking with Einstein. Back then, what our ancestors needed to remember was where to find food, what plants are poisonous, and how to get home. This makes us great at remembering visual imagery, and not so good at remembering multiple passwords, numerous phone numbers or detailed verbal instructions.

The trick to memory techniques is changing the tedious data you want to remember into something so flamboyant and sensational that you can't forget it. It works. With the help of images like the three Petticoat Junction sisters hula hooping in my living room I can still remember the fifteen item "to do" list Foer's memory coach used as an example more than a week after I read that section of the book.

Moonwalking with Einstein is part a history of mnemonic practices beginning long before the advent of writing, part a cursory introduction to some memory tricks including the memory palace, and part a chronicle of the year or so Foer spent developing his memory skills in preparation for the U.S. Memory Championship--this aspect of the book reminded me of Word Freak, a Scrabble championship account by Stefan Fatsis. Foer also covers the phenomenon of savants, what techniques you can use to push yourself past being just okay at any given skill and how memorizing can help you be more aware and maybe even a little wiser. Unfortunately, even after all his training Foer reports that he still sometimes misplaces his keys. This is an absorbing and entertaining book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We can all remember but ... we have lost the art 24 Jan 2012
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Penguin, the publishers, describe this as "science/memoir" - it really is more memoir than science but an intriguing account of a journalist's involvement with the competitive memory world.

As it says quite early on (page 18 actually) it is not meant to be a self-help book but Joshua hopes that the reader will get a sense of how any one can go about training their memory. It is about his involvement in a memory competition in the USA and, being a journalist, some of the people he spoke to including major figures in this world of memory.

A lot of the ideas are not new: it involves visualisation which was common until we started having books to read and to write in about 500 years ago. What we are used to is a relatively recent phenomenon in the life history of mankind and thus he maintains it is possible for anyone to develop their innate memory skills.

Although I detect, on occasions, some bias and I could disagree with some of his observations and deductions, for example chapter ten, I enjoyed the account.

There are chapters on key individuals but interestingly one about a man with such severe amnesia that he could not remember what the last sentence was.

There are notes on the points made, giving sources, a bibliography and an index so it is easy to check it and follow an idea through.

I found it intriguing and a fascinating read - although beware Joshua's memory aids as he gives examples of how me learnt a series of facts or numbers or whatever do seem very individualistic and possibly reveal quite a bit about the man himself!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Witty, Eye-Opening Book 13 April 2011
By HeavyMetalMonty VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
'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.'

When Joshua Foer was sent to cover the US Memory Championships as a science journalist, little did he expect to return the following year as a competitor. And the idea that he might win after only one year of training was unthinkable. Yet that's exactly what happened. Like many people, Foer regularly forgot where he left his car keys and, on occasion, his car. He discovered from speaking with the world's memory champions that they weren't savants who performed miraculous mnemonic feats without effort, but ordinary people who used specific techniques to remember information; just as a physical athlete doesn't reach the pinnacle of his or her sport without training long and hard, a mental athlete must apply the same dedication and commitment to training the memory. Joshua moved to the UK to be coached by world-renowned memory athlete Ed Cooke in his rural English hideaway. Foer's description of his intensive training with coach Cooke evokes images of the training montages from the Rocky movies: no-mercy coach and gutsy athlete training together in seclusion from the outside world, only re-emerging once the fighter is in a state of perfect readiness.

Don't think for a moment that a book describing memory training and its historical background must be boring.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why you should learn to memorize 25 Sep 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought the book and was enthused and entertained about human memory and how from having an ordinary memory, Joshua learned techniques that would enable him to do previously impossible tasks, such as remembering the order of a shuffled deck in less than 3 minutes. Along the way, you'll meet a man who remembered everything but could not forget, a man who remembers nothing after a few seconds but can remember everything from 50 years ago.

This lead me to read Remember, Remember: Learn the Stuff You Thought You Never Could by Ed Cooke and you can read my review of it there. Suffice it to say that that book filled in some of the gaps left by this book as to how powerful our memories really are. There are others by Dominic O'Brien and Tony Buzan that I'm studying.

From "Remember, Remember", I can now recite from memory all of the kings and queens of England from Offa to Elizabeth II, all of the US presidents from Washington to Obama and all of the British Prime Ministers from Walpole to Cameron. And I'm 47 years old.

My wife and my 9-year old daughter can do all of the Kings & Queens and the US Presidents. My 4-year-old son can recite the first six kings - so far.

Can anyone do it? I don't see why not. But it requires a willingness to practice because like anything else worth having, practice is the key. Its not instant, but you'll surprise yourself if you persist just a little bit.

Both Joshua and Ed are insistent that photographic memories do not exist, that there are well-practised minds and unpractised minds. Some have more help from their neurophysiology such as people who have synaesthesia, the rest of us do not and its not critical.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars misleading title
It didn't really teach you or tell you how to remember everything, only how to memorise a pack of cards or numbers or shopping list etc. Read more
Published 2 days ago by rose
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book, learnt a thing or two as well!
Good story and well written, would highly recommend. The information/teaching on memory palaces has worked for me on several occasions.
Published 19 days ago by C. Lockhart
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book
Very good book. Hopefully it will help me with my exams this year. It's written well, makes the subject interesting.
Published 1 month ago by Marie
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Absolutely brilliant I love this book. I really puts the notion of ellaborative learning into a simple to follow perspective. I would reommend this to any student
Published 2 months ago by S Chambers
5.0 out of 5 stars This guy can really write
Although not a book that will walk you through the steps of how to improve your memory, this tells the story that will actually make you believe that you can improve your memory -... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Neil Lawrence
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
I recently started learning about memory techniques and a friend recommended this book to me. It is fantastic!! Read more
Published 4 months ago by martin chard
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read
This book is a good read for anyone wanting to find out the tricks of the trade relating to memorising large amounts of information.
Published 5 months ago by IanGSY
5.0 out of 5 stars exceptionally well written
An extremely well written and presented book. Regardless of the subject matter, this is an exceptionally well written book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Ter
1.0 out of 5 stars not science not a thriller
"The Art and Science of Remembering Everything" ... no that is not what you should expect. It is a book about a guy who stumbled into the field of learning how to memorize. Read more
Published 5 months ago by bloß Klaus
5.0 out of 5 stars Memory! what a powerful tool!
Funny, amazing and extremey interesting, if you want to get some hints on how to increase your memory that's a good starting point!
Published 6 months ago by Romegialli Gianluca
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