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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We can all remember but ... we have lost the art
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...
Published on 24 Jan. 2012 by R T

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable and entertaining
Don't be fooled into thinking that this will teach in detail how to gain memory techniques that will enable you to emulate the author's success in memory championships.

It might kick-start you to find out more though, as it is a enjoyable and entertaining tale of how Foer was himself intrigued by the US Memory championships, then followed by his meeting with Ed...
Published on 23 Feb. 2013 by Signalman


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12 of 12 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
By 
R T "RT of Keighley" (Keighley) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (Paperback)
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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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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and entertaining, 15 April 2011
By 
Jaylia3 (Silver Spring, MD United States) - See all my reviews
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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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why you should learn to memorize, 25 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (Paperback)
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.

There have been a few reviews which gave 1-star because the book does not cover in detail *how* Joshua Foer became American Memory Champion. That's because those people didn't read the book's description nor read the reviews. And probably won't read this one.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Moonwalking with Einstein!, 25 Jan. 2012
By 
M. Dasani (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (Paperback)
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This is the semi-autobiographical story of Joshua Foer, a journalist who one day found himself as a contender in the finals for the USA memory championships. I saw semi-autobiographical, because while the book follows Joshua's and the people he met along the way, the book also contains some interesting scientific/neuroscience facts and stories about other people from his memory journey.

I found this book to be a little misleading, because the blurb on the back says, "Foer shows how we can all improve our memories". This made me think that there may be a self help/exercises to follow aspect, but there is not. If that's what you're looking for, you need to look elsewhere. I suppose you may be able to pick up some tricks along the way, but you'll have to extract them yourself through the story itself.

But as interesting stories go, it's pretty hard to put down once you get going.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really cool overview on journey of improving your memory.., 19 Sept. 2013
By 
Mr. R. O'regan (Your mum) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (Paperback)
I read some of the comments here.. It's really funny, because this book was perfect for me.. I did NOT want to hear another memory technique because I already read a number of books with technique - and they are basically all similar. I loved this book because it was an overview, and in depth overview..
The book is really well written and engaging the whole way throughout.
I learned lots of stuff about memory ..and life in the past.. I would never have done before.. Eg writing in the old days LOOKEDLIKETHISWITHNOSPACESWHICHSEEMSSTRANGE at first but makes sense as in real life, there are not 'pauses' between words, we say all the words together.. a space in writing did not come for century's later.. etc
I also learned about the kind of disclipine it takes to get good at memory..
This book was great for me because I wanted to know 'shall I study memory or not' and I got some answers about what the process is like.
Enjoy
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insights into memory, 22 Oct. 2012
By 
Mark Loughridge (Letterkenny, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (Paperback)
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So this book is neither a 'how to' manual, nor a history of memorization, nor a biography of the winner of the American Memory Championship, nor a clinical investigation into the working of the brain. It is, however, a mixture of all four--and this is where its strength or weakness lies, depending on what you were looking for.

I found it a really interesting mix - with enough information, examples, stories, interviews, history and storyline to keep me reading. Foer ranges through the history of memorization and reading, to meetings with people with all sorts of memory anomalies--those who remembered everything, or nothing, or who claimed to remember everything--to his own expereices of trying to improve his memory. I enjoyed the insights into how we remember and I even got round to putting some of it into practice to help me remember my bank login details. Ironically I highlighted other bits so that I could find them easily in the future - to save me having to remember them. I also enjoyed the insights into how we read, now much more extensively than intensively, and wondered whether I should change my reading style to read more intensively.

Whilst some of the techniques are nifty and smart for remembering things like bank login details, I did wonder what precisely is the practical use of much of the more advanced methods. As someone who speaks publicly for a living a could see little use in the techniques in my field. This of course takes nothing away from the book, although had the book simply been about techniques it would have done.

One feature I did like were the end-notes - allowing the reader to pursue their own lines of inquiry if they wished.

In some ways the style of the book is a little bit like Bill Bryson's works--not as thorough as a purist might like, but sufficient detail, interesting anecdotes and variety of information for an inquisitive tourist of the subject.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moon walking with Einstein, 4 Feb. 2012
By 
Sue H "Sunshine Suzzy" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (Paperback)
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From the book title I was expecting this would be a dull series of techniques, hints and tips on how to improve your memory, some thing that you feel you should read to improve yourself, but that is akin to 5 a day veg and 20 mins cardio exercise, it might leave you feeling self righteous but not entirely contented. The book is not like this at all but an engaging read, a story interlaced with a review of the art and science of memory.

The author Joshua is a US journalist who found himself observing the US memory championships. He claims to have average ability to remember things, and whilst interviewing memory champions, he forms a friendship with an British contestant Ed who encourages him to have a go at improving his own memory skills, and entering competitions. The book then tells the tale of Joshua's progress for the next 12 months as he learns about the techniques and tricks of the memory trade. For example memory palaces where one creates a visual image of some thing that needs to be remembered, and then places the image in a very well known house or street, so that the item being memorised can more easily be recalled.

Interwoven with the story Joshua describes individuals current and past who have had very good memories cf the norm and how they perceive and interact with the world. He describes psychological research into memory in a very readable way, picking the key points from various experiments but without getting bogged down in detail. (Scientists who want p values and sample sizes could be disappointed as these are not included, however there is a comprehensive bibliography of the original papers.) Joshua reflects that for much of homo sapiens history there was no written language and nothing on which to write things down, in this age/society remembering things takes on a whole different perspective to life today. Whilst the book is not in my opinion laugh out loud funny, Joshua see the humorous side often involving situations and people but without being offensive about them.

You'll have to read the book to find out how he gets on in competitons, however he does conclude that in the 21st century we have the ability to write, and paper on which to scribe, and very recently pocket sized electronic devices to help us to remember every thing. We don't have to consider ourselves failures for using them. I hope his next publication covers diet and exercise and has similar conclusions so one might spend more time on the sofa consuming chocolate!.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great popular science., 10 May 2011
By 
Shaun Horrigan "Shaun" (London) - See all my reviews
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Josh Foer is a science journalist. On an assignment to cover the US Memory Championships he becomes fascinated with the lost art of mnemonics. Encouraged and mentored by some of the top people in the field, Josh goes back one year later not as a reporter but as one of the competitors in the event - and wins!

This book is a great popular science read. Josh covers the history of memory, some basic memory improvement techniques including The Method of Loci, Memory Palaces and the Major System, the science behind how memory works, some psychology, some philosophy, some case studies and manages to make it all accessible and fun to read.

Although this book does not claim to be a self help or "how to improve your memory" book, early on he talks you through creating a Memory Palace and remembering a list of sixteen totally random items. I honestly don't think I am ever now going to be able to forget the items on that list! (After reading this book you too will know forever what comes after Pickled Garlic and where that object is stored in your personal Memory Palace) This example shows how powerful some surprisingly simple techniques can be. There is also a superb chapter on Performance Plateaus that is applicable to anything you want to get good at, not just mnemonics.

Overall: 5 stars - Thoroughly enjoyable and quite light hearted popular science wrapped up in an interesting personal story. I really enjoyed reading this book and it has encouraged me to find out more about some of the techniques mentioned. I will try and improve my memory and I will try to pay more attention to the world around me.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You need never write down a shopping list again!, 18 April 2011
By 
Ms. R. L. A. Amelan "Rachel" (Wilmslow, Cheshire) - See all my reviews
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Oh, how I wish I had read this book years ago when I was at school. Gone would have been the hours of endless rote learning and speedy forgetting for, with a few relatively easy techniques, my drudgery would have been cut considerably. "Moonwalking with Einstein" describes how most people can achieve sound methods of memorisation that would serve them lifelong, should they choose to use them.

This is far from being a self-help book though. Joshua Foer spends considerable time looking at the nature of memory and also the history of memorisation which I found particularly fascinating. He also goes about an experiment whereby he takes a year to train for the American Memory Championship, and proves to the reader that he has no special ability in this direction by undergoing psychological testing at the start of the training. There are some excellent descriptions of memory techniques, including that of the memory palace - a most useful device for recalling long lists of items by relating them to sequential loci.(Essentially, for example, you place images around a memorable place like your home.) I read this particular section around 3 a.m. and, even in this semi-awake state, had no trouble absorbing both the technique and the list to be recalled. The methodology Foer describes is quite ancient in nature and is well known but what makes it so different is that this book explains it in a practical manner and demonstrates exactly how it can be used for rapidly encoding memory and facilitation of speedy recall. Foer actually wins the championship and this indicates the efficiency of the technique - and how hard he worked! He also looks at how you overcome the plateau stage of learning when you cannot seem to get any better. I must confess that I could not, however, resist a wry smile when he confessed that retaining memory in image form was assisted by a rather dirty mind.

The writing is extremely entertaining and the text lucidly written. Foer describes the people he meets during his researches vividly and with considerable affection, and it is clear that the time spent researching this book was extremely rewarding for him. In the end, he gains admission into a select memory club, gets hopelessly drunk and forgets that he has taken his car to the occasion - a lovely human touch. He also confesses that, on undergoing psychological testing for a second time, he finds that his "baseline" memory has not really improved. What clearly makes the difference is the "software" he chose to run on his "hardware".

The book left me feeling satisfied and delighted. I immediately employed the memory palace techniques to extremely good effect and was quite proud to find myself discarding my shopping list prior to my visit to the local supermarket. I remembered everything I needed but there is one problem - I now cannot get the items out of my mind....
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bundle of habits shaped by our memories, 11 April 2011
By 
Peter (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Moonwalking with Einstein is rightly getting a lot of press at the moment. It manages to balance an exciting story with lengthy didactic but entertaining discussions of memory techniques, of the history of education, of how our understanding of how memory works has been based on studies of people with unusual brains. The lovely thing about the book is that the two parts - the narrative and the semi-educational back-story - are written together seamlessly. I found myself reading avidly through descriptions of how the hippocampus is not the only place where your brain stores memories, but it is the indexing facility that lets you retrieve memory consciously, and of how it's possible for someone with brain damage to not know where they live, but still be able to go for a walk in the neighbourhood and unerringly find their way home. I read these passages without noticing the length of the digressions from the main part of the story - of how the author with his average memory came to be the American memory champion as a result of researching the book - because the digressions flow very naturally from the narrative. It's also good to understand at last why I've never got beyond four-finger typing - it's because I've hit my "OK plateau" for that particular skill.

The characters in the narrative are all pretty interesting. There's a thick layer of geekiness, and an awful lot of eccentricity too. In researching the book, Foer meets many of the great names in memory, including the original Rain Man, and the man who invented Mind Maps (I'd seen and used mind maps for organising my thoughts, but I'd never before appreciated that their prime function is supposed to be to aid memory retention). Foer gives them all space to show their true colours: some are genuine, while others may not be all they seem. They are genuinely interesting characters.

Memory, and how we can make our own memory more effective, is naturally an interesting subject for most people. The techniques used by memory "athletes" are conceptually very simple, and some of the techniques are quite easy to pick up too. Others require weeks or months of training. This book does not set out to help you make your memory better; it does help us to understand how our memories work. Your memory doesn't come with an instruction manual - this book gives at least some pointers. Foer's contention is that memory is what makes us who we are: in the epilogue he asserts that "we are a bundle of habits shaped by our memories". In externalising our memories - to notebooks, to computers, to books - we have ready access to knowledge, but we don't have ready access to the wisdom that memories held internally can give us.

I hear that Columbia Pictures have bought the movie rights to the book. I hope they manage to do it justice: it will be a challenge for them.
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