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Wolfheart (World of Warcraft Cataclysm Series)
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2011
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 10 February 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I really wanted to give this book 5 stars and was all set to before I picked it up again to review the novel and took a moment to glance over the front and back covers where numerous mentions are made of how this book can help you improve your memory... Which really got my goat as this book isn't about helping people to improve their memories (something the authors states a couple of times), instead its a memoir exploring the authors dive into the world of memory competitions that happens to contain a few hints and tips about some of the skills used and the history of human understanding of memory.

Regardless I found the book to be a quick, easy and highly enjoyable read. Mr Foer has a great skill at describing people (many of whom seem more than a bit strange) in an endearing manner that drew me through the book at break neck speed, leaving me feeling slightly robbed because I would have loved to have read more about pretty much everything he covers.

A fascinating book!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 19 September 2013
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 22 October 2012
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 24 January 2012
Format: PaperbackVine 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 13 August 2013
I absolutely loved this book. It's easy to 'get' it, but the brilliant thing about this book is that it hand holds you through your first two 'mind palace' journeys. So instead of just telling you how to do it, it does it for you and you are so gobsmacked you did it at the end you want to do it again! I saw Paul Daniels do this on TV when I was a kid and I wish I'd listened. For starters I reckon I would've got an A at A level Biology instead of a D - all that organic chemistry would've been not only doable, but actually easy. I guarantee at the end if someone tells you that you could remember a list of 20 films in order, you'll be saying 'only 20?!'. It took me 15mins to learn the 20 Dickens books and about 30 to 40 mins to learn 37 Shakespeare plays - and this when I was frankly overtired and had wanted to just go to bed! I stayed up and learnt the first 10 English kings until I couldn't keep my eyes open. This morning over breakfast, my 6 and 7 year old girls have learnt the first 12 Shakespeare plays and are desperate to learn more. It is funny to see your 6 year old tell you that the play after Henry the 6th part 1 is Titus Andronicus! They were drawing the mind pictures we'd created too which must help. This is the best £2.50 you will ever spend. Don't keep it to yourself - teach your kids and they will I am guessing learn more than you ever did at school! :) Later on, we're going to actually to go on the real walk I used as my mind journey and act out the different images to help them learn all 37. If they manage it, I'll write an update here! I bet they will!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 February 2013
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 Cooke ( a Grand Master of Memory no less :) this catalysed his trip into re-discovering classical memory techniques and finding out if he had what it takes. [ Ed comes across as a likeable 'jack-the-lad' rogue, but one with ambitions ! ]

Along the way to his participation in the US Memory Championships in the final chapters of the book, he discovers quite a few things related to memory, the brain, and our 21st Century attitudes to it.

There is never too much "heavy" science involved here, but certainly enough to pull you in and give appropriate explanation ( perhaps even to push you to find more ? ).

He writes well and has much sympathy for those who suffer memory loss ( in particular the man whose memory from everything post 1950-ish is limited to minutes : he makes an ideal scientific study subject, but Foer brings out the humanity of the person and those around him ).

Overall a book to be enjoyed as a good story with plenty of relevance to the modern world and its reliance on 'external' memory.

If you want to find out about those memory techniques, then you need to tread paths to the doors of Tony Buzan and the like, and could even get a quick start with Ed Cooke's memrise site. A new and "fun" learning experience !
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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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