Book Review: Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

March 7, 2011

I got this book for free as part of the TLC Book Tour promotion.

My rating for Moonwalking with Einstein – 5

About:
“Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” by Joshua Foer is a memoir of the author’s attempted to win the U.S. memory championship. Along the way Mr. Foer attempts to explain some tricks, techniques and the science around memory.

Purchase “Moonwalking with Einstein”
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Amazon |Book Depository US | Book Depository UK

Thoughts:
“Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” by Joshua Foer is a fabulous memoir which is not only personal and informative, but also highly entertaining.

As a journalist, Mr. Foer became interested in those “mental athletes” who can memorize random data (order of packs of cards, long lists, etc.) when he covered the U.S. Memory Championship as an assignment. As he researched more into this area he became intrigued and wondered if he could do it also.

At the start of his research, Mr. Foer went to meet psychologist Anders Ericsson who studies those with exceptional memory. “SF” can remember 80 digits after a single hearing, for example. During Foer’s attempt, Ericsson would study him – a man without an exceptional memory. However, in a very poignant part of the book he also meets with a man who completely lost his short term memory.

Over the next year Foer studied hard to improve his memory, or rather improve memorizing random stuff (there is a difference as we find out). The path we find ourselves going along with Mr. Foer on his journey is delightful, inventing and funny, the people he meets are interesting and quirky.

Experiment:
Is the human mind really susceptible to the clever tricks Mr. Foer describes in his book?
I attempted to find out.

One of the memorization techniques involves a “memory palace” and is supposedly a very old method. The technique involves imagining yourself walking around a familiar building and placing objects on a list in that building (your home, first grad class, grandma’s home, etc.).
Supposedly if you walk your way through that “memory palace” again you should be able to retrieve those items without an issue.

On pages 92-93 Mr. Foer describes his first memorization list given to him in Central Park by English memory champion Ed Cooke (Pickled garlic, Cottage cheese, salmon, six bottles of white wine, socks, three hula hoops, snorkel, dry ice machine, email Sophia, etc.)

As I walked though my home, in my mind, I placed all fifteen items around my house (using quirky stories such as having three Hawaiian dancers perform with hula hoops on my son’s train table) and, believe it or not, it worked.
It amazed me so much I came home and asked my wife to do the same thing.

Guess what?
She did and she was amazed as well. Over the next several days we challenged one another, in random places, to name the list.

As it turned out, learning memorization was a part of every school curriculum in the early years of the country – however, from some reason, it has been abandoned.
That’s too bad.

Synopsis:
The book follows the gripping journey taken by Joshua Foer as he participates in the U.S. Memory Championship. As a science journalist Foer becomes interested in the champions’ secrets as well as the secrets of the brain which we still do not fully understand.

Foer learns how to naturally memorize information with the help of experts and to master techniques which make memorization easier.

Purchase “Moonwalking with Einstein”
through the ManOfLaBook affiliate account on:

Amazon |Book Depository US | Book Depository UK

TLC Book Tour for “Moonwalking with Einstein”:

Wednesday, February 23rd: Nonsuch Book
Thursday, February 24th: Debbie’s World of Books
Friday, February 25th: Book Club Classics!
Wednesday, March 2nd: Ken Jennings
Thursday, March 3rd: Amy Reads
Friday, March 4th: Eclectic/Eccentric
Monday, March 7th: Man of La Book
Wednesday, March 9th: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Thursday, March 10th: In the Next Room
Tuesday, March 15th: Mnemotechnics.org
Thursday, March 17th: Mind Your Decisions
Thursday, March 31st: Luxury Reading

 

Zohar – Man of la Book

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9 Comments

  • Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours March 7, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I LOVE that you tried out a memory experiment – what fun! I first heard about the concept of a memory palace in the book THE MADONNAS OF LENINGRAD. I haven’t tried it but from your experience it sounds like it really works.

    • zohar March 7, 2011 at 10:21 am

      Hi Heather, not only does it really work, but the “memory palace” is really easy to implement.

  • Pam (@iwriteinbooks) March 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Interesting! I think I might like this but I might not. I like the idea of memorization but I think that today we often spend too much time on teaching to the test and people focus on the facts rather than the exploration. I hope that we can eventually work in memory building with my more essential explorative sciences.

    • zohar March 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm

      Good points Pam, Mr. Foer touches on those points as well.

  • Shannon March 9, 2011 at 12:09 am

    This sounds like a fascinating book. It seems that memory is like a muscle: you have to use it or it becomes useless. We don’t have to memorize very many things these days because everything from phone numbers to random facts are available at our fingertips. This is probably a skill that we should practice more often.

    • zohar March 9, 2011 at 7:38 am

      Good point Shannon, Mr. Foer touches on that in the book as well. In my opinion we have information overload, there is so much information coming our way that we have to be very picky about what we commit to memory. After all, why remember who was the first president if we can find out through Google in about 0.001 seconds?

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