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Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything January 23, 2014

I first heard about Joshua Foer’s book, Moonwalking with Einstein through an NPR podcast. A U.S. Memory Champion, Josh’s adventure in “remembering everything” was very much an accident. He had been assigned to write about the USA Memory Championship and, in the process, had made a life-changing mistake; he asked one of the competitors (Ed Cooke) exactly when he had realized that he was a savant.

Ed was quick to explain that there was nothing at all unique about his ability to memorize the order of full decks of playing cards or recite seemingly unending lists of binomial digits. It was technique, not natural ability, which made one a memory champion. Everyone in the human race has been given the same equipment. The question is whether we will make full use of it.

Over the next year, Josh set out to explore the claim. He interviewed people with extraordinary memories and people who seemed to have forgotten nearly everything. He read through ancient texts on the art of memory and spoke with modern psychologists and neuroscientists. He explored the world of popular memory improvement gurus and, most importantly, spent hours every day improving his own ability to memorize. In the end, he became the reigning U. S. Memory Champion.

His real triumph, however, was the book which documented his research and his journey. Far from being a textbook on how to memorize (though more than a few useful techniques are contained within its pages), Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything is an in-depth look at how much (or how little) science really knows about how the human mind works.

Beginning with the ancient Greeks, Josh explores how the art of memory has evolved. He introduces readers to the influence of books as an aid to memory and to the Internet as a remedy for having to memorize anything. And he explains why it may not be easy to revive the art of memory once it has begun to fade from public consciousness.

From theory to case stories, oral societies to modern classrooms, Josh takes his readers on a fantastic journey through the fascinating world of memory and the history of memorization. It’s a journey that you won’t want to miss!

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