Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Walking on the Moon With Einstein

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer is a 2011 non-fiction book that will change how you think about your memory.  If you like Malcolm Gladwell or books that help you see the world a bit differently, I'd add this to your reading list.

Foer, a young reporter, went to report on the ultimate event -- the U.S. Memory Championships.  He met the competitors, learned about their talents and decided to participate in the following year's competition.  He learned the skills, trained and ended up winning the competition.  Through Foer's adventure, he teaches the reader that memory is like most other skills, one which we can be learned.  He explains some of the basic and intricate techniques he was taught.  It is amazing.  By creating absurd images of objects and placing them in a memory palace (a place you know very well, such as a childhood home), with proper training, you can store extensive material.  For example, look at this list:

-pickled garlic
-cottage cheese
-smoked salmon
-six bottles of white wine
-3 pairs of dirty socks
-3 hula hoops
-a snorkel
-a dry ice machine
-write an email to Sophia

Last Thursday, I memorized the list above based on the techniques in the book and I still remember it crisply.  It is amazing!  I've tried this out on four subjects so far and each one has had equal success.

The book reads as if it is a long New Yorker article: well written, highly entertaining and beautifully executed. It was a great book.  Highly recommended.

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