Moonwalking with Einstein
The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
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On average, people squander forty days annually compensating for things they've forgotten. Joshua Foer used to be one of those people. But after a year of memory training, he found himself in the finals of the U.S. Memory Championship. Even more important, Foer found a vital truth we too often forget: In every way that matters, we are the sum of our memories.
Moonwalking with Einstein draws on cutting-edge research, a surprising cultural history of memory, and venerable tricks of the mentalist's trade to transform our understanding of human remembering. Under the tutelage of top "mental athletes," he learns ancient techniques once employed by Cicero to memorize his speeches and by Medieval scholars to memorize entire books. Using methods that have been largely forgotten, Foer discovers that we can all dramatically improve our memories.
Immersing himself obsessively in a quirky subculture of competitive memorizers, Foer learns to apply techniques that call on imagination as much as determination-showing that memorization can be anything but rote. From the PAO system, which converts numbers into lurid images, to the memory palace, in which memories are stored in the rooms of imaginary structures, Foer's experience shows that the World Memory Championships are less a test of memory than of perseverance and creativity.
Foer takes his inquiry well beyond the arena of mental athletes-across the country and deep into his own mind. In San Diego, he meets an affable old man with one of the most severe case of amnesia on record, where he learns that memory is at once more elusive and more reliable than we might think. In Salt Lake City, he swaps secrets with a savant who claims to have memorized more than nine thousand books. At a high school in the South Bronx, he finds a history teacher using twenty- five-hundred-year-old memory techniques to give his students an edge in the state Regents exam.
At a time when electronic devices have all but rendered our individual memories obsolete, Foer's bid to resurrect the forgotten art of remembering becomes an urgent quest. Moonwalking with Einstein brings Joshua Foer to the apex of the U.S. Memory Championship and readers to a profound appreciation of a gift we all possess but that too often slips our minds.
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"You have to love a writer who employs chick-sexing to help explain human memory. Foer is a charmer, a crackling mind, a fresh wind. He approaches a complex topic with so much humanity, humor, and originality that you don't realize how much you're taking in and understanding. It's kind of miraculous." —Mary Roach, author of STIFF, BONK, and PACKING FOR MARS
"In this marvelous book, Joshua Foer invents a new genre of non-fiction. This is a work of science journalism wrapped around an adventure story, a bildungsroman fused to a vivid investigation of human memory. If you want to understand how we remember, and how we can all learn to remember better, then read this book." —Jonah Lehrer, contributing editor, Wired; author of HOW WE DECIDE and PROUST WAS A NEUROSCIENTIST
"Joshua Foer proves what few of us are willing to get our heads around: there's more room in our brains that we ever imagined. MOONWALKING WITH EINSTEIN isn't a how-to guide to remembering a name or where you put your keys. It's a riveting exploration of humankind's centuries-old obsession with memory, and one man's improbable quest to master his own." —Stefan Fatsis, author of WORD FREAK and A FEW SECONDS OF PANIC
"MOONWALKING WITH EINSTEIN isn't just a splendid overview of an essential aspect of our humanity—our memory; it is also a witty and engaging account of how Foer went from being a guy with an average memory to winning the U.S. Memory Championship." —Dan Ariely, author of THE UPSIDE OF IRRATIONALITY and PREDICTABLY IRRATIONAL