I like books about memory and the brain. I must have read The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne when I was still in high school-not that it helped me with my studies, but I did learn how to memorize all kinds of random items. I really loved Superlearning as well. There is something amazing about how the mind can be trained to sort this and that-and in my case, pretty much useless info. Which brings us to Moonwalking With Einstien.
We start off following a reporter covering the mindnumbingly dull U.S. Memory Championships-which involves watching people memorize all kinds of mundane infomation. Reporter Joshua Foer becomes seduced by the idea that he, too, could memorize long lists of random items and sets his foot to the path of becoimg a memory master himself.
Along the way he tells the story of S, a man who could remember everything that ever happened to him, and EP, a man who perpetually lived in the moment as he could no longer convert short term memory to long term memory. He then talks about the classic techiques of recalling, starting off with the Memory Palace. This is where you remember some familar place and drop items you want to remember in each room, you need to make the objects oversized and outrageous. Joshua Foer is amazed that the Memory Palace works, just as I was when I first used it.
As Joshua Foer moves through the history of memory, he starts to use newer techniques that I am not familar with. Among them is the system called PAO-person/action/object-which allows a skilled user to memorieze a deck of cards in a minute or less. This is where the books title of Moonwalking With Einstien comes from. He spends hours a day practicing his memory skills and honing his recall times. The goal of all his hard work is to compete in the US Memory Champisonships.
Along the way he meets two legends of the memory world-Kim Peek and Daniel Tammet. Kim Peek is the odd little man that Dustin Hoffman spent some time with in order to perfect his Rain Man role. He memorized phonebooks for fun and had next to no social skills. Daniel Tammet, on the other hand, is a super genius who appears swave and sophisticated when comared to most Aspebergains.
In fact, the most intriguing bit in Moonwalking With Einstien is Joshua Foer’s suspecions that Daniel Tammet is a fraud who is actively ripping people off by pretending that he has autism, when in fact, he is a very highly skilled mnemonist or mental athelete. What makes Daniel Tammet’s possible fraud hard for Joshua Foer to get over is that admitted mnemonists are a lot of geeks who make very little money from thier skills and are often treated like weirdos. Daniel Tammet has been the subject of TV Shows, written a best selling book, and has his own line of educational products-Joshua Foer and mega memory pals, well, not so much.
Moonwalking With Einstein is an entertaining book-if you happen to have a slight memory fetish as I do. It has been some time since I actively used a Memory Palace or The Peg System or any of the other odds and ends of a well trained memory-because, like Joshua Foer, I found that they were not all that useful in the real world. Joshua finds that he enjoys the company of his fellow memory geeks-and he does get a book out it-but he is not sure that anyone will ever change the world by teaching kids how to memorize a deck of cards in thirty seconds.
Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything proves at least one thing-YOU, yes you, could be the next US Memory Champ, if you really wanted to be.