Book Review: Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer

9780143120537HMoonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

by Joshua Foer
ISBN 978-0-14-312053-7
Penguin Books, 2011

You know the scenario:

You stand in the grocery store. You stopped in to pick up five simple items, and four of them sit in your basket. What was that fifth item again? You search your memory, but the last item on the list is . . . gone. Argh. You grit your teeth. You ask yourself, “Am I losing it?”

Joshua Foer offers solutions to the problem. And if you’re interested in memorizing 10,000 digits of Pi, he helps with that, too. (Somehow, I think the line-up will be shorter for that one.)

Moonwalking with Einstein reminds us how to remember. Since the first written word, since the printing press, since the digital age, the number of circumstances requiring us to memorize dwindles. Memory techniques used in the past to ensure survival and to maintain a vibrant  historical oral tradition no longer get passed from generation to generation. Like spinning wool, speaking Latin, and building log homes, extreme remembering has become a quaint relic of the past practised by a small, eccentric portion of the population. The rest of us consult electronic calendars, deposit our phone numbers into contact lists, and trust search engines to tell us anything we need to know.

So, with electronic calendars, contact lists and Google, why should we remember to remember? Because we have those moments in the grocery store. Because we’re living longer and Alzheimer’s worries us. Because the keys to remembering are mindfulness, creativity and new experiences, and they all make life so much more fun.

This book describes Foer’s journey from ordinary man to United States Memory Champion. (Yeah, I know. Who knew there was such a thing?) His point: Anyone can do this. No need for a genius-level IQ or post-secondary education. Learn a few techniques, practise, and you, too, can rhyme of Pi without a hitch. I won’t describe the techniques, because you should read this book for its pure entertainment value. Foer tells his story and educates, too. I learned about the roots of punctuation (thank you, Aristophanes of Byzantium) and how to get past the “OK plateau” in my tennis game.

You can take as much or as little from this book as you want. It might inspire you to memorize decks of cards or all the winners of the World Series. Or it might just help you with the names of all your wife’s relatives. I won’t memorize even 10 digits of Pi, and I won’t wear ear muffs and spray-painted goggles, but I will remember my grocery list from now on.


Watch Joshua Foer talk about his memory techniques on his website:


About Arlene Somerton Smith

Writer, laughing thinker, miner of inspirational insights, sports fan, and community volunteer

Posted on June 26, 2013, in Book reviews, Books for the beach, Books I bought, Books to read again and again, Non-fiction, Self-Help and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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