Monday, 25 March 2013

Review of 'Moonwalking with Einstein' by Joshua Foer

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering EverythingMoonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'Moonwalking with Einstein' is a great bit of participatory journalism, and a nice introduction to memory training. You can read it without feeling like you're reading a self-help book, but you still come away with a good idea of the basic techniques and ideas such as the memory palace and the major and PAO (person-action-object) systems for learning numbers.

It's also nicely candid about where memory training falls down: after winning the USA memory championship and going out for a celebratory meal, Foer forgets that he has driven to the restaurant and goes home by train.

It would have been nice if the book offered some analysis of memory training techniques versus 'natural' memories, though Foer's book isn't without investigation of people with apparently exceptional natural memories, and indeed one of the best pieces of journalism in the book is his investigation into Daniel Tammet, author of 'Born on a Blue Day'. I felt that Foer didn't go far enough in his discussions of education, the links between memory and moral character, and the links between memory and landscape (particularly interesting to me as a reader of natural history). But the book doesn't pretend to be an academic book: as a piece of participatory journalism it's well written, informative, and entertaining.

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