Book Review: Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

March 12, 2015 Blog, Book Reviews 0

Book Review: Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua FoerMoonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer
Published by Penguin ROC on March 3rd 2011
Genres: Body, Mind & Spirit
Pages: 307
Source: Purchase
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Foer's unlikely journey from chronically forgetful science journalist to U.S. Memory Champion frames a revelatory exploration of the vast, hidden impact of memory on every aspect of our lives.

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.

My Thoughts

So, one day I had a thought to look up mentalist. I was watching Now You See Me and wondering just how hard it would be to be a mentalist. I mean obviously a lot of work is done to understand humans. I am already getting a degree in psychology so that’s one step in the right direction. But seriously, how did Sherlock Holmes do it? And there are really people out there like this that can take one look at you and tell you that you have three children and have been married for 15 years! Even when you’re dressed to the nines and looking your best! How do they know?

This curiosity brought me to a strange book but it was free on Amazon Prime so I thought, why not? It’s called The Magic Square: Tricking Your Way to Mental Superpowers. Interesting right? And free! So I jumped in. It actually is pretty interesting but not exactly what I wanted so I moved on to another book that the author, Lewis Smile, recommended called The Memory Palace also by Lewis Smile.

The Memory Palace is a bit more up my alley. Not quite mentalist quality but interesting! I loved this book. I can now tell you Shakespeare’s plays in the order that he wrote them! I don’t know if I’ll ever need to know that but it’s a fun fact. What’s even better is that Lewis Smile gave me many more ideas of things that I want to remember that will be more interesting to know off the top of my head! He makes it sound so easy but really it was! What’s better is that he has a list of authors and other books that he recommends which I immediately went to check out. And that is how I finally found Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer!

Now THIS book was interesting! I loved every minute of it. It was filled with scientific jargon but Joshua was able to bring that knowledge and the studies done around the world down to a language that I understood. This was so intriguing that I wanted to remember every single word.

Being that this book is about his journey to become the United States Memory Champion you would think that it may be boring. He adds in a perfect amount of anecdote that coincides beautifully with the science. The fact that he was a sort of guinea pigs for psychologists at FSU made this even more fun for me to read! It made it all the more real and all the more possible for any of us, no matter our schooling or IQ’s to become the United States Memory Champion!

Much like the two books before this, I was enraptured with the story telling. I could see and feel every nuance and every stress point that Joshua went through. And even while studying for all of this, he made the process very understandable!

To be honest I cannot wait to put these processes into practice. Joshua and Lewis both make them feel so easy to learn, and truly they are! I don’t see myself pushing to be United States Champion or anything but it would be nice to know the things that I feel that I forget on a daily basis. I would love to work on my vocabulary and plan to do a memory palace just for synonyms of certain words that I overuse. Honestly there are so many different ways of using the memory palace and with a bit of studying I might have a few places to help me keep my brain ticking!

In short: I absolutely recommend all three books for the sheer pleasure of reading them! They are all unique and quite fun but Moonwalking with Einstein was my favorite!




The Author

Personal life

Foer is the younger brother of New Republic editor Franklin Foer and novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. He is the son of Esther Foer, president of a public relations firm, and Albert Foer, a think-tank president. He was born in Washington, D.C. and attended Georgetown Day School. He then went on to graduate from Yale University, where he lived in Silliman College, in 2004.

Foer is married to Dinah Herlands, a medical student at Yale, whom he met while an undergraduate at Yale.


Foer sold his first book, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, to Penguin for publication in March 2011. He received a $1.2 million advance for the concept when he was just 22 plus a movie option.

In 2006, Foer won the U.S.A. Memory Championship “speed cards” event by memorizing a deck of 52 cards in 1 minute and 40 seconds. Moonwalking with Einstein describes Foer’s journey as a participatory journalist to becoming a national champion mnemonist, under the tutelage of British Grand_Master_of_Memory, Ed Cooke.

Foer’s work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, and The Nation. In 2007, the quarterly art & culture journal Cabinet began publishing Foer’s column “A Minor History Of.” The column “examines an overlooked cultural phenomenon using a timeline.”


Foer has organized several websites and organizations based on his interests. He created the Athanasius Kircher Society which had only one session featuring Kim Peek and Joseph Kittinger.”. He is the co-founder, along with Dylan Thuras, of the Atlas Obscura, an online compendium of “The World’s Wonders, Curiosities, and Esoterica”. He is also a co-organizer of Sukkah City.

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