Instaread Summary of Moonwalking with Einstein The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer
Five out of five stars
This book has a different twist in that the journalist covering an event becomes the topic as well as the main participant in the event. The story opens with Foer being a journalist covering the world memory championships. While interviewing the contestants, he is struck by how ordinary they are in their memory abilities outside of the competition. After this revelation, Foer then goes into training and becomes the 2006 USA World Memory Champion.
The main point of the book is that memorization capability of this magnitude is not innate, but is a learned condition. By applying proven techniques for memorizing, it is possible for nearly everyone to develop a prodigious memory. Rather amusingly, Foer describes incidents after his training where he experiences some serious brain cramps.
A secondary point of the book is the role of memorization through history. Before the mass production of books and universal literacy, knowledge was passed on verbally, so people needed to remember things. Stories were told and retold in order for knowledge to be retained. There is mention of the collapse of the educational system in Europe in the Middle Ages, where literacy was almost non-existent. With the advent of the smartphone, people no longer remember phone numbers and addresses as well as other basic information.
Another secondary point is that there is no conclusive evidence for a photographic memory, in fact there is evidence against it. There are instances of people that suffered a head injury that led to dramatic memory abilities, but not as a skill that a certain percentage of people have.
This summary adequately covers the wide spectrum of topics secondary to the act of Foer winning a memory championship. Most of it is a repeat of the line of self-help claims of “improve your memory” that tout the dramatic improvements that are possible. Yet, there is enough auxiliary content to make the book interesting as an examination of how the role of memorization has changed in society over the years. It made me wonder if the widespread use of smartphones has led to a collapse of the “improve your memory” section of the self-help industry.
This book was made available for free for review purposes.