"Moonwalking with Einstein" Book Writeup

April 17, 2011

What’s the point?
The book is about memory and memorization techniques, intertwined with a story about how the author trained and competed in the US Memory Championship. The author discusses common techniques used by ‘mental athletes’ that allow them to memorize the order of a deck of cards in under a minute or whole pages of poetry or books.

How was it?
My last few books have been very technical, so it was good to enjoy something a little lighter. The book has good pacing, as it alternates between first-hand accounts of the memory competitions, studies of people with extraordinary memories and the basics of neuropsychology.

The techniques discussed in the book are pretty cool, though even the author admits are not incredibly practical for everyday usage. I was able to use the ‘memory palace’ method to remember a list of 15 random objects and was able to recall them pretty easily several weeks later, so there may be some actually utility.

I found that the most interesting aspect of the book was Josh’s practice regiment and training; the discussion on deliberate practice was neat and echoes what others in the software field have said before.

Who should read it?
It is similar in style and subject matter to Freakonomics or Malcolm Gladwell’s books, so if you like those then you will probably enjoy Moonwalking with Einstein as well. If you have taken any intro-level psychology courses, you might already be familiar with some of the material and experimental subjects, but I would still recommend it as light reading.

Notes: I read this book on my Kindle, no issues.

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