For those of you with an interest in the world of competitive memory, this book is an excellent preview of both its community and events. Within, you'll find Joshua Foer's vivid account of the year-long journey towards his win at the 2006 USA Memory Championship.
The story primarily follows Foer through his interactions with the community’s competitors and eccentrics, such as his mentor Ed Cooke and the famed Tony Buzan. In a quest to better his own memory, Foer also interviews a number of those with both exceptionally good and exceptionally poor memories. Additionally, spread throughout the story are a number of anecdotes which give a solid starting-point for a deeper-dive into the history and development of memory.
As Ed Cooke recommended to Foer, at the start of Foer's journey into the world of competitive memory, there are a number of classical texts which include sections that discuss the use and improvement of memory. These texts are De Oratore, Institutio Oratoria, and Rhetorica ad Herennium. Aside from those three, Cooke also recommends ". . . a collection of medieval writings on memory by Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus, Hugh of St. Victor, and Peter of Ravenna." (Foer, 2011).
I was initially drawn to this book after seeing it often recommended to those wishing to improve their memories. The seemingly exceptional ability to actively memorize, and recall, many thousands of things had always seemed like an out-of-reach goal for the average person, relegated to rare savants and dedicated mnemonists. Through reading this book, I have learned that everyone has the innate, often untapped ability to perform seemingly exceptional feats of memory, with the use of centuries-old mnemonic techniques.
Although it was an entertaining read, I would not recommend the book to anyone searching to improve their memory. Rather, I would suggest looking through links in the Further Reading section below, and then delving deeper into any topics that pique your interest
- “Champions – USA Memory Championship®.” USA Memory Championship® - Official Olympiad for Mental Athletes. Accessed October 24, 2020. https://www.usamemorychampionship.com/champions/.
- Foer, Joshua. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2011.
- De Oratore
- Institutio Oratoria
- Rhetorica ad Herennium
- The Catholic Encyclopedia - Memory
- The Educational Theory of Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274)
- Wikipedia - De Oratore
- Wikipedia - Institutio Oratoria
- Wikipedia - Method of Loci
- Wikipedia - Mind Map
- Wikipedia - Mnemonic
- Wikipedia - Mnemonic Major System
- Wikipedia - Mnemonic Peg System
- Wikipedia - Rhetorica ad Herennium