Reading this book was such a wonderful experience. I read it in a non-linear fashion, unable to contain my excitement. Immediately after the first chapter, I jumped over to the memory palace and then to the memorising a poem chapters.
Joshua Foer, in this book travels through the history of memory and forgetfulness while detailing his own journey through the by-lanes of memory. His journey from being a journalist reporting about the USA memory championship to being a winner in a short span is inspiring in a sense. It tells us that a lot can be achieved through deliberate practice, persistence and scientific approach.
He gives an introduction to the science and discourses on memory though history, the people of extra ordinary memory who have lived through ages and also at the savants of our time. At no time does he turn into a starry eyed fan and keeps his scientific temperament close to his heart when he goes ahead and studies their memory and methods.
Even though when we hear about these so called savants, we feel a sense of awe and jealousy towards them, in knowing them closer thorough Josh’s inquiry, we understand that often the so called savants would have been better off with a regular memory that could be trained than possessing that recorder like memory that can hardly forget. For example, in his description of Kim the “Rainman”, who can remember every single detail from the 10000 odd books he has read, we also get to know a Kim who for all his memory has only an IQ of 87 and can’t perform many of the logical tasks that naturally come to the “rational” ordinaries.
This book reads effortlessly and also opens our vistas to the wide world of cognition and memory. It is not a how-to manual, but without reading this book, if you were to pick up a Harry Lorraine or Tony Buzan, very soon you’d find yourself questioning the efficacy of those memory training methods and their transposability to the real world.
Go ahead and buy this book, if not for practice, but to get to know the amazing world of Mental Athletes, another field of human endeavour where ordinary people achieve the extra-ordinary.