Joshua Foer, a freelance journalist, wrote the book “Moonwalking with Einstein, the Art and Science of Remembering Everything”. There has been lots of positive reviews of this book. Bill Gates said it was “absolutely phenomenal and one of the best books he had recently read”. No one seems to know what Einstein or even Moonwalking have to do with the substance of the book is but it really does open up your thinking about memory.
The author in preparing to write the book also spent a year in memory training preparing for the U.S. Memory Championship and learning about memory and its importance. He points out that we don’t need to remember as much today with all the help we have and that we only need to know where to find the answer. That may explain the books focus on remembering lists, numbers, playing card numbers and other things like that. The methods of association and the fact that mental athletes are neither geniuses or savants, but just people who have mastered techniques of understanding space and image was the books focus.
It seemed to me that a most interesting question raised was if “experience is the sum of our memories and wisdom the sum of experience,” then as the author asks, what does it mean that “we’ve supplanted our own natural memory with a vast superstructure of technological crutches”?
There are many reviews of this book but my own experience has a component that for me is a little embarrassing. It leads me to rate the book a little lower and question the overall book perhaps more than I should.
I found the book in my "to read" pile. The stack of books had become a little scrambled and I wasn’t positive whether I had read it. A couple of pages should answer that question but as you may have already guessed it didn’t for me. I read almost half of the book before I remembered that I had read it already? I had just finished a section explaining that if 100 pictures where held up for a few seconds each that I should be able to remember, if shown the pictures later, almost all of them. Even a year later I should be able to remember most of them.
I can laugh at myself for not remembering having read the book right off. I didn't like discovering it while learning how powerful our brains already are. If this is going to happen to me why did it have to be with a book on memory. I can’t answer that but I rated it lower
I have read this book more than once. Last time was in December 2016 but I wanted to have a review included here
Maya Angelou writes of her first 16 years of life growing up. She and her brother were sent to live with a grandmother in Arkansas and a young age. She said about this experience, "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat."
She was raped at the age of eight when in St. Louis with her mother. She dealt with the trauma with a self -imposed muteness. Each day she would escape to the library where she read everything she could and where she memorized and then eventually reciting great works of literature and poetry. Reciting was her way of regaining her speech.
She lived with a community that feared lynchings. Family's took care of their own. She attended revival meetings, had a strong belief in God and felt that He had a covenant with children, Negroes, and those that were crippled. She had a child at age 16. One small review can only scratch the surface of just this one book.
"The Caged Bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still and his tune is heard on the distant hill for the caged bird sings of freedom" - Maya Angelou
People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
Maya Angelou was an American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, several books of poetry, and was credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning over 50 years.
Born: April 4, 1928, St. Louis, MO
Died: May 28, 2014, Winston-Salem, NC
The River of Doubt: Theordore Roosevelts Darkest Journey
After Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th U.S. president, failed his re-election effort he decided to have a great adventure. It had to be unique and something no one else had done. Exploring an uncharted river in South America fit his needs well.
The River of Doubt is a black river that snakes through one of the most treacherous jungles in the world. The rain forest was anything but easy to deal with.
He took his son Kermit and they found an experienced guide, Candido Rondon, and crew.
Candice Millard said in writing about the trip, "When he wasn't too sick to sit up, Roosevelt sought comfort and distraction in the world that he knew best: his library. For his trip to Africa, he had spent months choosing the books that he would take with him, ordering special volumes that had been beautifully bound in pigskin, with type reduced to the smallest legible size, so that the books would be as light as possible."
Vipers, piranhas, poisonous plants, insect swarms were all serious threats as were Indians armed with poison tipped arrows.
Roosevelt ended his journey sick with fever having lost 1/4 of his body weight. It was indeed Teddy Roosevelt’s darkest journey.
Also see recent review posted just before this one "The Life We Bury"
The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr, is a book that the Wall Street Journal said should be “required reading for anyone attempting to write a memoir or who lives for literature”. Mary Karr can teach you about memoir but she becomes a little intimidating with her credentials. She is an English professor at Syracuse University, a successful non fiction writer, and you can tell she really knows her stuff.
Karr is passionate about her belief in the memoir approach and important literary style. She says “There is a lingering snobbery in the literary world that wants to disqualify what is broadly called nonfiction from the category of literature”.
As expected in a book like this she covers the basics. The importance of truth and the road to exaggeration. Why memoirs fail. Her own attempts at memoir lend a lot to the dialog.
Many offer book reviews and finding something to present here that hasn’t been already well reviewed is very difficult. One thing about this book that stood out for me was chapter 23,
Michael Herr: Start in Kansas, End in Oz. Even the title of this chapter teaches an important lesson, but the chapter refers to Michael Kerr "Voice" in his on-war memoir “Dispatches” and his narration of “Apocalypse Now”. These are used to demonstrate that where you start and end is so important. We read this type of author to share the journey. We become a voyeur, eavesdropping while watching out the window. It is suggested that we are ourselves responsible for all we do but as well as all we see.
Apocalypse Now starts out in a memorable way. “There was a map of Vietnam on the wall of my apartment in Saigon and some nights, I’d lie on my bed and look at it......” Mary Karr used an approach that she used in her writing classes. She picked apart the writing, one sentence at a time. She shows how, line by line, the writing builds up to the very substance the book is known for. A favorite chapter.
This will be an important book on both reading and writing in the years ahead.
Joe Talbert's life is changing. He hopes going away to collage will help, but it only adds to the challenges. He has saved his own money and been the strength in his home, helping his autistic brother and covering for his alcoholic mother. His new life at the University of Minnesota has brought him to a new apartment, a young lady friend down the hall, and a very interesting writing assignment in his English class.
For his assignment he decides to write a biography of a stranger and chooses Carl Iverson whom he finds in a nursing home. It turns out that the Carl had spent the last 30 years in prison for the rape and murder of a 14 year old girl. Carl was released from prison because he was close to death with stage 4 cancer.
Carl is a Vietnam vet with two Purple Hearts and a Silver Cross. Joe’s at first figures a short biography would be an easy A for his class. When he learns that Carl could be innocent he decides to look at the crime evidence to make the biography more accurate.
Joe's brother, Jeremy, has to move in with him because of troubles at his home are still a concern. Joe, Jeremy and his neighbor all help to resolve things as they work on the facts they find about Carl's crime.
The books characters are interesting and the plot twists with surprises. Exploring the evidence of a long past crime and getting to know the people is interesting.
A story well written and a book that is worth reading