Rita’s Reading: “Moonwalking With Einstein”

The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

 By Joshua Foer

  This book was recommended to me by a colleague who just turned 40 and is concerned about having “senior moments”.  The public attention on Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and information overload has everyone – even younger people – concerned about their ability to remember the simple things in life:  appointments, names of people and place, a movie seen last week. I was intrigued by the title and the possibility of learning the art and science of remembering everything.  Like many of us, I would be happy to just be able to leave my residence and get in my car without having to return inside to locate my cell phone, sunglasses and so forth.  But, I don’t want to remember everything. I found this book informative, entertaining and helpful.  Joshua Foer manages to inform us about important research on the brain, the least understood organ in the human body, and specifically about the science of memory, in an accessible, entertaining fashion.  By describing his own venture into learning techniques to become a master at memorization he weaves in a great deal of scientific research and world history.  He also asks us to think about how we use the brain and its functions.   Should we outsource our memory to our electronic “brains” and focus on using our potent gray matter for higher level activity than remembering the sequence of playing cards in a deck?  What is memory anyway and what is its intellectual, emotional and social value?  His personal experience with these questions and answers makes this a worthwhile book.   Additionally he helps us understand that forgetting one’s keys and other related frustrations may not be the onset of dementia, but a function of our inattention and limited focus:  two features of a busy, information-cluttered world.