June 20th, 2011


#44 Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer

While covering the U.S. Memory Championship, journalist Joshua Foer witnessed many seemingly impossible feats: individuals who could memorize three hundred random words in fifteen minutes, a page of a thousand random digits in five, and the order of a deck of playing cards in just a few minutes. When he asked one of the participants, Ed Cooke, when he realized that he was a savant, Ed only laughed and told him that his memory was actually quite average. Anyone could do the things he could if they put in the time and effort, including Foer. Foer, a man who regularly forgets where he places his keys, suddenly finds himself pulled into the strange world of “metal athletes,” where he himself will train to participate in the following year's U.S. Memory Championship, with surprising results.

Memory has always fascinated me, because I've always struggled with mine. Any school subject that depended on memorization (whether it was spelling, times tables, french vocabulary, or mathematical formulas) quickly became the bane of my existence. Nothing would fill me with more woe that classes that depended on tests and pop quizzes over research papers and projects. People like Ed Cooke (or even classmates that did better than me on those French vocabulary quizzes) would fill me with envy and fascination. How could they do it? What was I missing? One of the best parts about Moonwalking with Einstein is it does explain how reasonably intelligent people can improve their memory, and perform impressive memory feats. Although not all of these tests are practical for every day use, I have done some myself and have been impressed with the result.

But Moonwalking with Einstein is not a self help book filled with tricks for memory improvement. It is also a study on the concept of memory, and how it has been impacted through history by outside forces, like the written word, and how the general population has changed their mind about memory throughout history. Foer also researches what we consider exceptional memories throughout history and today, as well as people who struggle with their memories (one of the most interesting parts of the book is a chapter where Foer visits a man who cannot recall any thought older than a few minutes). This is all tied together by Foer's own story of preparing for the U.S. Memory Championship.

I normally don't read a lot of nonfiction, but every now and then one will grab me, and Moonwalking with Einstein really grabbed me. Foer writes with both intelligence and a sense of humor, with makes the book intensely readable. I often found myself staying up past my bedtime without even realizing I was doing it. The chapter where he competes in the Memory Championship is surprisingly suspenseful. The topic covered here is fascinating, and I really felt as if I came out of this novel, having learned quite a lot. I would highly recommend Moonwalking with Einstein to anyone with interesting on the subject of memory.

Rating: five stars
Length: 307 pages
Source: Readfield Community Library
Other books I've read by this author: This is my first

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[thor] don't be afraid of the dark

Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

Release Date: May 10th, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult

Summary: When Alex falls for the charming new boy at school, Cole, a handsome, funny, sports star who adores her, she can't believe she's finally found her soul mate-someone who truly understands her and loves her for who she really is.

At first, Alex is blissfully happy. Sure, Cole seems a little jealous of her relationship with her best friends, Zack and Bethany, but what guy would want his girlfriend spending all of her time with another boy? But as the months pass, Alex can no longer ignore Cole's small put-downs, pinches, or increasingly violent threats. As Alex struggles to come to terms with the sweet boyfriend she fell in love with and the boyfriend whose "love" she no longer recognizes, she is forced to choose - between her "true love" and herself.

Review is spoiler free!

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books: is there anything they can't do?

Review: Sugar Skull by Denise Hamilton (2003)

#37: Sugar Skull by Denise Hamilton:

I scrolled through the wires again to see what else was going on in the city. All over town, people were dying violently -- shot in dead-end bars, withdrawing money from ATMs, working the night shift in liquor stores, and playing hopscotch on the corner. Usually, we waited until Sunday, when the final tally came in, then did a roundup. Unless the victims were rich, prominent, or had met their end in some horribly unusual and tragic way they got folded into the main story as smoothly as egg whites into cake. So far the wires were at fourteen and counting.

Synopsis: LA Times reporter Eve Diamond -- who, let us be honest here, has the best female Dirk! Pitt! name -- gets waylaid by a creepy dude who's convinced his teenage daughter has been killed by squatters. He's right, of course, but ask yourself this: what does this have to do with the LA mayoral race, a family of Mexican-American entertainment moguls and Eve's propensity for hucking ice cubes at mockingbirds.

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