Friday, November 4, 2011

Moonwalking with Einstein

Book Review

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer.

I had heard about this book somewhere, but now I can't remember where. But it is new and shiny. It must be good.

Well, not really. I recall that it did sound interesting. And it is new.


Moonwalking with Einstein

I had high hopes for this book. It is about improving your memory. I was interested. I wanted to know more.

In retrospect, I suspect I was hoping for a self-help book. A improve-your-memory-with-no-effort-at-all-in-thirty-days book.

That's not what this is.

This is a book written by a journalist, who is assigned to cover the World Memory Championships and becomes intrigued and takes a year off of doing other work to train his own memory in order to compete in the United States National Memory Championship. Or something like that.

I'm not a fan of reading books about journalists who do something for a year and then write a book about it.

They are just journalists. They are not the experts themselves. They only study the topic, in depth, for a year. And they make money off of the subsequent book. Actually, I don't mind that they make money off of a book. It just won't be my money.

I prefer to read books by the experts themselves. It is commonly believed that it takes 10,000 hours of practice of something to become an expert in that something. First chair violinist. Olympic alpine skier. Chicken sexer. (That last one is mentioned in this book.) This book is written by someone who has not spent 10,000 hours becoming an expert. It usually takes 10 years or more to attain "expert" status in whatever your chosen field. This author spent one year.

In order to become an expert in one year (assuming this is actually possible) and reach the 10,000 hour level, one would need to spend nearly 27 hours and 24 minutes each day practicing, every day, for 365 days straight.

Last I checked, there are only 24 hours in a day.

Yes, he won a memory championship at the end of that year, but by his own admission, that's not saying much, given the American competition isn't that stiff. (His assertion, not mine.)

Okay, so I did learn a thing or two about memory. That's good. I liked that. I just thought the whole book would be spent teaching me about memory techniques. Instead, the book is mostly about the history of memory training, the history of memory techniques, and the author's experiences during this one year time frame. Not quite what I had set out to read about.

It was interesting... just know what you are getting into, and then it'll be fine.

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